Arab consent biggest danger of 'deal of the century'

ALI ABO REZEG
Published

The deal of the century is the most used term in Middle Eastern media outlets nowadays. Its usage rapidly increased following U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial Jerusalem move, in which he officially recognized the blessed city as Israel's capital and vowed to relocate his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to there. This move came, as many observers have seen, as part of the U.S.'s new peace plan in the region known since April 2017 as the "deal of the century."

Egyptian coup leader President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was the first official who used the term in the context of the U.S.'s new peace plan. That took place in last April in a press conference he held along with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Washington.

"We are totally ready to give a helping hand to President Trump to accomplish the deal of the century," el-Sissi said regarding the vague peace plan.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) senior leader Ahmed Majdalani said in an interview with Palestine's official TV channel earlier this year that the items of the deal had been conveyed to Palestinian leadership via Saudi Arabia's leadership in a previous visit paid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh.

Majdalani – who is very close to President Abbas and accompanies him on most of his tours – affirmed that the U.S. plan targets to totally terminate the Palestinian cause and prioritizes to establish an Arab-Israeli alliance to confront the Iranian expansion in the region.

Majdalani's remarks implicitly pointed out that there was no, at any rate, Saudi opposition on the planned deal. Moreover, according to press reports revealed after Abbas's visit to Riyadh on Nov. 7, 2017, the Saudi leadership exerted pressure over the Palestinian president to accept the deal as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tried to convince him of accepting Abu Dis – a village near Jerusalem – as the capital of Palestine instead of Jerusalem which was viciously rejected by Abbas. Another sign of the Saudi engagement in the deal came from the senior leader in the ruling Fatah Movement Sabry Saidam, who also serves as the Palestinian minister of education. He said to Russia Today on Nov. 20, 2017 that Saudi Arabia is not far from engineering the deal.

President Abbas indirectly criticized the Saudi-Egyptian consent for the deal. Speaking at the 28th PLO Central Council's Meeting on Jan. 13 in Ramallah, Abbas said, "It is not the deal of the century, it is the slap of the century that we will reply in kind to." The shocking part in Abbas's speech was his emphasis that a few Arab countries – he didn't name who – needed to immediately stop interfering in Palestinian affairs by promoting the U.S.'s new peace plan. It was easy to understand that Abbas was hinting at the Saudi-Egyptian pressure practiced over the Palestinian leadership to accept the deal.

Several Palestinian officials have said on many different occasions that the probable Arab approval for the deal, most notably the two biggest Arab countries Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is the most dangerous part in the U.S.'s new peace plan.

Arab consent regarding the deal may weaken the Palestinians' firm position in rejecting the U.S.'s controversial plan. Hence, the Arab pro-Palestinian positions, despite being fragile and weak sometimes, posed a supportive garrison for the Palestinian cause on international political and diplomatic platforms during different stages of its history.

Saudi and Egypt's consent would also hit the so-called Arab Joint Action and it would be the end for the Arab consensus regarding the Palestinian cause in which the Palestinians are in dire need to not only confront the Israeli occupation but also to repulse the policies embraced by the U.S.'s new and reckless administration.

Another reason why the Arab consent is the biggest threat in the "deal of the century" is that any Saudi or Egyptian approval for the regional peace would strengthen the Israeli narration and give it a chance to escape from giving Palestinians their inalienable rights. Throughout the three-decade-long peace process, Israel has given nothing to the Palestinians on the negotiation table; instead it has accused them of being non-real partners in the peace process.

In this proposed peace plan, Israel would allegedly gain another Arab ally against Iran – the Saudi Kingdom – and with that they will try to tell the international community that Egypt and Saudi's consent for the deal proves the its theory that there had been no real Palestinian partner in the peace process and they were the only real peace callers.

The Arab's financial card is an additional critical reason behind the danger of the Arab consent towards the so-called deal of the century. Gulf countries, mostly Saudi Arabia, are ones of the biggest financial backers for the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Any Palestinian rejection for a Saudi-backed peace plan can be a real threat on the survival of the Palestinian Authority and the operations of relief agencies in the occupied lands. The same tactic was followed by Trump when he cut $65 million from the annual $125 million the U.S. used to send to the UNRWA, which the relief agency described as threatening to the peace and stability of the whole region.

* Researcher in Middle East Affairs

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