The long-awaited “deal of the century” crafted by Jared Kushner and presented by his father-in-law, US President Donald Trump, finally saw the light of day on January 28. Playing the role of the most brazenly dishonest of “honest brokers,” Trump, accompanied by legally (and morally) troubled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, triumphantly announced his “win-win” solution for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The reaction of governments around the world has been generally reserved, from total silence to a seemingly complicit acknowledgement. Most refer discretely back to the legal framework for a two-state solution established by the United Nations, which is clearly not the framework Trump has adopted. Even Saudi Arabia has had little to say, despite the fact that the Saudis have been major players on the Trump team during the preparation of the deal. Riyadh was tipped to be the future source of funds for the famous $50-billion effort promised in the peace plan (the chapter in the deal labeled “Conditions of the Bribe,” presumably).
Concerning the Saudi position, Al Jazeera reports: “Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reassured the Kingdom’s commitment to the Palestinian issue and Palestinian rights.” That promise of solidarity with the Palestinians is something his son, Mohammed Bin Salman, the effective ruler of the kingdom, is in no position to make, given his close “friendship” with Jared Kushner and his own willing complicity with Trump on everything from Iran to the “regrettable” assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.
Predictably, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as part of the triumvirate of nations adhering to US-Israeli policy in the region, judged the peace plan worthy of consideration. Translated into human terms, this means that they are for it but unwilling to admit openly to their own populations the fact that it represents a betrayal of the Palestinian people.
Most other foreign governments have hesitated to react in any significant way. The UK’s new government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson did demonstrate its opportunism —manifestly linked to the hope of doing a positive trade deal with the US — by pronouncing some positive words. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab qualified the deal as “clearly a serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort. We encourage them (leaders) to give these plans genuine and fair consideration, and explore whether they might prove a first step on the road back to negotiations.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
The most appropriate way to describe any totally unrealistic political solution, including an insult or an absolute farce, that can be delivered before the media with a straight face.
The media in general has sought to play the role of neutral observer, politely querying the authors of the deal and other interested parties. Al Jazeera’s correspondent politely interviewed Jared Kushner, respectfully accepting his evasive answers to pointed questions. PBS “News Hour” interviewed David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel and co-author of the plan, with a similarly softball approach that allowed Friedman to deploy his style of reassuring bullying with little or no pushback. PBS did follow this immediately with a frank interview with Nour Odeh, a former spokesperson for the Palestinian authority.
One voice nevertheless stands out. Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst and a truly serious journalist, expressed what any lucid observer should find obvious but what most media people refrain from doing for fear of not sounding like objective observers of a sporting contest. Pulling no punches, Bishara confessed: “I will admit from the outset that I cannot write about it with a straight face … Everything about the plan is farcical.”
Bishara refuses to shy away from the obvious. Whether it’s Trump, Kushner or Friedman, the language masquerading as polite, reasoned discourse about choices for the future is bullying and intimidating. The Guardian mentions that “Jared Kushner told CNN that the Palestinians have repeatedly missed opportunities to make peace and urged them to accept the deal if they wanted as state of their own.” What this boils down to is, “Sign this, or else.”
In his interview with Al Jazeera, Kushner warned: “The Palestinian Authority will have a lot of trouble after this offer comes on the table if they reject it, of going to the international community and saying we are victims.” He admits it isn’t a deal — it’s an offer. In Godfather language, it’s an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Friedman informed PBS that there is nothing the Palestinians should even hope to negotiate: “The question is, ‘What do they do next?’ They’re not going to get more by holding a day of rage.”
Trump, who emphasized the unbearable misery that has been thrust upon the Palestinians to which his own policies have contributed, was even clearer: “After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity they will ever have.” Of course, mafia tactics include the idea of empathy and protection. As Trump insists: “We will be there to help you in so many different ways.” He could have added, based on the precedent of Iraq, “And if your government were ever to tell us to leave, we will still be there in so many different ways.”
Always concerned to show that he is capable of overturning recent trends in history, Trump emphasized his pride in the fact that his plan is “fundamentally different from past proposals.” At Tuesday’s presentation in the East Room of the White House, Trump trumpeted: “On Sunday, I delivered to Prime Minister Netanyahu my vision for peace, prosperity, and a brighter future for the Israelis and Palestinians.”
The simple truth is that Trump has no time to try to understand history and how past events have contributed to present conditions, which is why he focuses on how his decisions will simply cancel out the heritage of the past. Observers such as Marwan Bishara find this the height of irresponsibility. Others point to the extremely short-term calculations related to Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial and Netanyahu’s absolute need to win the upcoming election — following two indecisive ones — simply to escape being sent to prison.
But there may be something like a long-term strategy behind Trump’s madness. Last October, Martin Indyk summed up Trump’s true vision: “The United States can continue to withdraw from the region but face no adverse consequences for doing so, because Israel and Saudi Arabia will pick up the slack. Washington will subcontract the job of containing Iran, the principal source of regional instability, to Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Levant and the Persian Gulf, respectively.”
With those two impeccable allies maintaining law and order in the Middle East, the Trump-Kushner proposal is a “vision for peace” only in the sense that it would permit Trump’s global forces to come home and enjoy the peace of polishing the next generation of nuclear weapons and, if required, patrolling the southern border.
Perhaps the most interesting reaction to the plan’s announcement came from Raad Ghandour, a 36-year-old Palestinian living at the Sabra Shatila camp in Beirut: “It’s like being invited to Christmas dinner after only the bones of the turkey are left. It’s shameful to propose such a thing.” This showed some subtle cultural reflection and effective rhetoric. Invoking a Christian holiday of an event that took place in Palestinian-controlled territory on the West Bank, in a town called Bethlehem, Ghandour found the metaphor whose pertinence everyone can understand. Three religions share the memory of their Holy Land.
As for the drift of history, Bishara summed up the reality that awaits us: “Subservient Arab dictators will eventually fall but the people will endure, and they will not be so forgiving to American and Israeli arrogance. Their pent-up fury will come out sooner rather than later.”
[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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