When US President Donald Trump began talking about his “Deal of the Century,” Palestinian Arabs responded with vociferous opposition before hearing a single word of its contents. The question is why? And the answers are numerous.
The main and most fundamental reason is that both the leading Palestinian organizations, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), cannot – and therefore will not – be part of any deal that legitimizes Israel’s existence in the land of the Jewish people.
The PLO’s main considerations are nationalistic. It claims that “Falestin” belongs solely to the Arab nation and the Palestinian people as an inseparable part of the Arab Middle East. There is no way the Arab nation and Palestinian people will give up their land to the Jews who are not – at least, according to the Arab viewpoint – a nation, but a set of communities belonging to whatever countries they left to come to Israel over the last 130 years.
Hamas opposes Israel’s very existence due to that organization’s religious-Islamic approach which believes that Judaism is extinct (“din batel”), the Jews having been ejected by Allah to an exile where they must remain until their conversion to Islam.
According to the Islamist approach, “The Land of Falestin” is an Islamic trust, sacred to the Islamic nation. There is no way it can be removed from under Islam’s wings and handed over to another religion – which has lost its validity in any case.
In addition, according to Islamic tenets, Jews must live under Islamic patronage, as dhimmi,lacking any rights to a state, sovereignty, government, army or police. According to this Islamic viewpoint, Trumps deal cannot be accepted because it grants Israel the right to exist as a Jewish national homeland.
The Palestinian Arabs believe that Trump disqualified himself from having the right to express an opinion on the conflict from the moment he took a pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian stance on the two crucial points of the Palestinian narrative: Jerusalem and the “refugees”.
Both the PLO and Hamas agree that eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, must be the capital of a Palestinian state in order to keep it from being part of a Jewish state, although the city was never the capital of any Arab or Islamic national entity.
They demand Jerusalem because they understand that there is no Zionism without Zion, and that the best way to sow despair among the Jews is to take away their historic capital, Jerusalem. That is why they, and the only too eager to assist them Arabs and Muslims, spend many millions on efforts to emphasize and hold on to Jerusalem’s
centrality in the struggle against Israel. They do this because most of the world does not yet recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State or as being under Israeli sovereignty, so that issue is “a weak link” that can be broken if it is hit repeatedly. When, despite this approach, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, thereby authorizing the existence of a state for the Jewish people, that made him unfit to serve as an honest broker in Palestinian, Arab and Muslim eyes.
Another painful problem is the 1948 Palestinian Arab refugees. This is the main issue for the refugees who still dream of returning to Israel to live and are not interested in any Palestinian State. The fact that a large portion of them are not originally from Palestine is of no significance to them, because the Arab states, PLO, Hamas, international organizations such as UNRWA and those countries who have been funding them for decades, have also served to keep alive the hope of returning one day to their non-existent homes and villages The refugee ethos is central to the Palestinian experience but Trump actually had the courage to reduce American support for these delusions. This, too. casts a pall over Trump’s legitimacy as someone trying to solve the Palestinian problem.
Another serious flaw in the “Deal of the Century” is that it involves additional Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. This is totally unacceptable to Palestinian Arab spokesmen because years ago, Arafat established the rule that “independence is a Palestinian decision,” meaning that the Palestinians are the only ones allowed to decide on their own destiny and future. That is why Arafat was opposed to the Palestinian chapter in the 1978 Camp David Accords agreed to by Begin and Sadat after Jimmy Carter exerted considerable pressure on the two. The Palestinians are opposed on principle to any Arab interference in their affairs – and certainly to their affairs being an issue in an agreement between Egypt and Israel. They saw Sadat as a traitor to the Palestinian cause first because he dared to deal with their problem without authority or permission to do so, and second, because he agreed to peace with Israel without solving the Palestinian problem to their satisfaction.
Trump’s “Deal of the Century” includes the involvement of other Arab states, and the Palestinians fear a situation where those states and Israel agree on something to which the Palestinians are opposed, leading to the strengthening of Israel’s position in the Arab world. This could lead to rapport between Israel and these states, in an attempt to isolate the “recalcitrant” Palestinians and pressure them to agree to sign things against their interests and positions.
It has recently been made public that the Trump administration is planning a conference in Bahrain to deal with economic aspects of the “Deal of the Century”. PLO spokesmen are up in arms because, in their opinion, dealing with the economic issues before solving all the other problems – Jerusalem, the refugees, borders, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, water, sovereignty –are a result of the American conception that money, work and economic development can solve everything. In their view, all the unaddressed problems must be solved to their complete satisfaction before dealing with economic issues. They call the other problems “axioms” which cannot be bypassed or solved by economic means.
It is important to remember that Iran stands behind Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that the Islamic Republic opposes any agreement that puts an end to hostilities with Israel. These two organizations fan the flames of struggle with Israel whenever they feel it is necessary, and Israel has neither the political nor public will to enter into negotiations while rockets are being launched at it from Gaza. That is how the two organizations can manage to stymie any progress in negotiations meant to advance the “Deal of the Century” – and that is why its chances of success are not particularly sanguine.
Even if the Israel government and its citizenry accept the “Deal of the Century,” that act will have little significance because the probability that the Palestinian side accepts it is minimal. Nevertheless, it is extremely important that Israel refrain from announcing any territorial or other concessions until the other side signs a permanent peace agreement and ends its claims against Israel. Any unilateral Israeli concessions will be remembered forever and taken for granted, placing the starting position of possible future negotiations past the point where Israel conceded something in the “Deal of the Century”, even if that deal never reaches fruition.
These and other reasons mean that the “Deal of the Century” will in all probability be consigned to the shelf where numerous other “Peace Plans” gather dust, despite the good and pure intentions of those suggesting them from the year 1947 (The Partition Plan) up to the present.
There is a verse in the Koran saying: “Allah is on the side of those who are patient,” and Israel’s neighbors have a good deal of patience. They are prepared to wait and wait until the opportunity for them to destroy Israel arrives, so why bother granting peace to the Jewish State?
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News