Occupation rebranded as “peace and prosperity” is what every US and Israeli government has wanted for Palestinians for decades. But only Donald Trump has the brass neck to come out and say it.
Trump’s much-touted “deal of the century”—the supposed peace deal released last week—begins with a lofty sense of promise to the Palestinians.
“Palestinians have aspirations that have not been realised, including self-determination, improvement of their standard of living, social betterment, and a respected place in the region,” it says.
What it promises is a tiny, fragmented scrap of land over which Palestinians have no real political control. It will be surrounded by a heavily armed Israeli state.
Trump says each side has to make “sacrifices”. Israel’s “sacrifice” is to give up some of the Palestinian land it stole 53 years ago in the Six-Day War of 1967—though not all of it.
“The State of Israel and the United States do not believe the State of Israel is legally bound to provide the Palestinians with 100 percent of pre-1967 territory,” says Trump’s plan.
That means Israel keeps the vast majority of settlements—in which more than 700,000 Israelis squat on Palestinian land—built since then.
Meanwhile the Palestinians have to give up huge chunks of land, including the entire Jordan Valley. This would completely cut off their only way out of the West Bank that isn’t through Israel.
The plan says Palestinians would get “significant territorial expansion” and land “reasonably comparable in size” to what they had in 1967.
Yet its “conceptual map” of a future Palestinian state shows that all that’s left for Palestinians are small patches of territory, cut into by Israeli settlements.
Travel between them would mean long, circuitous routes through narrow corridors of land, or through tunnels or bridges.
A similar tunnel would connect West Bank land to the Gaza Strip—provided Palestinians are allowed the Gaza Strip.
Israeli border guards would control every crossing in and out of Palestinian land. Nastier still, Israel would keep complete military control over the entire land, sea and air.
This Palestinian state won’t be allowed its own military. And Israel will be allowed to “engage in the necessary security measures”—invade, bomb, assassinate—to keep Palestine “demilitarised and non-threatening”.
Palestine won’t even have the right to join any international body without Israel’s say-so. And all cases against Israel and the US in the International Criminal Court have to be dropped before negotiations can begin.
Palestinians are left with no real political control. But they should really be grateful for Israel’s permanent military occupation.
“Every country spends a very significant sum of money on its defence,” says the plan. “The State of Palestine will not be burdened with such cost.”
This “solution” believes Israel is entitled to any part of Palestine it wants and that the Palestinians—simply by existing—are a threat.
So despite having no army, Palestinians are lectured about the need to “demilitarise” their society, stop “glorifying” violence and teaching “hatred” in schools. Meanwhile Israel—a society built around its military, where teenagers are conscripted into the violent, occupying army—is left in charge.
Gaza and Jerusalem
Gaza is a big, weltering sore at the heart of Trump’s plan.
The deal can only go ahead if the group that rules the Gaza Strip—Hamas—is either removed or agrees to give up its arms.
How can this be achieved? An election? Or war?
The last time Palestinians had an election in 2006, Hamas won because it offered resistance.
Then, as now, the US and Israel decided they couldn’t accept that—so engineered a bloody coup attempt to try and overthrow it.
When that failed, Israel imposed its siege on Gaza. Even if Hamas agreed to another election, there’s no guarantee that the US or Israel would accept its outcome.
Trump’s plan says, “It is up to the Palestinian people to make clear that they reject the ideologies of destruction, terror and conflict.”
The message is—elect someone we like, or be punished.
Israel hopes this will be the final nail in the coffin for Palestinian presence in Jerusalem.
The plan makes concrete Trump’s 2017 announcement that all of Jerusalem should be Israel’s capital. Palestine’s capital will be pushed to towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
That’s hugely significant. It means the loss of the control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where tens of thousands of people travel to pray.
It also heralds an end to Palestinian life in the city they’ve fought to cling on to.
A plot to shore up US dominance across the Middle East
This is not, as the plan says, a “fair compromise”, let alone justice or freedom for the Palestinians.
But the plan isn’t about fairness, justice or freedom.
It’s about shoring up US dominance in the Middle East—by prioritising the military strength of its key ally.
Israel can hang on to the Jordan Valley because keeping soldiers there is “critical for Israel’s national security”. The same goes for having total control over West Bank airspace.
If Israel left the Jordan Valley, the plan says it would have “significant implications for regional security in the Middle East”.
That’s the US’s way of saying it would threaten its interests—especially in the face of its growing regional rival, Iran.
As Iran’s power grows, Trump desperately wants to unite Israel with rulers of powerful Arab states—especially Saudi Arabia—militarily and economically.
Arab rulers want this too. But Palestine stands in their way.
Support for the Palestinians runs deep among ordinary people across the Middle East. Their rulers fear that anything that looks like a betrayal of Palestine could spark protests, revolt and upheaval. “Arab countries in the region have been held hostage to this conflict,” says the plan. “The goal of this Vision is to have the Arab states fully cooperate with the State of Israel.”
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, has already backed the plan. If it is implemented, Palestinians will once more be trampled on by Israel and betrayed by Arab leaders in the interests of Western imperialism.
Middle Eastern leaders often give rhetorical support to the Palestinians. But they have always sold out the Palestinian struggle and accommodated to Western imperialism.
It’s been that way ever since the British Empire decided to back the Zionist movement—settlers who moved to Palestine to establish an exclusively Jewish state—in 1917.
Those settlers helped the British Empire keep control of Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century. In the same way, Israel helped the US dominate the Middle East from the second half onwards.
Israel was founded on a premise—Zionism—that is fundamentally about excluding Palestinians from their land. But it’s been sustained and driven forwards by imperialism—from the partition plan that first gave away Palestinian land in 1947, to the Six-Day War in 1967, to the Oslo Accords of 1993.
Then, Palestinian leaders hoped that by giving up their claim to a part of their land, they might at least be allowed to keep some of it.
Instead, the Oslo Accords cemented the occupation—tying Palestine and its leadership in subordination to Israel. No Israeli government showed any sign of allowing a future Palestinian state.
Trump’s plan promises a repeat of that. The plan says it’s up to Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate a final settlement, or “live with the consequences.”
In practice, that means all the pressure is on the Palestinians to give in. They either accept a deal that makes the occupation permanent, or risk a future with no land at all.
Palestinians can never be free of occupation until they can live in all of Palestine, in a single, secular state with equal democratic rights for all citizens.
Winning that would take challenging the entire imperialist system across the Middle East that props Israel up.
Jobs blueprint will help Israel
A big chunk of Trump’s plan is a blueprint for “economic growth”.
It promises to “create over one million Palestinian jobs,” “reduce the Palestinian poverty rate by 50 percent” and the Palestinian unemployment rate “to nearly single digits”.
There are even neat little graphs to prove it.
How can this be done? Through privatisation, low taxes and opening up Palestine to multinationals.
Meanwhile, “state-of-the-art industrial zones” will supposedly create jobs.
This is a continuation of the economic plundering of Palestine that began after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993—and made life for ordinary Palestinians worse.
While a handful of Palestinians at the top of society got rich, poverty and unemployment went up.
For years, industrial zones on Palestinian land under full Israeli military control have been held up as the future for “economic peace”.
Really, they’re places where Israeli and Western businesses can exploit cheap Palestinian labour and special exemptions on tax.
Since 1993 “investment”—mostly through loans—has allowed Western multinationals to flood into Palestine’s economy.
But while a handful of Palestinians at the top of society got rich, poverty and unemployment went up. And this privatisation and investment tied the Palestinian economy to Israel and the West’s.
That compounded the basic problem at the root of Palestinians’ poverty—the occupation that strangles the economy. Trump’s plan is a recipe for more of the same.
“There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into Israel.”
With that sentence, the US and Israel hope to do away with an issue that’s lain at the heart of Palestinian struggle ever since they were expelled in 1948.
There can be no justice for the Palestinians until they are allowed to return. But the deal wants to do away with the very definition of Palestinian refugee.
Anyone born to parents expelled from Israel in 1948 will no longer be considered one.
Most disgustingly, Israel is absolved of any guilt at all.