Between two sessions in which senators are deliberating impeachment charges against him, Donald Trump finally presented what is perhaps a plan midday on Tuesday regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He called it a “peace plan,” which insults our intelligence, something this president has not refrained from doing in all matters since taking office. What is the value of a plan that claims peace through money and the survival of the fittest? That was conceived without Palestinian participation? That makes the Israeli hard right and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu happy? And which the American evangelical leader Mike Evans, who is close to Trump, said it was “everything we were hoping for – everything.”
This one-sided initiative is dismaying, but not surprising. First, because it is the result of international resignation in the wake of the slow agony of the Oslo process launched 25 years ago, and of Israel’s methodical colonization of occupied territories. Also because the contours of what Trump promised would be the “deal of the century” were drawn in recent years by a series of actions taken by the White House.
After the American Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, announced in December 2017, Washington recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and ceased to consider the annexation of territory in the West Bank as a violation of international law. Faced with the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to submit to the “peace negotiation” game under these conditions, the White House punished it by cutting the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid destined for Palestine as well as the American contribution to the budget of the U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees.
The Golan Heights, indeed. Some believe that the March 2019 recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over these Syrian uplands, occupied since 1967, constituted a gift intended to help Netanyahu win the legislative elections the following month. It did not work. Here we go again with this “peace plan,” as Israelis return to the ballot box on March 2 for the third time in less than a year, the political class having been unable to form a government. One may recognize the irony of Trump, who is popular in Israel, interfering in the electoral process of another country. We are no longer surprised that Netanyahu likes to repeat that Israel “has no better friend than Donald Trump.” If there is a gift, let us underscore the following: It is from a president on trial in the Senate for abuse of power in the Ukrainian affair made to a prime minister formally indicted last Tuesday for breach of trust, bribery and fraud in three different cases. They make quite the pair.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, in the company of a delighted Netanyahu, Trump calmly confirmed the content of his “more detailed and calibrated” plan, the announcement of which had been repeatedly postponed: Jerusalem, “indivisible capital of Israel,” colonization at will, Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley … a plan that opens the door halfway, pretending to be a positive step forward to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, but under a number of conditions and without the powers of a state worthy of the name. In order that the Palestinians would agree to this in exchange, the White House promised compensation: $50 billion in development projects, something that had already been dangled in front of the Palestinians by Jared Kushner, Trump’s project manager and son-in-law.
Who can believe it? It is a proposal that no more than perpetuates the status quo by emphasizing it and that seeks to bury the Palestinian cause once and for all, at the risk of once more lighting a powder keg. Undoubtedy Trump can count on growing indifference in the Arab world with respect to the Palestinians, notably from Saudi Arabia. The fatigue is real. Nevertheless, given the tensions and the confusion that engulf the Middle East, this plan will be of no help.