Did Anyone Ask the Palestinians?

When Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America in 2016 he enlisted his Son-in-law Jared Kushner as his Senior Adviser and as the person responsible for leading peace talks in West Asia, or as Americans like to call it, the Middle-East. Kushner, a New York-based real estate baron, was given the gargantuan task of finding a solution to the seven decades-long Israeli-Palestine conflict and formulating the “deal of the century” to usher in peace in the region.


Three years later, after consultations with Israeli officials, President Trump in January 2020 unveiled a “peace” plan titled: Peace to Prosperity.

According to this deal, 30% of the Palestinian territory will officially be annexed to the State of Israel and Jerusalem will be established as the official capital of Israel. The territories to be annexed in the West Bank have already been occupied by 500,000 Jewish settlers living in heavily fortified houses and colonies. Approximately 3 million Palestinians live in this part of the land. The deal also promised $50 billion aid in loans and grants to the State of Palestine to generate jobs, provide the necessary infrastructure, and increase the GDP of the territory. It would also lead to the USA officially recognising Palestine as a nation-state.


This deal between the countries of Israel and Palestine was released at a press conference in Washington D.C. some 9000 kms away from the land in question.

While this agreement was supposed to bring peace and prosperity to the nations of Israel and Palestine, one very important aspect was missing in the formulation of this agreement: the participation and consent of Palestinians. This agreement was developed without the participation of the Palestine National Authority or Hamas – the organization ruling the Gaza Strip. They immediately and completely rejected this “deal of the century” because it disregarded several Palestinian demands. First, making Jerusalem the official capital of Israel was not well received by the Palestinians since they also lay claim to this territory and recognise it as their capital. Second, almost 30% of the territory promised to them in the Clinton Era accords would be annexed to Israel.

This deal was categorically rejected by the Arab League as well and the investment conference to pledge money for the development of Palestine was also a failure. United Nations claimed that the process of annexation was illegal. Hence, the deal turned out to be a non-starter.


The deal that came at the heels of a third general election in Israel in less than a year; strengthened the support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also gave President Trump a somewhat foreign policy win.


Despite international rejection and failure to raise investment, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised to annex the aforementioned territory on July 1, 2020. This action however never materialized and the process of annexation was put on hold. This was because Netanyahu (who is facing corruption charges and falling approval ratings) is now governing in a coalition with his political rival Benny Gantz who is not so keen on annexing the region and is more concerned about the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country. Secondly, there was also a growing opposition to the “deal of the century” by the Jewish settlers in the West Bank on the point that the deal requires Israel to recognize Palestine as a nation-state. Thirdly, while annexation is an ambiguous term and can mean different things to different people, it would have permanently damaged the Arab-Israeli relationship. Also, the United States did not want to involve itself in an active international conflict during a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 American citizens.


Hence, due to a divided government, coronavirus, and, growing opposition, the process of annexation was put on hold.


Palestinian artists draw murals depicting the Dome of the Rock and the West Bank as part of an awareness campaign against Israel's West Bank annexation plans, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 1. Via Getty Images

This was the background that allowed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to establish a relationship with Israel.


The UAE was a member of the Khartoum Resolution of 1967 that established the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.

However, on August 13th, 2020, the United States brokered an agreement between the UAE and Israel that would lead to the UAE formally recognising the state of Israel with the establishment of diplomatic relations and cooperate on defence and security issues to contain Iran’s ambitions and clear a pathway for UAE to acquire F-35 stealth aircraft from the US, all in exchange for Israel renouncing its decision to annex occupied Palestinian territories.


This agreement titled the “Abraham Accords” gave Netanyahu a legitimate excuse to abandon his ambition to annex territories of Palestine and made the clandestine cooperation between UAE and Israel official. It also enabled UAE to claim that they prevented Israel from annexing Palestine, thus saving them. Finally, it hands President Trump an objective foreign policy victory that might boost his chances at re-election in November.

Following the signing of the agreement, there has been the establishment of direct telephone lines, interactions of business delegations from both the countries, the Mossad’s Chief has made his first overt visit to the UAE and air travel was initiated for the first time between the two countries.


While it was welcomed by much of the international community, the UAE’s initiation of a relationship with Israel without the precondition of the creation of a Palestinian state was denounced by the Palestinians as a betrayal of their cause.

Much like the deal in January, the Palestinians were not consulted about this deal either and they immediately condemned the agreement.


The liberal international world order that was established after the Second World War emphasised on the lives of people. West Asia, however, has always been a geopolitical chessboard with each nation using realpolitik to gain dominance.

The Abraham Accords is a great example of how the people whose lives depend on the decisions of international governments are not even consulted or considered. Leaving Palestine as a mere footnote in history.


There are 5 million Palestinians who live in destitute conditions in the West Bank whose lives are greatly affected by the decisions that are taken thousands of miles away. While January’s “peace” plan has now been dusted off, any chance of peace and prosperity in the Middle East should have all stakeholders in consult, especially and most importantly the people of Palestine. In this altered geo-political context, Palestinians struggle to remain relevant.

Definitions:

1. West Bank: The West Bank is located on the west bank of the Jordan River and is bounded by Israel on the north, west and south. On the east of this river lies Jordan. Since the Six-Day War in 1967, also known as the Third Arab-Israeli War, the West Bank has been occupied by Israel. Both Israelis and Palestinians assert their rights to the territory of the West Bank and its disputed status and the conflict has not been resolved as yet.

The Palestinians who live in the West Bank live under Israeli military rule, as well as limited self-rule. Also present in the West Bank are some 132 Israeli settlements and 124 unauthorised settlements, along with military outposts. While the Israeli government and the US under the Trump presidency have insisted that these settlements are legal, the larger international community does not believe so and considers these settlements to be illegal under the provisions of international law.

2. Realpolitik: The term “realpolitik” is widely used today as a synonym for “power politics” and understood as the realist approach to foreign policy, a venerable tradition that stretches from Machiavelli and Bismarck to scholar-diplomats of the postwar era such as George Kennan and Henry Kissinger. It is a political system that's not based on beliefs, doctrines, ethics, or morals, but rather on realistic, practical ideas.

References:

1. The Middle East Plays Hardball, and the Palestinians Always Lose, Foreign Policy https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/20/the-middle-east-plays-hardball-and-the-palestinians-always-lose/

2. Israel and the UAE Strike ‘Historic’ Deal to Normalize Relations, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/08/13/israel-united-arab-emirates-strike-historic-deal-normalize-relations-trump-west-bank-annexation/

3. Israel’s West Bank annexation plan and why it’s stalled, explained by an expert, Vox, https://www.vox.com/2020/7/13/21317900/israel-west-bank-annexation-palestine-netanyahu-trump

4. How Bibi’s Friends in the Settlements and in Washington Helped Scuttle His Annexation Move, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/02/netanyahu-israel-palestinians-settlements-west-bank-annexation/

5. For Palestinians, Israel-U.A.E. Deal Swaps One Nightmare for Another, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/world/middleeast/palestinians-israel-uae-annexation-peace.html

6. Palestine, now a footnote, The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/palestine-now-a-footnote/article32431833.ece

All about the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement, The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/all-about-the-israel-uae-peace-agreement/article32420634.ece

Author:

Rishabh Ahuja (Ris.ahuja@ducic.ac.in)

An undergraduate student of Cluster Innovation Centre, University of Delhi, he is interested in International Relations, Public Policy and Philosophy.