Fresh from making peace on the Korean peninsula, US president Donald Trump, aka The Messiah, is turning his benevolent gaze to the Middle East.
The Ultimate Deal™ is imminent, folks, so dust off your fineries, it’s soon time to celebrate.
The Deal will be delivered by a crack team of presidential advisors whose insight and neutrality guarantees that the US proposal will take into account the grievances and perspectives of everyone concerned.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and a senior White House advisor, has actively helped fund Jewish settlements in occupied territory through his parents’ foundation. He apparently thinks the Obama administration “tried to beat up on Israel and give the Palestinians everything.”
David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, has put his mouth where his money is, not just financing settlements but declaring that he saw those as “part of Israel.” Burnishing his credentials further, he also believes Palestinians in Gaza are “basically Egyptians.”
With such sound counsel, and the issue of Jerusalem already happily resolved, it is hardly surprising that expectations are sky high.
Certainly Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, sounded positively Gandhian on a recent appearance on BBC’s Newsnight. The Palestinians, he said – if they acceded to all Israeli demands – could have everything.
“You can call it what you want,” said Netanyahu, who was reportedly described by a former official in the Obama administration as a “chickenshit motherfucker.” Israel, he added, would even be generous enough to take responsibility for overall security.
“It’s a state minus, it’s autonomy plus.”
Amazingly, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, has chosen to meet such largesse with sullen silence. Having seen the rug pulled from underneath the peace process charade and run out of ideas, Abbas has cut off relations with the US and is taking out his aggression on his own people instead, showing he has learned a lesson or two from his occupiers.
By contrast, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are hugely excited by the bright prospects their Palestinian Arab brethren are faced with. They seem nonplussed as to why Palestinians are not similarly giddy.
Palestinians should “shut up and stop complaining,” the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, widely known as MBS and seen as the power behind the throne, reportedly told an audience in New York in April.
(This is advice Palestinians are sure to take seriously. After all, everyone loves to be lectured by a man whose inherited wealth allows him to spend $550 million on a yacht.)
Looking for muscle
Of course, as impressed as MBS and his counterpart in the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, aka MBZ, are by Israel’s peacemaking overtures, they equally fear Tehran’s plans to conquer the globe.
With an airforce out of the 1960s, a military budget a fifth of that of Saudi Arabia and an arms race that Iran’s Gulf rivals are “decisively winning,” it is easy to see why Riyadh and Abu Dhabi believe Tehran is only a hop, skip and a nuclear weapon away from total world domination.
With growing American reluctance to see its military sucked into regional conflicts – a reluctance that began under Barack Obama and has continued under Trump’s America First isolationism – the Gulf countries therefore need muscle.
Where better to turn but Tel Aviv? After all, whether you want to start a war, shoot unarmed protesters, execute unarmed civilians, bomb a neighboring country, there is no problem Israel won’t butcher with a bullet or a bomb.
The ideal partner for Gulf countries to ensure a peaceful outcome from their rivalry with Iran then. And the perfect coalition for Washington, where diplomacy is a game for the weak.
The message to Palestinians is the same, whether from Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh or Abu Dhabi. Put up or shut up.
If you do neither then you are reduced to the kind of desperation that drove thousands of people to demonstrate at the boundary between Gaza and Israel for nearly two months, unarmed and at the mercy of Israeli snipers unconstrained by any orders or any sense of humanitarian feeling.
The Great March of Return might have brought a temporary spotlight on Gaza. But with more than a hundred dead and thousands injured, it is a heavy price to pay for headlines that are quickly forgotten and have little consequence.
Doing nothing, Abbas’ current strategy, is also futile. Trump may not win reelection, but no American president will defy the Israel lobby to walk back on Jerusalem.
Wealthy Gulf countries were for a while the only meaningful Arab counterweight in Washington to Israel’s lobby there. But Gulf politics is fickle and openly or covertly, Arab diplomats have conceded defeat in that battle long ago. There is no help there.
Perhaps the Ultimate Deal™ will prove the ultimate insult. When vice has stopped even paying tribute to virtue it may finally convince Palestinians across the board that the two-state deception is at an end.