Here's a shocker: Donald Trump and his Palestine-Israel fixers think they can buy a peaceful and permanent settlement of the 70-year conflict by getting Arab governments to pressure the Palestinians into forgetting the "politicians' talking points" -- you know, superficial things like independence from the routine abuses and indignities of colonial oppression (that's right; the same trifles Americans celebrated on July 4) -- and focusing instead on what really matters: roads, jobs, and money.
In Trumpworld, everyone and everything -- including the longing for justice -- has a price.
According to many indications and chief envoy/Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's own interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds, the Trump plan is to have Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt gang up on the Palestinians in order to compel them to accept money for economic development in return for dropping their demands for a sovereign and independent state free of Israeli domination, that is, a state consisting of (most of) the West Bank and Gaza Strip with its capital in East Jerusalem. Instead of insisting that Israel withdraw from the lands conquered in and occupied since the 1967 war, dismantle its illegal settlements, and tear down its wall (which runs not along the 1967 border but through the West Bank), the Palestinians are expected to accept promises of outside investment in infrastructure and jobs. Their "state" would consist of a few disconnected villages, presumably isolated Gaza, and a capital in a Jerusalem suburb.
How bad can one (or in this case four) misjudge a situation?
One might reasonably suspect the plan is being designed precisely to be rejected by the Palestinians in order to brand them, yet again, as anti-peace and to justify continued Israeli atrocities. Further, we have every reason to expect that Israel itself would not accept the plan because even this paper Palestinian state would be unacceptable to nearly every Israeli. As the song says, "This land is mine. God gave this land to me." Not that Israel's government would reject the plan outright; rather, it will equivocate, letting the Palestinians bear the "rejectionist" label alone.
The plan is being formulated by -- SARCASM ALERT -- three accomplished diplomats with long records of thoughtful, objective consideration of the events that have brought Palestine and Israel to where they are today: Kushner, a debt-ridden real estate developer with a history of connections to the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank; Jason Greenblatt, the Trump Organization's former lawyer who once was a guard at one of those illegal West Bank settlements and who seems proud to be able to say, "Mr. Trump does not view the settlements as being an obstacle for peace"; and David Friedman, former Trump bankruptcy lawyer and ambassador to Israel, who supports Israeli annexation of some of the West Bank and who ran an organization that raised millions of dollars for the illegal settlements. We might add that Kushner, 37, has known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since he was a teenager; they appear to have a godfather-godson relationship.
It would be an understatement to say that this trio, like its boss, is entirely in Israel's corner and have no time whatever for the pesky Palestinians. This is nothing new for the US, but Trump has gone to great lengths not to obscure that fact.
The Kushner mission -- which seems dedicated in part to enabling Trump to brag that he pulled off the "deal of the century" -- got off to a rousing start with the president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his moving of the US embassy there from Tel Aviv -- on one of the days that Israel was gunning down peaceful protesters in the Gaza open-air prison. The status of Jerusalem has long been regarded as one of those thorny issues to be resolved by the Israelis and Palestinians at the end of the negotiation process, but nevertheless the Israeli position is that Jerusalem is Israel's "eternal and undivided capital." Trump agrees.
So much for Trump's short-lived talking point during a presidential debate that he had to appear fair (not actually be fair, mind you) if he was to bring peace to the troubled region.
Before looking at what we know about the emerging Kushner plan, a little context would help. Americans who rely on the establishment news media for information would not know that the Palestine-Israel story has been carefully crafted to make the Israelis look good and the Palestinians bad. In tone and particulars, Israel is portrayed as the unambiguously righteous and wronged party, while the Palestinians are portrayed as everything but righteous and wronged. Virtually every commentary assumes it is the Palestinians who must prove they are worthy of peace, security, (and some highly limited measure of) self-governance. The burden of proof is entirely theirs. The Israeli have nothing to prove.
This is surreal, considering that it the pre-Israel Zionists who, in first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's words, "have come here and stolen [the Palestinians'] country." In 1948, what would become the Israeli army massacred hundreds and drove three-quarters of a million Palestinians out of their homeland and internally displaced many more, creating the refugee problem that exists to this day. This was the Nakba, the catastrophe, which Israeli historians call "ethnic cleansing." Then in 1967 Israel conquered what it didn't take in 1948, creating hundreds of thousands more internal refugees.
So why must the Palestinians prove themselves worthy of civil treatment? Because they resisted dispossession and occupation? Because they are inconsequential Arabs, while the ruling Israelis are mostly white European Jews?
According to the conventional thinking, it is the Palestinians, not the Israelis, who must make concessions. Every apparent concession by Israel is hailed as amazingly generous; every Palestinian objection is condemned as proof of their unworthiness; and every actual concession by them is shoved down the memory hole. In fact, Israeli "concessions" are mere modifications of Israel's bottom-line demands; it has made no concessions regarding its obligations under international law.
How many people realize that the Palestinians have moved from their initial call for one liberal secular state for Muslims, Christians, and Jews (Yasser Arafat UN speech, 1974); to acceptance of two states along the pre-1967 borders, with the Palestinians thereby conceding 78 percent of Palestine to Israel; to acceptance of 60 percent of the illegal Israeli settlements in 2 percent of the West Bank, with an equivalent land swap nearby? When have those advances toward a resolution ever been called generous by America's political and pundit classes?