In the past, I’ve found the AP’s Matt Lee to be a sharp, skeptical journalist when covering the Israel-Palestine beat. He’s mercilessly questioned State Department officials who appeared callous to Palestinian suffering. But tonight’s story is something else entirely. It’s a comprehensive portrait of Jared Kushner’s plan for the Deal of the Century. In essence, it’s a government press release gussied-up as a news report. I wouldn’t mind that so much if it also offered context or clarification about the obvious weaknesses of the so-called peace proposal. But instead it appears to accept all of its premises hook-line and sinker.
It is possible that Lee articulated his piece in such a way that he offered Kushner’s thinking and left it to the reader to see between the lines and note the inherent contradictions. At any rate, that’s what I propose to do here since I think the plan the president’s son-in-law is going to unveil is dangerous; and because the underlying thinking behind it needs to be parsed and critiqued.
First, Lee notes that Kushner and his trusty sidekick, Jason Greenblatt are “staffing up” to ready the peace plan for unveiling. They are asking for volunteers from various supporting agencies who will staff the team for up to a year. Though I’m not sure who would want such an unlucky task and why.
Lee notes that the teams will be broken into three units:
The team, which is being set up to organize the peace plan’s public presentation and any negotiations that may ensue, will comprise three units: one concentrating on its political and security details, one on its significant economic focus and one on strategic communications, the officials said.
What’s curious about this is the first unit, which will focus on politics and security. In reality, there will be no political purpose for this group as the U.S. has already made clear that the Palestinians will gain no political benefits as part of it. Security, of course, will be the main, if not only part of its brief, because security means Israeli security, not Palestinian. The second unit will focus on economic issues, since this is the only element that Trump is offering the Palestinians. As Robert Fisk wrote in the Independent, this isn’t a ‘land for peace’ deal, it’s a land for cash deal. Kushner is saying to the Palestinians: give up all of your political, territorial and national aspirations and we’ll “take care of you.” That’s the same way a mafia don takes care of his crew offering them baubles in return for loyalty.
Even if the Palestinians were willing to forego their patrimony and sell themselves out for lucre, who in their right mind would trust the Trump cabal to follow through on their promises? They’re all built on sand and not worth the paper they’re written on.
Finally, there will be a communications unit as part of the negotiation team. They’ll need that to explain the horror and bloodshed that results from this disastrous undertaking. They’ll also have to explain the bribes–ahem, ‘consulting contracts’ and weapons deals–that have been offered to various parties to support the initiative. Then they’ll have to explain why no Palestinian has shown an ounce of interest in the proposal. And all that’s just for starters.
The strategic communications folks might want to explain another recent development that bodes ill for Kushner & Co.: the Saudi King backtracked on previous support his son, the Crown Prince, had offered for the Deal. The King made crystal clear that a deal that didn’t offer a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital was a non-starter. Now, it’s possible that he was referring to Kushner’s Potemkin Village proposal which would offer an isolated Bantustan enclave and call it a state with the dusty village of Abu Dis as its “capital.” But that’s not how his statement sounded.
Focusing on “Details” Rather Than “Concepts”
Of the many glaring statements offered by Trump officials in this story, this is one of the more troubling:
White House officials say the plan will focus on pragmatic details, rather than top-line concepts, that will be able to easier win public support.
When approaching the resolution of a conflict as intractable as this one, anyone who says he’ll ignore “concepts” is telling you he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. What this official means is that we’re going to ignore any fundamental or comprehensive issue because they’re too difficult. Instead, we’re going to offer the Palestinians breadcrumbs (i.e. “pragmatic details”) and pretend we’ve addressed their interests. A pragmatic detail is building a sewage treatment plant in Gaza or building new schools in the West Bank. Palestinians have seen enough broken promises by Israel, the U.S. and regional donor states. They don’t need material promises that no one will keep. Not to mention that as soon as a donor builds any infrastructure Israel will destroy it when it invades to suppress Palestinian resistance as it has multiple times in Gaza and elsewhere. On the other hand, a concept is the Right of Return or a national sovereign state fully able to pursue its own interests without regard to external forces. Kushner is offering none of that.
Kushner betrays more magical thinking in this passage from the news story:
The White House expects that the Palestinian Authority will engage on the plan and has been resisting congressional demands to fully close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington because Greenblatt and Kushner want to keep that channel open. But officials have offered little evidence to back that up.
He “expects” the PA to engage with his plan. On what does he base this expectation? On putting his finger to the wind? On gazing into King Salman’s crystal ball? Or his own navel? Oh and let’s not forget that Kushner believes he’s doing the PA a favor by not shutting down its DC diplomatic office. As if giving the Palestinians the trappings of a state but without any of the real executive power would be a blandishment that would persuade them to be amenable.
Since Kushner has struck out in engaging Palestinian quislings, umm–leaders, he’s found suitable substitutes:
Since the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas broke off contact after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. negotiating team has been talking to independent Palestinian experts.
Who would you suppose Jared Kushner would consider an independent Palestinian expert? I don’t even want to think of the answer. Anyone he would consult would be even worse than Abbas and his corrupt cohort.
Waiting for Godot…and That “Opportune Time”
When will the plan roll out? Um well, to be truthful, we don’t know:
Officials say there will never be a perfect time for the roll-out, but that they are laying the groundwork now for when an opportune time becomes apparent. The plan is not done, but is being finalized, including an economic development proposal for the Palestinian people that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in Gaza.
When is that opportune moment? After Israel stops killing Gazans weekly (the death toll now stands at 155 since the Great March of Return began, with 18 children among the dead)? After Israel stops its hellbent path to a racist apartheid state denying fundamental rights to its Palestinian minority? Or after Gaza sinks into the Mediterranean under the weight of its own suffering?
Oh and I do like the economic plan for Gaza. It will be so nice to have all those new power, sewer and water treatment plants Israel can target during the next round of hostilities. Why would Israel permit anything for Gaza? Perhaps if Egypt agreed to assume control of it and put Hamas out of business. But the likelihood of that happening is less than zero.
The conclusion of this “press release” nicely summarizes all the delusional thinking that preceded it:
The officials believe that the hope of a better economic future for the Palestinians coupled with progress on that front, the Palestinians may be willing to delay or modify what have been intractable and to-date unresolvable demands from Israel. Those include the right for Palestinian refugees to return to lands they abandoned or were forced from, the recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine.
And, they plan to appeal to all sides of the conflict not to let the disagreements of the past hold back their children’s futures, according to the officials.
Here again, we see the obsession with economics, as if stuffing Palestinian mouths with pita and hummus will make them forget the land, water and political rights they are renouncing by accepting this sham plan. Note that Kushner has suggested that the Palestinian demand for East Jerusalem as capital of its own state is one that he hopes the Palestinians will “delay or modify.” Thus it appears, the plan doesn’t even account for this absolutely basic demand.
I do so love that last sentence: Palestinians, thinking only of their ‘children’s futures,’ will forfeit their rights to a nation of their own in return for a mess of Jacob’s pottage.
There’s an old Yiddish saying I first heard in the film, Hester Street, that is apt in this context: “You can’t piss on my back and make me think it’s rain.” Kushner is fooling no one but himself if he thinks he can sell this plan. It ain’t worth a bucket of warm piss. And there’s no way it will ever be rain.