Palestinians reject 'Swindle of the Century'

Trump's Israel-Palestine "peace" plan (sic), unveiled at the White House Jan. 29 in a joint press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, has been anointed by the media with the very Trumpian epithet "Deal of the Century"—although he appears not to have used that actual phrase. Trump boasted the plan, officially dubbed "Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People," as a "win-win solution for both sides" and a "realistic two-state solution." With typical bluster, he said: "Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace. I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems." Netanyahu went on Fox & Friends the next day to hail the scheme as an "opportunity of a lifetime for Israel and the Palestinians and for peace."

Among the plan's key points:

Establish Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital, with a potential Palestinian capital on the outskirts to the east and north of the city.

Recognize the vast majority of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory as part of Israel—an open embrace of annexation. A Palestinian state would receive territory, mostly desert, near the Gaza Strip to compensate for the loss of about 30% of the West Bank. Gaza and the West Bank would be linked by high-speed rail. Ten border towns in Israeli territory along the Green Line are also named as possible compensation to a putative Palestinian state.

The Jordan Valley, a fertile breadbasket that makes up about a third of the West Bank, woud be recognized as part of Israel.

Offer a path to some form of Palestinian "statehood"—but with no army, and with overarching Israeli security control in some areas, including over the Gaza seacoast. The plan also sets a series of conditions the Palestinians would have to meet before receiving independence, including the "complete dismantling of Hamas," which governs Gaza. The Palestinians would also be obliged to drop their case against Israel at the Interational Criminal Court, and refrain from joining any international organizations without Israel's "consent."

Palestinian refugees displaced from homes within what is now Israel would be refused "right of return." 

In a true Trumpian touch, the Palestinians will be allowed to "develop a resort area" on the north shore of the Dead Sea, "without prejudice to the State of Israel's sovereignty at such location."

In other words a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to the Palestinians to accept the status quo of bantustans, surrender much territory to actual Israeli annexation, give up their long-standing demand for justice for refugees—and call it "peace."  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas predictably responded with "a thousand no's" to the plan.

It was also rejected by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. His office said in a statement: "The position of the United Nations on the two-State solution has been defined, throughout the years, by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions by which the Secretariat is bound... The United Nations remains committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis in resolving the conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements and realizing the vision of two States—Israel and Palestine—living side by side...within recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines." 

Clinging to the two-state solution at this late date may seem guileless, but certainly unilateral changes to the pre-1967 borders in Israel's overwhelming favor constitute a blatant land-grab, presumably designed to be rejected by the Palestinians. (The Guardian, Al Jazeera, JuristMEMO, CommonDreams)

And Palestinians immediately mobilized in outrage. Hundreds marched across an Israeli checkpoint in the northern West Bank to protest the plan the day after t was announced. Some 500 gathered in the Palestinian town of Tubas and crossed the Tayseer checkpoint between Nablus and the Jordan Valley, overwhelming Israeli troops who attempted to bar their way. Tayseer checkpoint had actually been unmanned over the past few years, but soldiers were again stationed there as Israel sent reinforcements to the West Bank in the lead-up to Trump's announcement. (+972)

Youth organizations also marched in Gaza, and issued a statement charging that Trump's plan "aims to liquidate the legitimate and just Palestinian national rights" and "serves to consolidate the law of the jungle and the policies of the fait accompli, contrary to peace agreements and legitimate international resolutions." (Maan News)

Palestinian Authority breaks ties with Israel, US

The Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including security relations after rejecting Trump's "peace plan." At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the break and reiterated his "complete" rejection of the plan. (Reuters, Feb. 3)

A day earlier, Israeli warplanes struck targets in Gaza after a rocket was fired from the strip. The Defense Ministry also announced it is freezing cement imports and other punitive steps in response to near-daily attacks from the Strip recently. (ToI)

Palestinian Authority declares end to Oslo Accords

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to Palestinian commitments in the Oslo Accords in a meeting May 19 in Ramallah. The announcement comes in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to annex one-third of the West Bank. The move would result in Israel surrounding Palestinian territory on all sides. (Jurist)

Israel closes Gaza crossing after balloon attacks

Israel will close its remaining goods crossing with the Gaza Strip, authorities said Monday, after militants in the enclave launched "incendiary balloons" into Israeli territory. The Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed to all traffic except humanitarian equipment and fuel, COGAT, the IDF unit that oversees the crossings, said in a statement. (AFP)

Orwellian 'peace' between UAE and Israel

Jared Kushner's only concrete achievement in pursuit of Middle East "peace" has been a mutual recognition deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, ostentatiously dubbed the "Abraham Accord." Kushner has just arrived on the first-ever direct flight by an Israeli airline to the UAE, where he is to broker talks on establishing formal diplomatic ties. (JPost, CFR)

Ironically, announcement of the deal coincided with the latest round of Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. A tacit ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has just been reported. Israel says it will fully reopen fishing zone, border crossings if situation remains calm. (ToI)

On Aug. 25, Israeli warplanes struck supposed Hezbollah outposts in Lebanon after shots were fired at troops in Israel from across the border. (Reuters)

Trump announces 'peace deal' between Bahrain and Israel

Israel and Bahrain have reached a deal to fully normalize their relations, President Donald Trump has announced. "The second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days," he tweeted. Bahrain is only the fourth Arab country in the Middle East—after the UAE, Egypt and Jordan—to recognize Israel since its founding in 1948. (BBC News)

Abraham Accords: peace deal or business deal?

President Trump presided over a South Lawn ceremony where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed a general declaration of principles the White House has named the Abraham Accords.

The texts of the agreements detail how the three countries will open embassies and establish other new diplomatic and economic ties, including tourism, technology and energy. Israel and the Emirates are beginning commercial air travel between their countries for the first time, and Bahrain has opened its airspace for those flights.

They make scant reference to the fate of the Palestinians, but include a call for "a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Trump hailed the accords as heralding "the dawn of a new Middle East." 

Others were more skeptical. "It's not conflict resolution and it’s not peace—this is a business deal," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the J Street lobby group. "It's very, very clear that there are aligned interests between Israel and these countries—military, security, diplomatic, economic—and those interests have been there for two decades." (NYT, Sept. 15)

This as aspect of the deal particularly worries Maryam al-Khawaja, a human rights activist from Bahrain who was forced into exile in Denmark.

"We have already seen in the past how the Gulf states and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have benefited from buying surveillance technology and other forms of technology from the Israeli government that they’ve used to oppress their own local populations," Khawaja said. (PRI, Sept. 16)

Israeli air-strikes damagae Gaza hospital: report

Hamas denounced as "barbaric" Israeli air-strikes on the Gaza Strip which they said damaged a children's hospital. The IDF denied the charge and said it was responding to rocket fire from the enclave. (AFP)

Deal ends rift between Gulf States

In what is being portrayed as another diplomatic breakthrough for Jared Kushner, Gulf Arab leaders signed a declaration Jan. 5 to ease a rift with Qatar, following Saudi Arabia's decision to end its three-year embargo of the energy-rich mini-state. (AP)

Israel agrees to free trade deal with UAE

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a free trade agreement in Dubai on May 31, Israel’s first with an Arab nation. The UAE-Israel Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed by Israeli and Emirati officials, strengthening links between the two countries which established formal relations in September 2020. According to a report from Emirati state news agency WAM, the agreement will lower or eliminate tariffs on more than 99% of goods traded between the countries. The agreement is estimated to increase bilateral trade between the countries by up to USD$10 billion within five years. (Jurist)