OPINION: So the borders of the 'Deal of the Century' are not drawn in blood



Wed, 31 Jan 2018 - 10:30 GMT


Wed, 31 Jan 2018 - 10:30 GMT

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) laughs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) laughs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

CAIRO – 31 January 2018: The current U.S. administration seems to imagine it would be able to conclude an entire “one-sided” deal in the Middle East and impose the policy of fait accompli through it.

There is a striking U.S.-Israeli coordination in this regard, and the U.S. is trying to involve relevant Arab parties in it, as it establishes a final settlement by making use of a turbulent Arab reality. Palestine is pushing in different directions, but without any real results until now. Trump's administration is confident in achieving an “accomplishment” as it concludes its first year in office.

Those behind the American deal and their supporters in some research centers and think tanks (we know whom by the name) do not know that a final decision cannot be imposed on Palestinians.

Granted, the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital came at such a critical timing, but the administration will not be able to fully resolve the conflict. The borders the U.S. is imposing clearly show that the U.S. is unaware of the political and strategic realities. It also operates under the false assumption that Palestinians have accepted the current resolution and will deal with it as a “done deal”, which is absolutely wrong. Former envoys like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and others knew this. The borders proposed by the U.S. and Israel will be drawn in blood, as anyone familiar with the Arab-Israeli conflict and its transformations would say. Unlike what Americans and Israelis believe, the conflict will not only be about the Israeli-West Bank Barrier or the areas near it.

In the nineties, I was one of the Arab negotiators in Multi-Party Negotiation Forums between Arabs and Israel. Negotiations included issues like Jerusalem, water, refugees, settlements, borders, economic relations and the Golan Heights.

Back then, the U.S. believed in beginning a transitional stage, then reaching a final stage through joint negotiations which continued for years; subsequently being concluded with what is known as the Rabin Document. However, today, Israel and the U.S. administration are not fully aware of the core of the conflict or its aspects and are tackling it as if it were a “bargain” on buying or selling a corporation.

U.S. envoys like Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (who, by the way, could act as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., not the opposite) have their own profit and loss calculations that indicate that Palestinians will just accept the status quo. That is coupled with the Israeli prime minister’s pressure on the U.S. administration to promptly state its ideas and visions. As relations between the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. administration are currently ruptured, President Mahmoud Abbas is resorting to the EU to find an alternative path for Palestinians.

Why do I emphasize that the U.S. and Israeli borders, which are part of the so-called “deal of the century” will be drawn in blood, and will not be a “done deal”? Because Palestinians will not accept Netanyahu’s idea of annexing 15 percent of Palestinian lands occupied in 1967 to Israel, or President Trump’s idea of annexing only 10 percent.

They will not accept “inventing” a new Palestinian capital, a capital that is already a Jerusalem district, which lies six kilometers away from the 1967 borders, declaring Palestine a demilitarized country and keeping a police force. Nobody will accept their proposed “security cooperation” between Egypt, Jordan, the U.S. and any other suggested parties, while Israeli forces are deployed along the Jordan River and Central Mountains in the West Bank to protect both states, keeping absolute security powers.

Because I am well aware of the Arab-Israeli conflict (first as an academic, then as a negotiator for many years), I find myself pondering many facts that the U.S. administration is ignorant of. Palestinians will not approve temporary borders, a made-up entity or getting around facts.

The problem will not be resolved if the situation stays the same, that is, as Palestinians stand their grounds of rejection and attempt to find other political approaches to widen the negotiation circle; they need to have a vision to depart from, and it may not be crystallized until now but it will be there and Israel and the U.S. will ignore it. It will not be based on gaining powers or annexing more lands in Area C to Palestine.

The current Palestinian political generation is not obliged to accept the status quo, regardless of what the U.S. and Israel are “marketing”, as they emphasize that their ideas grant many privileges to Palestinians, like allowing them to use Ashdod Port, Haifa Airport and Lod Airport, letting Palestinians actively participate in protecting international crossings, finding a safe crossing between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty, and finding a fair resolution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

We can thus be sure that the U.S. and Israeli plans are in fact “transitional steps”, as the U.S. administration proposed in the past. What further proves this is how they are leaving final borders and other final-stage issues for Palestinians and Israelis to settle according to a prearranged and agreed upon timeline that is not fully resolved.

Therefore, at the core of the U.S. proposal lies self-governance that Palestinians will not accept, be it if President Mahmoud Abbas is in the government or his successor, considering current Palestinian, Arab and world politics.

The U.S. administration could take more similar “singular” procedures on ground, like pushing the Israeli government to pull the rug from under Palestinians’ feet, believing the issue is a done deal, because nobody has recognized the borders of Israel in their current or proposed form. This raises the problematic question of what proposal to follow, especially one that estimates power shifts rather than its stability. The international system is unstable, and the U.S. administration is not fully aware of the nature of regional conflicts, their dangers and the challenges they pose to U.S. national security.

U.S. intelligence agencies and the “deep state” agencies have already warned about this, but President Trump does not trust their warnings, and believes they do not have the creative vision to handle the problems the U.S. administration is facing, that requires both political and strategic moves, including resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in any way, and achieving serious breakthroughs in this issue, which all former U.S. presidents failed to do.

I am not predicting the future when I stress that the U.S. and Israel will fail to impose a resolution on Palestinians, nor am I making a similar prediction when I say that the new proposed borders will not be drawn by one party, by force or through the same strategy followed in building the West Bank barrier. It is a point of view based on the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict and having sufficient experience in it. The borders will not be imposed but will be drawn in blood, sooner or later; let us wait and see.

Professor Tarek Fahmy is the Head of Political and Strategic Unit at the National Center for Middle East Studies, a Professor of Strategic Thinking at Nasser Military Academy, a Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo, and a member of the Israeli Center Zagazig University. His expertise on the Middle East has provided him the opportunity to participate in a number of academic conferences in cities around the world such as Gaza, Washington DC, Denmark, Berlin, and Jordan, as well as, providing analysis on current events in a number of Egyptian and international media outlets.



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