From left: U.S. Ambassador Friedman, U.S. envoys Greenblatt and Kushner, Prime Minister Netanyahu and ambassador Dermer, in Jerusalem, June 22, 2018. Haim Tzach / GPO

Opinion The Five Pro-occupation Zionists Who Think They Can Bring Peace to the Middle East

Trump's 'ultimate deal' is being written by five men who share one goal: To bury the Palestinian cause

The photo that captured the last meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Trump Mideast team was very telling: four out of five people in the picture were American Jews. 

The five of them have lived for decades or all their life in the U.S. The five of them are committed right-wing Zionists. The five of them have supported Israeli settlements in occupied territory, politically and financially; the five of them oppose the two-state solution; the five of them oppose equality between Israelis and Palestinians; and the five of them identify with the most recalcitrant sectors of the Republican Party. 

How do they square the circle of rejecting equality for everyone living under Israeli control, but at the same time also rejecting two states on the 1967 borders?

The answer is simple: The five of them also share the goal of burying the Palestinian cause, destroying the Palestinian dream and eradicating Palestinian rights.

Those are the people that met to supposedly discuss the "ultimate deal" for Israel and Palestine

The government of Israel, represented by PM Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, has advanced a detailed plan to pulverize the political rights of the Palestinian people. The Trump team, represented by his three musketeers - Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman - complements the desires of the Israeli side by utterly ignoring the political rights of the Palestinian people. 

They tell the Palestinian people that, while their political and human rights will continue to be violated, they could have a "better life" by accepting economic incentives. Mr. Kushner, in his recent interview with Al Quds newspaper, said: "If there is peace, Israel’s prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians." 

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pose for a selfie during the dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. Kobi Gidon

Let me translate this into the terms of the five who met last week: If Palestinians accept to live under Israeli control, without the Jordan Valley, without Jerusalem, disconnected from each other and in absence of Palestinian sovereignty, then their loves will improve – because they might marginally improve their economic status. This is the vision of Trump’s America for an "ultimate deal."

But given the composition of the White House team, we could hardly have expected anything else. 

Kushner’s unusual interview with the Jerusalem-based Al Quds newspaper was very arrogant. He talks as if he knew everything about the reality Palestinians face, but he has proven to know very little.

His attempts at "dividing and conquering" Palestinians, including the systematic targeting of President Mahmoud Abbas, won’t succeed, for a very simple reason: If there’s anything that the vast majority of Palestinians agree on, it’s the crucial points that the Trump Administration has not even mentioned. Ending the Israeli occupation, establishing an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and fulfilling the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman greeting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 13, 2018. David Azagury / U.S. Embassy Tel

Kushner’s interview did not present anything new from the Trump White House: A blame game against a Palestinian leadership that has already recognized Israel and accepts the two-state solution on the 1967 borders.

He offered not a word of criticism for an Israeli government that continues to systematically violate its obligations under international law; no support for a Palestinian state, and a total absence of key words such as occupation and settlements. 

This all plays into the overall idea of downgrading the cause of self-determination for the Palestinian nation into a humanitarian issue, trading human rights for a mere economic package.

Those chosen by Donald Trump to "bring the deal of the century" are apt representatives of a president who has shown flagrant disregard for international law and institutions. 

Just as they have used the Bible to justify the inhuman separation of immigrant children from their parents, they have used religion to justify their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

There is no room for discussion under these lowered standards: Their overall ignorance of international relations relates clearly to their attempts to try and normalize the Israeli occupation and systematic violations of Palestinian rights. 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Jared Kushner as he departs after a reception in the White House, Washington, December 7, 2017. Alex Brandon/AP

They do not represent the values defended by the majority of the American Jewish community, who refuse to accept that an apartheid regime is being established - allegedly in their name.

The Americans have taken the international community for a ride. We sometimes hear European diplomats in Tel Aviv saying that rather than "opposing Trump’s plan," Palestinians should "work to improve it."

But this is a very cynical way of expressing their lack of courage for taking any bold steps to save the two-state solution. Any experienced peace mediator, from Norway to Switzerland, from Germany to France, all understand that no peace agreement could survive granting impunity, normalizing crimes and imposing a solution that contradicts international law.

The question is whether Europe, and the rest of the international community, are willing to continue entertaining the emerging Trump formula of accepting apartheid in exchange for economic incentives - or if they will take action to challenge it. 

If Europe continues to feed the fantasy of "sharing values" with Israel, giving a green light to the Trump Team to do as they please with the Palestinian people, is it willing to deal with the catastrophic consequences of the Trump administration's policies in Israel and Palestine?

The image of five committed pro-occupation figures - Netanyahu, Kushner, Greenblatt, Dermer and Friedman - allegedly talking about "peace efforts," symbolizes the real ideological identity of the so-called "deal of the century."

I personally doubt that there is any concrete plan coming out from the Americans. Rather, I see the implementation on the ground of this "peace team's" ideological convictions, starting with removing Jerusalem and refugees from the table, and aimed at normalizing an apartheid regime all over Palestine. 

Dr. Ahmad Tibi is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He represents the Joint List. Twitter: @Ahmad_tibi 

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