The humiliating metaphor of the Palestinian Authority as the “subcontractor” for the Israeli security agencies is out. “Israel’s security slave” is in: This is what the plan named after Donald Trump demands of the Palestinian quasi-state-to-be.
And thus the “deal of the century” entraps the Palestinian leadership in the sections on “security,” simply because they’re based on the logic of the security coordination with Israel that PA leaders, most notably President Mahmoud Abbas, have adhered to for many years, and openly.
The leaders justified this as a vital measure for progress toward an independent state, based on their naively positive interpretation of the Oslo Accords early on, and baseless reasoning later. This perseverance is precisely what enabled senior Fatah officials and their associates to become a nomenklatura (a select class that bequeaths its preferred status to its children) and to lead a comfortable life – in some cases ostentatiously so – under the heel of the Israeli boot and with Israel’s patronage.
Aside from the usual diplomatic tactics and outcries to the institutions of the Arab, Muslim and neutral states, this leadership has no solid plan in the drawer against the immediate and long-term dangers of the Trump plan. The Palestinian security services have been trained to operate against their own people, not defend them from settler attacks or nighttime army raids. Even though it’s a society not great at keeping secrets, it’s hard to extract much information from Palestinians about the details of the security coordination, but the Israeli security establishment’s desire to preserve it (as Yaniv Kubovich has written in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition) shows how much it values it.
The nomenklatura and the security coordination go hand in hand and are interdependent. The nomenklatura has gotten so used to its lifestyle that it’s hard to imagine it ever giving it up. And even if it tried, it’s hard to see how it could regain the people’s trust – which by now has been thoroughly shattered – even if Abbas ordered a halt to all security cooperation today. And that’s far from a certainty, too. In Israeli security circles, which are in constant contact with the Palestinians, the sense is that he won’t do this (Kubovich again).
Restoring the Palestinian public’s trust in its leadership is to jointly switch gears from “security coordination” to a plan of “unarmed civilian rebellion” (similar to what was proposed a few years ago by Qadura Fares, a Fatah member among those pushed to the margins by Abbas). Restoring this trust is also vital to halt the delusions of armed struggle that are simmering in organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as among Fatah supporters and the youth.
Leaders who want to block the Trump plan must convince the public that it mustn’t set out on a Pavlovian response of armed attacks against (armed and unarmed) Israelis. After all, the experience of the last 20 years shows that armed actions simply make it easier for Israel to pursue its colonialist land seizures and weaken the dispossessed people.
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But when the people are frustrated, despairing and skeptical of their leaders’ motivations, it’s easier for a few individuals to set off a bomb at a spring that settlers intend to take over than to lead 20,000 people on mass picnics every Friday by the springs of Palestinian villages that the settlements have taken over – with the aid of Israel’s Civil Administration.
As Israel’s “security slave,” the future Palestinian entity is also commanded by the Trump plan to institute the kind of dictatorial oppression familiar in certain Arab states. According to the highly detailed section on security, during the negotiations that the plan expects to take place between Israel and the Palestinians, “the parties, in consultation with the United States, shall attempt to create acceptable initial ... metrics with respect to the Security Criteria that are acceptable to the State of Israel, and in no event less stringent than the metrics used by either the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or the Arab Republic of Egypt (whichever is stricter).”
The deceiving Israeli narrative is seen in every line of the plan. When the plan reaches Mars, readers there will conclude that Israel is a weak and persecuted country that’s very fortunate to have the protection of the world’s greatest moral superpower, while the Palestinians are the cause of all the problems (okay, Iran too), and that they tirelessly concoct terrorist plots for no reason whatsoever. The reader from Mars will also conclude that the Palestinians have plenty of dangerous and sophisticated weapons for threatening defenseless and hapless little Israel.
The plan, of course, doesn’t recognize the existence of an occupation, not to mention the colonialist nature of the State of Israel that dispossessed the Palestinian people of its homeland.
But the blueprint of the security demands from the Palestinians – a blueprint that is nauseatingly direct – doesn’t only reflect the rightist “vision” of Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s naively misguided to view Benny Gantz’s and Ehud Barak’s support for the plan as nothing but election spin. As Barak wrote in Haaretz, the plan “relates to all of Israel’s security needs.”
He, like his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin (who expected the PA not to be obstructed by the High Court and rights group B’Tselem), also expressed his hope or expectation, back in the late ‘90s, that the Palestinian leaders would know how to oppress their own people. Gantz and Barak’s support is authentic: The security appendix of the Trump plan reflects what several generations of Israeli security leaders – who also became civilian political leaders – have striven for.
Rabin and Shimon Peres didn’t support the Palestinian right to self-determination to the point of an independent state. The second paragraph of the Trump plan, headed “Oslo,” says that Rabin “envisioned Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule, the portions of the West Bank with large Jewish populations and the Jordan Valley being incorporated into Israel, and the remainder of the West Bank, along with Gaza, becoming subject to Palestinian civil autonomy in what he said would be something ‘less than a state.’ Rabin’s vision was the basis upon which the Knesset approved the Oslo Accords, and it was not rejected by the Palestinian leadership at the time.” Here the author of the Trump plan is telling the truth.
Contrary to legend, the Oslo Accords didn’t make a “state” the final station of the plan’s gradual stages. Nor was the word “occupation” mentioned in Peres and Rabin’s “peace” documents.
In fact, in the humiliating letter that Yasser Arafat was forced to write to Yitzhak Rabin (on September 9, 1993), he promised that the Palestinians would give up the use “of terror and other violent actions” (which was seen to refer to the popular uprising of the first intifada). It’s as if the source of the problem weren’t the violence of the weapons and bureaucracy of the Israeli occupation regime, but rather the Palestinian response to it. In return for this humiliation, Rabin declared that Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
The difference from today is that 27 years ago many Labor Party supporters and supporters of sister party Meretz (see: Peace Now) recognized the dangerous and immoral occupation and supported the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Like the Palestinians, they wanted to believe in the positive “dynamic” of the Oslo Accords and viewed the document as a march toward a state. For too long they ignored the abundant evidence in the accords and the implementation process that cried out that the opposite was true.
One bit of evidence was and remains the Jordan Valley. The number of Palestinians there (around 80,000, including Jericho) is about the same as in 1967 after hundreds of thousands fled and were expelled in the 1967 war. In other words, Israel’s many steps practically from the beginning, inspired by the Allon Plan, achieved their goal and prevented the regrowth of the Palestinian community there.
These measures were implemented before the Oslo Accords and honed after it as well: designating vast areas as military firing zones or nature reserves, blocking access to agricultural land near the Jordan River, seizing water sources and drying up springs used by Palestinians, harassing shepherds and farmers, confiscating and killing sheep, issuing construction bans, preventing connections to the water and power grids, and often demolishing basic residential buildings and infrastructure.
Added to all this in recent years has been increasing violence by outposts of Israeli shepherds who, with the aid of the Israeli army, chase Palestinians off their land. Not many people could withstand these draconian conditions, so unlike the rest of the West Bank, the number of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley has in fact dwindled.
The Jordan Valley is rich in water, and the Israeli drilling there diverts much of the water output to the settlers there and their intensive export agriculture; this comes at the expense of the drinking water for the Palestinians and their agriculture. But despite the financial incentives, Israelis are also not that keen to live in the extreme heat of the Jordan Valley, so their number there (around 11,000) hasn’t risen much either. Annexation of the Jordan Valley under the pretense of security would let Israel divert vast quantities of water – equivalent to nearly a third of the amount consumed by all Palestinians in the West Bank – to other Israelis.
Despite being the Trump plan, the “deal of the century” isn’t stupid. It does show ignorance and a typical disregard for facts, it does talk in a patronizing neocolonialist way about “growth,” calling to mind reports by international development agencies. And it shows a good deal of craftiness – like the carefully planted statements about how good it will be for Jordan and the entire region if Israel controls the Jordan Valley and thereby protects the kingdom from hostile elements.
Direct lines can be seen between the Trump plan and the Oslo Accords and their fraudulent implementation, which led to the creation of Palestinian enclaves within the vastness of the West Bank’s Area C, and which even before Trump, Israel promised would enjoy “transportation contiguity.” For exactly this reason it would be a mistake to dismiss his plan as little more than friendly assistance to Netanyahu or something obviously doomed to failure. Just like the Oslo Accords, the “deal of the century” could succeed precisely because it corresponds so perfectly with the Israeli colonialist project.