U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, dubbed the "Deal of the Century," last week. He believes that he can broker peace between Israel and the state of Palestine to solve long-standing problems in the region. That Trump endorsed a particularly one-sided deal, however, could backfire in the form of fresh violence and deepening chaos across the Middle East.
Here's the bottom line: Trump announced his Middle East peace plan alongside Israel's embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been formally indicted on bribery charges back home. There were zero Palestinians around, which illustrated the one-sidedness of Trump's plan in an instant.
One-sided peace plans tend to be stillborn and give rise to deeper crises than those they intend to remedy. That the United Arab Emirates' ambassador, along with several Gulf diplomats, attended Trump's joint press conference with Netanyahu does not make the plan any more representative. After all, the Gulf states are not party to the dispute over Jerusalem nor do they enjoy any semblance of legitimacy in the Muslim world. Future generations will inherit nothing but shame as a result of their leaders' endorsement of this charade.
The U.S. peace plan's contents reflect the above picture. Trump wishes to recognize Jerusalem, which is sacred for Muslims, Christians and Jews, as the capital of Israel. If the Palestinians agree to Trump's terms, East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine – an independent state whose security will be provided by the Israelis. At the same time, the Trump administration guarantees that Palestinians and Israelis alike will be able to remain in the areas that they currently inhabit. In other words, Israel gets to keep the illegal settlements, among other places. In exchange, Trump says that Palestinian lands won't be touched for the next four years, effectively signing off on the expansion of Israeli settlements down the road. Although the Trump administration claims that Palestinians will walk away with more territory than they currently control, Washington conveniently refrains from saying that those lands will be isolated and detached from the rest of the world. In return for getting on board, Trump promises higher per capita income and better standards of living.
The so-called "Deal of the Century" reflects Israel's national interests and security concerns. In his defense, the U.S. president does not deny his pro-Israeli bias. Indeed, Netanyahu returns the favor by conceding that he has worked with no better U.S. president than Trump.
Niceties aside, the deal has zero chance of implementation. Although a handful of Gulf states including the UAE, already an Israeli satellite, sent their representatives to the White House for the announcement, even Saudi Arabia could not throw its weight behind Trump's initiative. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters that he wouldn't go down in history as the man who auctioned off Jerusalem. Many countries, starting with Turkey, are categorically opposed to the plan. The Arab League was compelled to publicly reject the proposal out of fear of public outrage.
Neither Netanyahu nor Trump can implement this deal now. Here's an important question though: Why did the U.S. president unveil his plan now, after repeatedly postponing the announcement? The obvious reason is politics. Unsettled by his impeachment trial, Trump seeks to appease the Israel lobby and evangelists at home. At the same time, he gets to throw a lifeline to Netanyahu, whose political career is on the ropes.
Let's make one thing clear: Neither Trump nor Netanyahu will be around long enough to steal Jerusalem and drag the region into yet more chaos.
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