For the United States peace plan on a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, or, as Donald Trump likes to call it , “the deal of the century”, difficult times have come once again. A new problem developed in the already well-known difficulties in Trump’s implementation of the initiative, in the form of a categorically negative position of the Palestinian leadership with respect to the peace plan. This time though, it’s the Israelis up in arms.
After the victory of Israeli Prime Minister, Likud right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the early April 9 parliamentary elections (he has been in power since March 31, 2009), he failed to form a coalition government in the allotted time. Netanyahu blamed the failure of coalition negotiations on the leader of the Russian-speaking Israelis’ “Our Home Is Israel” party Avigdor Lieberman, whose conflict with the two ultra-religious parties Shas and Yahadut HaTorah around the draft law on the recruitment of orthodox Jews into the Israeli army became a stumbling block in the process of forming a government.
As a result, at the end of May, a decision was made to dissolve the Knesset (parliament) of the country and hold repeat elections on 17 September. In addition to internal political discomfort for Likud and Netanyahu personally, the incident, we note, for the first time in the history of the State of Israel since 1948 (two consecutive extraordinary election campaigns during the year), complicated the future of the “deal of the century”.
Its presentation has been postponed more than once since 2018 (1). The last time it was done right next to the elections on April 9, then because of the onset of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims. The Trump Middle East team, led by his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner , was supposed to introduce the economic part of June 25-26 in Bahrain. According to reports coming from Washington, the convening of an event in one of the Arab capitals of the Persian Gulf in the announced time frame remains in force. However, recent developments in the political field of Israel have put additional question marks before the “deal of the century”.
Palestine is opposed to the plan, and continues to remain in this position. Envoys of the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas in Bahrain Manama in the last week of June will not. Israel, in its turn, could not decide on the ruling coalition, to show the world a government with which it is possible to plan something, at least for the medium term. Palestinians in general trumped the Trump initiative and the conference in Bahrain in particular. Israelis are reeling domestic political uncertainty. There are all signs that the full disclosure of the content of the “deal of the century,” which, according to data from dedicated sources, is set out in about 50 pages, will have to be put off again in time. Especially when after the “double elections – 2019” in Israel comes the turn of the election campaign in the United States. Therefore, it is necessary to be content so far only calculations of the economic provisions of the plan.
Pointing out that the upcoming Israeli and US calendars will hamper any steps towards a peace plan for the foreseeable future, Washington analysts advise the Trump administration to focus on “immediate stabilization measures” (2). Under such measures is meant, first of all, the launch of economic projects in the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, as well as strengthening security in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and in the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas. How it will happen in practice, no one really understands it now either in Washington or in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. At least in view of the fact that Gaza is under the complete control of Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups (for example, Islamic Jihad),
The task of promoting the “deal of the century” is further complicated by a number of regional factors. The attention of the USA, Israel and the leading forces of the Arab world is diverted to Iran, the processes in the Persian Gulf, as well as in other points of mediated confrontation with the Shiite state. The inability of the Arab monarchies to focus on the Palestinian theme because of the need for constant military-political “tracking” Iran was exemplified by the two summits convened urgently on May 30 in the Saudi Mecca of the Arab League and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC). Palestine in the final documents of the Arab League and the GCC, of course, did not forget to mention. But far from being a priority. The priority in recent years has been and remains Iran. Arabs, the main financial donors and political sponsors of the Palestinians,
By and large, Israel itself is also not eager to divert from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to clarify relations with the Abbas administration. Any serious disruption in the advancement of Trump’s plan is fraught for Israelis with an aggravation of almost the entire perimeter of their borders. The rejection of the “deal of the century” by the Palestinians at any time, at a time convenient for Israel’s opponents, may blow up the situation in the region. Syria will certainly try to “hurt” Israel somehow after the annexation of its territory, the Golan Heights, recognized by the United States in March of this year. In turn, Israel is trying to act in a preventive manner. Over the past week, Israeli aircraft have attacked targets in the territory of Syria, its neighboring country, three times.
On the night of June 2, Israeli aircraft attacked the positions of the Syrian military in the border province of Quneitra and in the area of Al-Kiswa near Damascus. Then, a day later, according to the location of the At-Tiyas airbase (T-4) in the central province of Homs.
The Lebanese Hezbollah is also waiting for a reason to deploy next large-scale military operations on the northern borders of the Jewish state, using a missile arsenal accumulated over the years.
Of course, the Palestinians themselves will react with an escalation in the West Bank and rocket launches from the Gaza Strip. As a result, Israel can have itself a war on three fronts with the indirect, but most interesting, participation of Iran in it.
On the 40th anniversary of Al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day), which was celebrated in Iran and other regional points of the “resistance to the Zionist regime” on the last Friday of Ramadan (May 31) with an impressive scope, Tehran indirectly made it clear that it’s ready to deploy the three fronts against Israel in any attempt on its part to attack the Islamic Republic. The “deal of the century” has become in Iran’s hands a means of mobilizing anti-Israeli forces in the region and keeping them in constant combat readiness.
Benjamin Netanyahu after failing to form a government following the April elections has to take into account the likely domestic political costs in connection with the advancement of the peace plan. According to the results of the elections of April 9, the left-centrist party Kahol Laban (Blue and White) received the same number of seats in the Knesset as the premier Likud – 35 seats. And only getting a larger number of center-right factions into parliament of the 21st convocation allowed Netanyahu to receive from President Reuven Rivlin prerogative to form a government. If the current prime minister fails to prevent a large-scale military crisis on the country’s borders, the blue-and-white opposition bloc led by the former Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces Beni Ganz can turn the domestic political situation on itself (3). Therefore, sharp gestures with the pushing of the “deal of the century”, imposing it on the Palestinians in the upcoming three election months are generally contraindicated for Netanyahu.
Trump has already sent him a signal of discontent over the protracted electoral cycle in Israel. The White House is seriously annoyed by the inability of its ally in the Middle East region to fix the political situation so that the “deal of the century” can somehow be moved from its dead end. Trump’s brainchild may remain on paper, which he absolutely does not like. And, as can be understood from recent statements, pretty annoying. Trump went to great expense in relations with the Arab world, presenting Netanyahu two huge “gifts” in recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in December 2017, and then in March 2019th signing the declaration on recognizing the Golan Heights as the territory of the Jewish state. The gifts were made; they made a decisive contribution to Netanyahu’s victory in the April elections. However, Trump’s foreign policy investments did not bring benefits to his Middle Eastern initiative. Rather, on the contrary, the “deal of the century” with the latest events in the region has been thrown back into the position of an irrelevant project, which, moreover, has become ironic to all who are seriously looking at it.
Palestine’s chief negotiator Saib Erekat, one of the leading critics of the Trump administration on the Abbas team, recently predicted that Israel’s decision to hold new elections in September would “completely destroy” the peace plan, and the “deal of the century” would now be “deal for the next century “.
Thus, Trump and Netanyahu with a big surprise for them after they won, in fact, for a couple of elections on April 9, were in a weaker position. Three months until the next day of voting on September 17 is enough for the American-Israeli “tandem” to regroup and again ensure the victory of the right forces in the political field of the Jewish state. Another issue is that the situation in the region is extremely dynamic and it does not allow the American president and the Israeli prime minister the slightest relaxation. Any wrong move, including in the form of pushing through the “deal of the century” in the Arab world, is fraught with new unpleasant surprises for Trump and Netanyahu.
(1) According to some sources, one of the “deal” points is to provide the Palestinians with only a corridor from the remaining part of the territory in the West Bank to Muslim holy places in Jerusalem (primarily to the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount) . The question of the Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is not at all. The administrative center of Palestine is planned to be built in the suburbs of Jerusalem – between its eastern part and the West Bank. The US plans to attract about $ 40 billion to build the new Palestinian capital. The old city in Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, will be taken under international protection. At the same time, Israel undertakes not to restrict visits to Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount by Palestinians who are not living in Jerusalem.
(2) David Makovsky, Israel’s Election Redo: Implications for the Trump Peace Plan // The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 31, 2019.
(3) Last Sunday, June 2, Beni Gants, Yair Lapid , Moshe Ya’alon, and Gabi Ashkenazi, leaders of the Kakhol Laban bloc, met . After the meeting, the press service of the blue-and-whites faction announced that it was decided to run for the 22nd convocation in the Knesset of the 22nd convocation, in which Kahol Lavan was running in the April 9 elections. In accordance with the decision taken, the agreement on rotation between Beni Ganz and Yair Lapid (former head of the Ministry of Finance of Israel) as prime minister, in case the bloc wins the elections, remains in force.
From EAD, for FRN