Opinion

A One-sided Deal: U.S. Envoys Breathe New Life Into the 'There's No Partner' Axiom

U.S. envoys Kushner and Greenblatt are telling President Abbas that the window of opportunity for an appeal against the almost done deal of the century is closing, even before talks have started

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with U.S. Mideast envoy Jared Kushner at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, June 22, 2018.
Mati Stern/U.S. Embassy

The Palestinian bride didn’t attend the wedding, nor even the henna ceremony beforehand. She simply announced that she wasn’t interested in meeting her future in-laws, wouldn’t conduct negotiations over the dowry and wouldn’t enter the bridal bed, where she can expect to be raped. The chutzpah of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is simply intolerable.

“I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal,” fumed Jared Kushner, the adviser and son-in-law of the president of the United States, in an interview on Sunday with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds. That's how the administration of Donald Trump is joining those who agree to the axiom coined in the days of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak – to the effect that "there’s no partner" on the Palestinian side.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic idleness has been awarded a seal of approval once again. Because if Washington says that there’s no partner, then clearly there’s no partner.

And here’s a contradiction: Envoys Kushner and Jason Greenblatt returned home just as they had come, leaving behind a terrible threat: “If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly.”

So is there a partner, or isn’t there?

When all is said and done, to whom exactly is the threat directed? The Palestinians have been waiting for a year and a half to hear what Trump has to say, but until now they've received only a slap in the face in the guise of the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and the removal of the capital from the agenda, as Trump declared.

And while their ears are still ringing from the force of the blow, the Palestinians are hearing that they will have to make do with Abu Dis as their capital; that Saudi Arabia is planning to take over the holy sites in Jerusalem; that Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Israel are planning to sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and establish a separate independent government there; and that everyone is already waiting for Abbas to die. So what exactly do they have to lose if the so-called deal of the century is made public?

If anyone should be worried about that, it’s the Israeli government, just when the U.S. administration – the most submissive of all the administrations when it comes to Israel – publicizes a plan that, even if it is shelved the moment it appears, will join the other decisions and declarations, such as the Arab Initiative, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and various road maps, which have no life of their own but together have forged the sacred canon of a future agreement.

In fact, publicizing the plan shouldn’t be a threat – on the contrary: Palestinians and Israelis deserve do know what the U.S. administration thinks, and how close or far-removed its perspective is when compared to that of Israel and the Palestinians. The plan should arouse a broad public discussion, which would make it clear to both sides whether they even have a diplomatic horizon worth working for.

Not only would publicity turn the plan into the main subject of public discussion in Israel and Palestine, it is also liable to expose the fact that this isn’t just a matter of some stubborn Palestinian facing a peace-loving Israeli – both Abbas and Netanyahu are mired in the same muddy trench of refusal.

But when the president’s advisers threaten to publicize their plan, it’s impossible to avoid one of two conclusions: Either the cards in their hands are so pathetic and unrealistic that, as in a game of poker, the very threat of a public announcement is itself the plan. Or else the administration is preparing a scheme that is so beneficial to Israel, that the moment it is published it will force the Palestinians to reject it in disgust, officially turning them into enemies of peace, who will bear all the blame for the refusal even before the Israeli government gets to discuss it.

What Kushner and Greenblatt are saying to Abbas is that the window of opportunity for submitting an appeal against the almost done deal is gradually closing, even before negotiations have started. If he fails to take advantage of the thin lifeline that they are offering him, the deal will be signed in the presence of only one party. That’s what Trump did with the Iranian nuclear agreement, that’s how he decided on the negotiations with North Korea, that’s how he crushed the trade agreement, and that apparently is how he plans to implement the “deal of the century.” There’s no peace involved, only arrogance.