The deal of the century is more a vision than a practical plan, more a revisionist Zionist propaganda document than a political one. In fact, it is essentially a collection of government talking points for media appearances, in which the talkers present a virtual reality. This is remarkably in tune with the inclinations of Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Shaun Hannity of Fox News, and evangelical pastors.
In the imaginary world presented by the Deal of the Century, a twofold refugee problem was created starting in 1948: Palestinians became refugees and so did Mizrahi Jews. The solution, therefore, involves a mutual offset. The Jews of Morocco will not demand the right of return to Morocco, and in exchange the Palestinian refugees can forget about Palestine. Israel is the victim, and the Palestinians constitute a gang of terrorists striving for self-determination and a state, even though they do not meet the minimum conditions required to gain independence.
According to the Deal, Israel has historical rights while Palestinians have “unfulfilled aspirations.” Therefore, while this vision permits the Jews to realize the historic right over the entire land of Israel, the desire of the Palestinians will be realized only in the rump territory over which Israel does not wish to exercise its rights, mostly areas of dense Palestinian population. In the scraps left to the Palestinians, a pseudo-state will be created on condition that it guarantee Israel’s security. This Palestinian state will have no control over borders, air or electromagnetic space, and in the unlikely event that it gets a port or airport, this will only be under Israeli auspices and supervision.
The plan, as said in the new White House document, implements the program of “two states for two peoples” according to the vision of Yitzhak Rabin, and it even quotes from his last Knesset speech about the permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rabin stated that Jerusalem would stay united, Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley would stay under Israeli control, and what remained of Gaza and the West Bank would become a Palestinian autonomy, “a Palestinian entity that is less than a state.” These are the principles adopted by the Trump plan and given full meaning through the Deal of the Century.
It is amazing that 25 years after Rabin’s assassination, an American president honors him by adopting the principles of his legacy. He does this in the White House in the presence of Benjamin Netanyahu, who in a demonstration 25 years ago walked behind a coffin inscribed with the words “Rabin kills Zionism.”
Twenty-five years have passed and this same Netanyahu heaps praise on President Trump, even crowning the proclamation of the Deal as a historic day on a level with Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence. It’s no wonder that Benny Gantz also expressed his support for the vision, which answers all of Israel’s security needs. How ironic that 25 years after Rabin’s assassination, years of schism and conflict, Trump unites Israelis as he divides America like no president has done before.
In light of this, and regardless of whether Netanyahu will or will not annex settlements to Israel, the new Israeli consensus has expanded from a national agreement to annex the settlement blocs to one that will apply Israeli sovereignty to all settlements, without exception. This will be done also at the cost of turning the “Palestinian state” into Swiss cheese, as Abbas himself described it to participants in the Arab League convention. The Palestinian state has passed away. In fact, it has not been on the agenda for a long time. However, this scam or illusion about a putative independent Palestinian state has tremendously aided all parties involved, including the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and, of course, the Israeli left. The last of these preaches separation between Israelis and Palestinians, while still advocating Israel’s absurd self-definition as a state that is simultaneously “Jewish and democratic.”
Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority was and remains the sole guarantor for realization of the Zionist vision, for without the PA there is no program to realize the Deal of the Century. The Israeli annexation of settlements, says the Deal, must be accompanied by the PA’s consent to accept responsibility for more than two million Palestinians who live without sovereignty, without territorial continuity, without freedom of movement, without control over water resources, and the list goes on. If the PA didn’t work hand in glove with Israel in security matters, there could be no annexation, no greater Israel, no Jewish state and no democracy. In short, the PA, an Oslo creation, is a brilliant invention by the start-up nation, to have its cake and eat it too.
The Deal of the Century raises the even more delusional possibility, which also requires agreement of all sides, that the Triangle, a concentration of Arab towns and villages on Israel’s side of the Green Line, should become part of the Palestinian mini-state—and for two primary reasons. First, residents of the Triangle in any case define themselves as Palestinians. Secondly, because Triangle residents were supposed to be outside Israel’s borders in 1948 and were annexed to it a year later for military reasons that are no longer relevant, it is possible, after 71 years, to return them.
The Arab High Monitoring Committee and the Joint List expressed disgust with this proposal, and even massed in Baqa al-Gharbiya, an Israeli area slated to be moved to the Palestinian side, to demonstrate their desire to maintain Israeli citizenship. In reality, the demand of the Monitoring Committee is understandable: Who would want to move to an Autonomy practically under Israeli occupation, losing the basic civil rights they have in Israel?
People from the Blue and White party, including Yair Lapid, were quick to announce that such a move would not take place. International law does not allow the transfer of population from a sovereign state to a non-state entity, and all agree that Trump’s outline will not result in a Palestinian state. This section of the vision thus shows how far the delusional Deal of the Century is from reality. There is, however, a more likely chance that the Palestinian Authority will cease to exist, for a number of possible reasons: the eventual passing of Abu Mazen, the collapse of the PA due to the economic pressure applied to it, and the loss of all support and credibility among its Palestinian subjects, who understand that the PA’s existence allows Israel to entrench its control, as it has since the Oslo Accords.
If Israel unilaterally annexes the settlements, the Palestinian Authority will collapse and Israel will be forced to re-assume military and civil control over Ramallah, Nablus and the other Palestinian cities. Therefore, the chance that Umm al-Fahm will be transferred to the Palestinian Autonomy is even less likely than that Ramallah will become the responsibility of Israel through direct occupation.
Trump’s imaginary vision calls into question conventions that have thus far divided Israel between right and left. Israel’s political reality points to a consensus between the Likud and Blue-and-White regarding the future of the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian reality, however, shows that in the face of this consensus, an opposing Palestinian consensus is forming: that a Palestinian state will never exist.
Taking this reality into account, it is inevitable that we must choose one of two alternatives: either the Trump-Netanyahu vision of apartheid or one democratic state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, where Israelis and Palestinians will live in equality and coexistence. The apartheid offered by Netanyahu, with the consent of Benny Gantz, is a recipe for perpetuating the conflict until life in both Israel and Palestine becomes intolerable. Therefore, anyone who does not want to live in one egalitarian and democratic country will, following the March elections, recommend to Israel’s president that Gantz form a government, and will continue to hide behind the illusion of two states for two peoples. In the emerging reality, such persons will be pushed to the margins of history.