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Deal of the Century: “Peace to Prosperity” Summit Suggests Cautious Progress on the Horizon

Over the last 12 months, the term “The deal of the Century” has been coined on all forms of media. It refers to Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East, specifically revolving around the Palestine-Israel conflict. This came with the expectation that the U.S. administration would be trusted to deliver a just economic and political solution which was a tough sell considering the overwhelming support this government provided the Israeli agenda and its disregard to the Palestinians. So what is the Deal of the Century?

Since Donald Trump took over the White House in 2016, his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been frequenting the leaders of the Middle East. Kushner was becoming the Godfather of this deal. On the 25-26/June/2019 Bahrain hosted the so-called “Peace to Prosperity” workshop to discuss what the United States has described as the economic part of “The deal of the century”. This was unexpected, as for any region to have any form of economic prosperity you need to have a political agreement first, which was no way near happening. This was highlighted by the Guardian’s Middle East correspondent, Martin Chulov when he said that the deal was “widely viewed as redundant in the glaring absence of a political dimension that could turn such pledges into realities.” Attending this summit became a huge dilemma for many Arab countries, the Palestinians abstained from attending as they believed, according to their president Mahmoud Abbas, that it is a “big lie” and an attempt to buy Palestinian land, and that a political solution must come before anything else. However, most of the leading Arab countries did attend such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco despite demonstrations in some of these countries against attending as it is viewed as a sign of normalization of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land. In addition to this, a few European allies of the U.S. attended while many more stayed away from Bahrain as they worried about the United States’ instincts.

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So, what was actually proposed in Bahrain? Kushner revealed a 10-year plan to create a million new jobs, slashing unemployment from 30% to 10% and improving living standards in the West Bank and Gaza. The plan is to invest $50 billion, half of them into the Palestinian territories and the other half in the surrounding countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan where many Palestinian refugees reside. Even though Israel, which would have to sign off on many of the proposal’s projects, didn’t send any government officials, Kushner insisted that “After extensive review, people were very positive about it and considered it achievable.” A key role of this summit was to get the Gulf nations on board so that they fund the project.

When asked about the political solution, Kushner replied that it would likely fall somewhere between the Arab Peace Initiative and the “Israeli position.” The Arab Peace Initiative was set out in 2002 by Saudi Arabia calling upon the normalization with Israel across the Arab World in exchange for a fully sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He didn’t elaborate on what the “Israeli position” is exactly. However, if we look at Trump’s foreign policy with regards to Israel-Palestine, we see that he started working on the political side of this deal way before its existence was announced.

The first radical action that Trump took was moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The Palestinians have boycotted the US administration since Trump broke decades of consensus and recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. In 1947, the UN partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem as a separate entity to be governed by a special international regime due to the city’s important status, containing holy sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews. Later on, in 1967 Israel took over West Jerusalem while East Jerusalem was named the capital of a future Palestinian state. Nowadays Israel occupies East Jerusalem and denies the right to citizenship for the Palestinians living there. This occupation is labelled illegal by the international community, yet Trump’s U.S. approved this act. Soon after in August 2018, the U.S. government confirmed the end of its funding to the U.N. Palestinian refugee’s organisation, the UNRWA, which has over 5 million registered Palestinians. This was taken as a sign from the U.S. government that they believe those people are no longer refugees and have lost the right to return to their homelands in historical Palestine.

Clearly, the political side of this deal is a lot more critical than the economic one which was revealed. Therefore, many believe, including the Palestinian political analyst Adli Sadeq, that the summit in Bahrain was just to test the waters in the international community and more importantly how the Arab states react to the idea of normalization with Israel and the one-and-a-half state solution with Palestinians never gaining full sovereignty. It’s a check to see if the Arabs still have the Palestinian cause as their number one priority. This could mean that the political part of the “Deal of the Century” may be revealed in the upcoming weeks

 

Ahmed Jouda – Politics Writer 

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