February 09, 2020

Another Devious Deal for Middle East

B Arjun

IN the midst of the ongoing impeachment trial of president Donald Trump and on the day Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted on charges of bribery and fraud, the two maverick conservatives got together at the White House to announce the controversial new Middle East Peace Initiative, touting it as a mother of all plans to end one of the longest running disputes in the Middle East.

Trump said that it was a ‘historic opportunity’ for the Palestinian people. However, he said nothing about the conspicuous absence of Jordanian or Palestinian or Egyptian representation in the East Room, which reveals the devious minds behind the announced plan. The optics of two leaders standing side by side signalled that Palestinian people were not important in the whole deal.

Trump’s plan is the culmination of a series of pro-Israeli measures his administration has taken, from moving the US embassy to Jerusalem to recognising Israeli settlements in the West Bank to freezing all forms of funding to Palestinians.

The 181-page document released by the White House, gave a “two-state solution" and recognised Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital. Trump promised $50 billion in aid and promised to open Palestinian embassy in East Jerusalem and called for an end to violence over four-year path to statehood. The ‘Plan’ also contained conceptual maps showing how Israel and a future Palestinian state would appear. According to the plan:

• West bank settlements would be recognised as Israeli territory
• Jordan Valley would be annexed by Israel
• No right of return for Palestinian refugees

As per the plan the “conditioned” Palestinian state will not have the right to maintain an army and air force, on the other hand, Israel will continue to exercise full military and airspace control. “This “state-minus,” as Netanyahu cynically dubbed it, would be a discontinuous, canonised archipelago in the West Bank and Gaza, surrounded by a sea of Israeli settlements and military installments.”

According to a commentator, “the peace plan creates permanent prison wards in small pockets of land, (borders controlled by the occupier) unconnected to other parts of this new state.”

The unveiling of the plan came off as a grim farce, like just about everything else Trump does on the global stage. The announcement lacked credibility.  According to Al Jazeera, “The map that United States President Donald Trump tweeted on January 28 following the announcement of his Middle East plan shows what looks like a slice of Swiss cheese rather than of a sovereign Palestinian state.”

Unlike other Democrats, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been the only Democratic presidential candidates to speak out forcefully against the plan. Warren called it a “rubber stamp for annexation (that) offers no chance for a real Palestinian state.” Sanders warned it “will only perpetuate the conflict,” and that a peace deal “must end the Israeli occupation and enable Palestinian self-determination in an independent state.”

The so-called “deal of the century” unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything they have been demanding. It is reported that a lot of Palestinians are in a state of shock and in disbelief.

What the two conservatives have revealed is a planned destruction of the national pattern or character of the Palestinians and replacing it with the national pattern or character of the oppressor Israel. Trump, the realtor, has indulged in a brazen land grab that would deepen Israeli occupation while denying the Palestinians basic civil rights.

Displaying its open bias towards Israel, Trump once again showed that he was not capable of performing the role as a neutral negotiator. His foreign policy is driven more by personal concerns of impeachment and re-elections. Some even commented that Trump’s deal with Netanyahu was nothing but a fund raiser for elections 2020. According to the New York Times the “deal of the century” “sounds more like a road map for their own futures than for the Middle East.”

A few days after announcing the plan, Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to meet the Russian president Vladimir Putin to gauge his reactions. The Russian president was the first world leader with whom he held talks after his visit to Washington. The Israeli leader went to seek Putin’s blessing and his opinion to gather “strength for peace and a conflict-free existence”.

It is reported that Putin apprised Netanyahu of Palestine's president Mahmoud Abbas’ assessment according to which, “Trump’s "deal" deprives the Palestinian people of the right for self-determination”.

The member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) gathered in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh and unanimously rejected the plan proposed by the US administration for peace in the Middle East. The OIC secretary-general Yusuf bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen said any solution to the Palestine issue "must be based on the establishment of a sovereign and geographically integrated Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu critiqued Trump-Netanyahu farce and said it was only meant to "justify Israeli occupation and annexation of Jerusalem and the West Bank". Dismissing any possibility of negotiations on the plan, he said "This plan is against all international parameters for the fair, comprehensive and permanent solution of the Palestine issue, especially borders, illegal settlements, and the status of Jerusalem and refugees,”

While United Kingdom has fully endorsed the “peace plan’, the European Union (EU) has taken a nuanced approach. It has welcomed the fresh moves to usher peace between the Palestinians and Israelis but acknowledged flaws in how the plan was negotiated. The EU gave support to the idea of a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict and urged both sides to work together to reach an understanding.

The German foreign minister Heiko Maas raised questions about the involvement of the conflict parties in negotiations. The French foreign ministry maintained an ambivalent stance, simply saying, “France welcomes President Trump’s efforts and will study closely the peace programme he has presented.”

Putting aside all that the world is saying about the controversial plan, and ignoring that it is a clear violation of international law, the Indian prime minister Modi has used the occasion to reiterate his commitment and loyalty to his ideological mentors in the West by tweeting that Israel is a close "friend" with which it shares "common values". New Delhi has also asked the Palestinians to accept Donald Trump's Middle East plan.

The international rightwing movement has sucked all morality from international diplomacy. Its approach to international relations is provocative and anti-peace. India has brazenly decided to side with the devious forces that offer nothing but dirty solutions to problems plaguing the world.