The US is working on a secretive peace deal that is supposed to be rolled out in June. It has led to many rumors and discussions about why the administration has waited this long to put forward what has been called the “deal of the century.” With the Israeli April elections over and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still on top, the Trump administration seems to think it can move forward. But there are still details to look over and it says it wants to wait until after Ramadan to show the world what is behind the curtain.
In this post I will provide details and updates about the peace deal and discussions about it. What I know personally from some conversations is that the peace deal is precise and seeks to cover a lot of details. Palestinians may be wary of it but they are also divided and isolated. More than two and a half decades after Oslo the leadership in Ramallah is aging. It has said it won’t deal with the US after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem in December 2017 and moved the embassy in May 2018. In Gaza a year of ‘Great Return March’ protests led to 260 deaths and thousands injured and achieved little for Hamas. It strained relations with Egypt and Qatar and also appeared to give Israel a stronger hand in dealing with Hamas and Qatar. Hamas crackdown on protests angered activists in the West Bank and Hamas affiliates saw setbacks in student elections in Hebron. In addition there were concerns that Israel might make an agreement with Hamas, further weakening the PA.
There are major economic problems in Ramallah and the West Bank with US cuts to UNRWA and also because Israel has held back customs duties. For instance there is an unprecedented financial crises. For instance Israel froze $138 million in tax transfers due to the PA paying Palestinians accused of terrorism and their families.
I have written about hurdles and challenges any deal faces in Jordan. It appears the US has not kept Jordan sufficiently in the loop in the run-up.
In no specific order, here are some details.
The US is seeking to “think out of the box and capture the imagination and hopes of both sides for a better life,” US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post on April 24, 2019.
The Jerusalem Post also notes “Kushner, in comments on Tuesday, said the administration is approaching the issue differently than others have in the past. While past efforts have focused on getting peace talks started in the hope that they will lead to an agreement, the idea behind this plan is to start by laying out a solution ‘and then we’ll work on a process to try to get there.’”
What about Egypt
Smadar Perry writes at Ynet. “Initially, Saudi Arabia was meant to be the Arab world’s representatives in the deal, but Trump’s ‘excellent friend’ [Egypt’s] Sisi has recently found himself in the driver’s seat. Although many in the United States have an issue with both of them – Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman is linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while Sisi’s government has a problematic human rights record – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has swayed Trump’s heart in favor of the Egyptian leader.”
What is Egypt’s part. “Sisi’s main role in the deal – even though he probably doesn’t know all the details himself – is clear: to recruit the moderate Arab world into supporting Trump’s peace plan. The Egyptian leader can potentially recruit Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, and perhaps even Qatar, which despite being at odds with the Saudis, maintains a warm relationship with Egypt. Sisi has already taken a step in this direction by announcing that Egypt is committed to the two-state solution.”
Sisi recently held a referendum and his rule is cemented. He is also eyeing developments in Libya and Sudan.
How long is the deal?
According to reports in February the deal was largely finalized by that time. Trey Yingst reported “The final draft of the administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ is 175 to 200 pages long — and fewer than five people have access to the complete document, sources told Fox News.”
The US denied rumors, likely fed by other agendas, that the deal might include part of Sinai. Nevertheless some Israelis continue to put forward this theory.
Does it end the two-state solution
Some have sought to feed theories that there will no longer be a two state solution or that the status quo will end, feeding ideas such as Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.
What about Jordan
Jason Greenblatt, Assistant to the 45th President of the USA & Special Representative for International Negotiations, says that rumors that the deal involves a “confederation” with Jordan re also false.
What France thinks
French Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud told The Atlantic magazine in an interview.“It will be a proposal very close to what the Israelis want. Is it doomed to fail? I should say 99 percent yes, but 1 percent, you never forget the 1 percent,” Araud told The Atlantic as he wrapped up five years in Washington.
Palestinian Prime Minister opposes deal
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Tuesday night that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan will be “born dead.”
Other Palestinian officials feel pressured
The Jerusalem Post notes: “Some Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, are very interested in the deal of the century,” the Fatah official claimed. “They are using all means, including political and financial blackmail, to force the Palestinians to accept the deal of the century despite all the dangers it poses to the Palestinian cause.” The Palestinian leadership, the official said, will not submit to any Arab, American or even Israeli pressure to accept the deal.
But others say the PA should consider it
Hussein Ibish writes “To respond to the plan’s almost inevitable outrages and humiliations by refusing to participate in a new round of negotiations would be to fall into a trap set by Israel and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. That would be self-defeating.”
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