Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’
Karma Nabulsi sketches out the known contours of the still secret ‘Deal of the Century’
Shortly after his election to the US Presidency, Donald Trump promised a peace plan for the Middle East. Calling it the ‘Deal of Century’, he claims that it will solve the conflict in Palestine once and for all. Although its public launch has been delayed, the shape this deal will take is already clear from an overview of the official interviews, various statements, leaked documents and the destructive policies already initiated by the US administration during the past year. The plan relies on taking advantage of the momentary conjunction of forces allied within the extreme right, with President Trump in the White House, the formation of a coalition of right-wing parties in Israel, and increased control of Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the involvement of several Arab regimes, the rise of pro-fascist anti-Muslim and racist parties in Europe, and depends on silence from the mainstream political classes. Its purpose is to achieve the most extreme, irredentist and expansionist vision yet, to ‘complete’ the settler-colonial project that began a century ago in Palestine.
The Trump administration’s hope is to settle this protracted conflict through a comprehensive destruction of Palestinian collective national rights, ‘resolving’ the “final status” issues of the Oslo Peace Accords – settlements, borders, refugees, Jerusalem and water – in Israel’s favour by force.
Although public announcement of the features of the ‘Deal of the Century’ has been regularly delayed, Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law, a real-estate broker in charge of the peace process along with Jason Greenblatt) has now explained the continued silence as ‘intentional’ in order to guarantee its success. On Al-Jazeera in March 2019, he explained the ‘Deal’ will be publicly launched after the Israeli elections in April 2019. These elections are designed to strengthen Netanyahu and the far right, indeed Netanyahu has personally assisted with the merger of three far-right Israeli parties to form a united front in order to gain electoral strength. The new party is called ‘the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ and includes Jewish Home, Tkuma, and Jewish Power.
Central Features of ‘the Deal’
Several US initiatives to implement ‘The Deal’ have continued since the US embassy was moved to Jerusalem in December 2018 (in violation of international law). The most recent is the closure of the US Consulate in Jerusalem this March. The consulate had provided Palestinians under military occupation with consular and diplomatic services for decades and, in some diplomatic measure, recognised the fact that Palestinians are a people. This past year, the US also cut over $200 million in direct aid to occupied Gaza and the West Bank of Palestine, including money desperately needed for hospitals in East Jerusalem; more starkly, it suddenly cut over $300 million from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA’s) annual budget in 2018.
Leaked emails published in Foreign Policy last summer revealed Jared Kushner making the case for UNRWA’s destruction: ‘UNRWA should come up with a plan to unwind itself and become part of the UNHCR [the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] by the time its charter comes up again in 2019’, continuing, ‘It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA.’
There are now discussions in the media of ongoing attempts to forcibly resettle Palestinian refugees in neighbouring host countries, with reports of the US exerting extreme pressure on host governments in Lebanon and Jordan to strip Palestinians of their internationally recognised status as refugees.
The Israeli government and its military are also involved in forward planning: the strategy ahead will be to radically diminish or expel Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem to negate the internationally recognised view of the city as the capital of Palestine. The Israeli government and its military have entrenched and expanded illegal settlements and seek to complete the appropriation of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. For Gaza, details of the ‘Sinai Plan’ have also been revealed: Israel envisions the future of Gaza as a zone of denationalised and indentured labour. Gaza is currently suffering the most extended siege in modern history, with vital services – including major hospitals – forced to close down.
Finally, public discussions on the potential expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel has started in Israel; the groundwork was laid with the new Israeli nation-state law which legislates the state of Israel for the exclusive right of Jews, not all its citizens, although 20 per cent are the original inhabitants of the land. Adopting national legislation that only Jewish citizens have the right to national self-determination denies basic Palestinian rights, and disenfranchises Palestinians in their own homeland. These first steps towards removing the already limited civic and political rights of Palestinians in Israel, and to crush all regional or international resistance to these policies, are set to escalate in the coming months.
What can be done?
In order for this US-Israeli-Saudi plan to be achieved, international support for the Palestinians must be silenced and solidarity attacked and suppressed. Recent events have shown that institutions and individuals protesting these policies of injustice can become subject to intense pressure. However, whenever campaigners for justice align their principles and actions on Palestinian rights, adhering to a solidarity focussed on the universal rights of a dispossessed people – their reality, and their history – then they cannot be silenced.
Two reorientations for discussing Palestine prove immensely successful: first, a commitment to resist the current erasure of injustices Palestinians have faced and still do today. This means ensuring that the 1948 Nakba – when the majority of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and their country – is understood as the core of the conflict. It also means locating the origin of Palestinians’ status as refugees within that history, to highlight their continued forced displacement, along with Britain’s direct role as the colonial power in Palestine. Rehistoricising the Palestinian people allows for an understanding of Palestinians’ continuing disenfranchisements, and the violence, racism, and discrimination they face by an active and expansionist Israeli settler-colonial project.
The second step is to ensure that Palestinians as a people, inside and outside of Palestine, are made visible to the world, never allowing the issue to be diverted into a debate about the rights of protestors who speak out on human rights abuses. This can be done in simple but powerful ways: retelling and reaffirming the facts of daily existence through gestures of international solidarity, through gestures that illuminate their history, their present and the international laws that protect Palestinians. All Palestinians, whether facing discrimination inside Israel, military occupation and siege or enforced exile in refugee camps are part of one cause and one people. Understanding the Palestinian struggle for justice and then conveying it to others is the simple but essential role of solidarity that permits everyone to stand strong against this new alignment of the far right, and to protect the Palestinians in a year of crisis.
Professor Karma Nabulsi is Politics Fellow at St Edmund Hall and teaches at the University of Oxford. She is an Advisory Board member of the Centre for Palestine Studies, SOAS
This article appears in the Palestine issue of The Middle East in London.
Nabulsi, Karma. ‘Trump’s “Deal of the Century”‘ The Middle East in London 15, no. 3 (April–May 2019):5-6.