Palestine: Welcome to My Bantustan
There was an old Alice Cooper album called, Welcome to My Nightmare. I thought of that when I titled this post.
Last week, Saeb Erekat published a long report recounting the contents of the Trump “deal of the century,” his Israel-Palestine peace plan. The New Arab published the Arabic-language original and an English summary of the plan. For some strange reason, no one either in the Israeli (except for one imprecise version offered in a TV news report) or foreign media has picked up on the report, which offers the most detailed account ever reported of the provisions of the deal. It’s extremely important that they do this because the more that’s known about the plan the deeper it will sink like a lead balloon. When they finally do get around to reporting this story, remember the journalists who got there first and did their jobs.
I have tried unsuccessfully to get an Arab-speaker to read and summarize for me Erekat’s full report. I was hoping to write my own account once I was sure what was in that document. But Geoffrey Aronson has apparently read (or someone has read for him) the Arabic original and he’s confirmed that the English language summary is largely accurate.
So here are the major provisions:
- A Palestinian capital in Abu Dis, a village just outside East Jerusalem, but divided from it by the Separate Wall
- Continued Israeli control of both East and West Jerusalem (“united Jerusalem”)
- U.S. recognition of Israeli annexation of 10% of the West Bank
- Palestinian state will be sovereign over only Areas A and B (which amount to 40% of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem)
- No clear provision for any land in Area C to be returned to Palestine
- Permanent Israeli security control of the Jordan Valley
- Israeli-controlled transit/passage from West Bank to Gaza
- Israeli-controlled access to Ben Gurion, Haifa and Ashdod ports for Palestinians
- Israeli control of all airspace, territorial waters, border crossings and telecommunications (TV, radio, mobile spectrum)
- No Palestinian security force (though a “strong police force” is envisioned)
- No mention of the role of Gaza
- No final border defined till after deal is signed
- U.S. recognition of Israel as “the Jewish state”
- No Palestinian Right of Return
As Aronson makes clear in his account, Trump has dusted off an old Israeli plan developed by Yigal Alon in the 1970s and is trying to pass it off as bold, original thinking. It is nothing of the sort. His article includes this entertaining reference to the proposed Palestinian legislature in Abu Dis:
During the 1990s, a building meant to house the Palestinian parliament was in fact constructed in the village of Abu Dis, within site of Jerusalem’s Old City walls. But it was never used, except as a spacious roost for herds of pigeons.
Making the Sinai Bloom, Turning it into a Palestinian “Arizona”
Aronson noted in an earlier report that the real, unstated goal is to divert the Palestinians from thinking of the West Bank as a state at all. Rather, the longer-term goal is to situate a Palestinian state in Gaza (!). Here is his account of what Salman told Abbas during their meeting:
MBS announced that the Arab Peace Initiative (API)—a Saudi-sponsored grand bargain promising Arab recognition of and peace with Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with east Jerusalem as its capital—is effectively dead.
It’s time for Plan B, declared the crown prince: a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, fattened by undetermined Egyptian transfers of land in the Sinai Peninsula. When the startled Palestinian leader asked about the place of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in this scheme, MBS replied, “We can continue to negotiate about this.”
“What about Jerusalem, the settlements, [West Bank] Areas B and C?” Abbas pressed.
“These will be issues for negotiation, but between two states, and we will help you.”
According to the source, MBS offered the Palestinian leader $10 billion to sweeten the bitter pill he had just prescribed. “Abbas can’t say no [to the Saudis],” the source explained, “but he can’t say yes.”
If true, this is astonishing. I remember reading a harebrained scheme proposed by an Israeli chief rabbi that the Palestinians move their state to Sinai and turn it into a Middle Eastern version of “Arizona.” This proposal is essentially the same scheme.
You’ll recall that when Abbas balked at accepting Salman’s proposal, the Crown Prince warned him that he would topple the Palestinian leader if he didn’t accede to his patron’s (Saudi Arabia) demands. The future House of Saud boss is nothing if not subtle.
Finally, Erekat notes in his report that the U.S. has threatened to designate the PLO as a terror entity if it refuses the deal. This would undermine 30 years of U.S. policy and take us back to 1988, when the U.S. first recognized the PLO. Before then it was considered a terror organization, as Hamas is now.