Plans for Palestinians worse than apartheid

White House adviser Jared Kushner listens during a proclamation signing with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Susan Walsh/AP

If only peace between the Israelis and Palestinians was the objective, with both peoples living side by side as equals. But US President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, which is set to be unveiled this week at a workshop in Bahrain, strives to achieve the opposite.

There is no deal to be brokered or real negotiations to be had; it is an imposition of a new reality, the implementation of which has begun.

Under the deal, Palestinians will be squeezed into a tinier fraction of historic Palestine, from 22% (the Green line of 1967) to a meagre 12%, where they will be confined to cantons or Bantustans, stripped of water, resources, the right to a military or any real sovereignty.

The equivalent of bantustans will be surrounded by Israeli settlements. Settlements will no longer be illegal.

The plan kills any notion of a Palestinian state, but formalises the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel, containing self-governing cantons of Palestinians who will not have equal rights to Israelis. The sophisticated system of apartheid will be further perfected.

Within the context of this Greater Israel, Palestinians will be allowed to work only outside their cantons in low-paying jobs in agriculture and construction, and will have to pay Israel for its military protection.

No doubt Israel will continue to collect Palestinian tax and customs revenue, and withhold it as a form of punishment against those living in the cantons.

Israel will easily impose economic blockade on the Palestinian encampments as it has with Gaza for many years, starving them into submission.

The vision is beginning to look like a far worse version of apartheid South Africa, where there is one country but with masses of inhabitants who are disenfranchised, not accorded basic or equal rights, and living under the heavy hand of oppression and exploitation. Such a situation can necessitate only a concerted liberation struggle for democracy and equal rights for those in the territory. At least the farcical promise of moving towards a viable Palestinian state is exposed as nothing but a lie.

The apartheid-style thinking has been evident in the comments made by the driving force of the deal, Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner: “Palestinians are not yet capable of governing themselves,” – racist propaganda right out of PW Botha’s script. 

Kushner is known as an ardently religious Zionist who believes he is on a mission of God, and is determined to convince Trump of the righteousness of his roadmap for the Middle East. At the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, Kushner said: “He (Trump) would finally recognise the truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

If the Palestinians refuse to accept the deal, the punishment will be a massive cut in aid to the Occupied Territories, and the US will “authorise” Israel to harm the leadership, particularly that of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, through extrajudicial assassinations.

The very thought that this is a “deal” is premised on the idea that Palestinian rights, land and sovereignty can be bought, and the price tag attached to that capitulation is $30 billion (R430bn) over five years.

Kushner wants the Saudis to largely fund the economic project, which they seem to have agreed to with the buy in of the Emiratis and the Egyptians.

The offer on the table is that Israel will lift its economic strangulation of the Occupied Territories.

Ahmed Majadalani, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, is reported to have said that the Saudis offered to pay the Palestinian Authority’s budget for 10 years if they accept the deal.

But Majdalani has been categorical that the PLO will never accept any such deal, which is the same position Hamas and the other Palestinian factions have taken. This will make the deal impossible to implement as Israel and the US will lack a Palestinian partner. The Bahrain workshop represents one of two prongs of the deal, which is the economic prong. The workshop is meant to sell the deal through economic incentives, promises of investment and aid.

But the political prong, which is the most catastrophic for the Palestinians, is based on Jerusalem and refugees. It is this political prong which the US and Israel have begun to implement without any agreement with the Palestinians, by the US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the US embassy there.

As for the right of return of refugees, the US and Israel want to change the definition of who is a refugee to those born before 1948, which would disqualify almost 7 million Palestinians from their refugee status and right of return.

The US’s draconian measure of cutting $844 million from The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s budget is an attempt to squeeze the refugee population out of their camps by making life impossible, forcing them to seek refugee status in developed countries.

Again there will be an economic price tag put on the denial of the right to return – $10bn to $20bn will be allocated to permanently resettle the refugees elsewhere.

But the answer to all the Machiavellian plans has been articulated clearly by PLO spokesperson Wasel Abu Yousef: “The Rights of the Palestinian people can’t be traded for money.”

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