May 23, 2019

The Limits of Trump's Realpolitik for Israel

“Tweets coming out of Washington this past week notified the world that the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan was “finished.” Furthermore, the tweets informed us that Jared Kushner, special adviser and the president’s son-in-law, together with Attorney Jason Greenblatt, would be traveling to the region to present the plan to Arab leaders to get them on-board with the plan. Undoubtedly, the Trump “deal of the century” was conceived hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian leadership was not consulted or taken into account by the Trump administration. It is hard to imagine a Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that is not a non-starter for the Palestinians. The Trump strategy, similar to Netanyahu’s own Middle East views seems to be based on getting the weigh-in from the Arab states – the Saudis, Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. The basic idea is that the Arab states would force the Palestinians to accept a proposal, which is a priori unacceptable to them.

The Trump mind-set translates everything into money and every deal has to be a money maker for those involved. Based on this strategy, Trump is essentially “selling” palestine for economic benefits to the Arab states and to Israel. This follows the belief that the Palestinians will settle for less than they have demanded until now, because they will gain economically from the deal. If the Palestinians reject the plan, as planned, everyone, including the Arabs would blame them, and then all of the Arab states could heap on the table all the deals that they have already tried making with Israel before.

If the Palestinians refuse, it doesn’t really matter to Trump. Once again, Netanyahu will state that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, leaving the deal on the table. Trump and Netanyahu believe that the common cause in the region coalesces around reining in Iranian power, and believes that any influence will overtake Arab loyalty to the Palestinian cause. There is no doubt that the importance of the Palestinian issue has declined significantly in the post-Arab spring era. The decline of the Muslim brotherhood and their allies also brought about a deterioration in regional support for palestine. The continued division between Fatah and Hamas has also impacted the ability of the Palestinians to keep their issue high on the Arab agenda. Furthermore, the rejection of President Abbas by Trump and Netanyahu has cut down the stature and political worth of Abbas in the international community and in the Arab region.”

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