After two-day Manama conference on Palestine ended in frustration, Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor and the architect of the “deal of the century”, has initiated a new round of talks with officials of some of the Arab countries. Kushner, along with Trump envoy to West Asia Jason Greenblatt, special representative for Iran Brian Hook, and senior White House advisor Avi Berkowitz started on Tuesday their three-day regional trip to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories, Egypt, and Morocco mainly with the aim to examine if the conditions are ready to materialize the deal of the century.
Some informed sources said that the American delegation discussed with the Arab countries the cash each of them has to contribute to pushing ahead the initiative.
Vanity Fair newspaper of the US, citing an American diplomat, reported that the trip focused on persuading the Arab states to pay for the required budget of the so-called Trump peace process. But with the massive opposition showed by the Palestinians to Bahrain “investment workshop” last month, the Americans should see if they can realize their goals.
Abu Dhabi conference a sequel to Manama workshop
Since Trump assumed the power at the White House and raised the idea of the deal of the century, news about the plan came out of the White House occasionally mainly to test the Palestinian reactions before an official announcement of the deal. So far, the sensitive parts of it, like the two states status, the capital, and Palestinian armed force remain shrouded in mystery. The latest revelations were made by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. The newspaper pointed to the formation of a Palestinian state, adding that Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will not be divided between an Israeli and Palestinian state. There is no transparency on important issues like the borders. The settlements remain in place and the new ones built in separate occupied Palestinian lands will join them. This is realized by expanding the size of the already-built settlements until they link to the separate ones.
Another challenging issue is depriving Palestine of having an armed force, and very importantly disarmament of Hamas, a resistant group in control of Gaza Strip. The initiative does not mention any plan for the Israeli regime to retreat to the pre-1967 borders.
What was largely predictable was the strong opposition to it by the Palestinian groups. None of them, even the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas which showed compromises in many cases, took part in Manama meeting.
The initiative exploits the critical crisis in the Palestinian economy as a result of cutting off foreign aids. It contains a $50 billion aid package which is ostensibly meant to help launch projects to connect the West Bank to Gaza but is practically meant to sow the division among the Palestinians for maximum use of the deal. The Palestinians rejected the “bribery” but the US is struggling to realize the agreements reached in Bahrain conference. Washington needs the company of important Arab states like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt to continue the way.
Media outlets have reported over the past few days that the UAE intends to host the second round of efforts towards the deal. According to Arab sources, the preparations for the “Abu Dhabi workshop” on Palestine have start from early August and the meeting is expected to be held after the Eid al-Adha which will be in mid-August. Sources suggest that Abu Dhabi leaders insist on making the upcoming meeting a success. The meeting between Kushner and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Morocco on Friday very likely came to coordinate the efforts for the UAE workshop.
The deal of the century stipulates that if the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad Movement decline the conditions, they will be fully sanctioned and thus deprived of any foreign contributions. It further suggests that if only Hamas and Islamic Jihad oppose it, the US will support Israeli campaign to strike them. So, Kushner’s regional trip comes to push the second phase–political phase– of the deal of the century according to a pre-planned scenario to press for conditions in whose designing the Palestinians had no role nor did they sign them.
Kushner pursues a couple of goals simultaneously:
1. He already called his loyalty to Trump unswerving. Some liken his role at the White House to the role of Dick Chaney, former US vice-president, for President George W. Bush. He seeks to pave the way for Trump to unveil the political part of the initiative to build propaganda necessary for the president to boast of as a major diplomatic achievement in his 2020 election campaign.
2. To win the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to win votes of the right-wing parties at home and also in the US. He has recently started demolition of the Palestinian houses in Sur Baher village in east Al-Quds and launched new settlement projects in a bid to will the rightists’ alliance. Greenblatt in a Twitter message said he believes the Trump “peace plan” unveiling will be delayed to after new Israeli regime’s formation. Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that Kushner proposes a US-hosted international conference in Camp David. The Israeli paper added that the time for the conference will be before the Israeli Knesset election, scheduled for September 17. Yedioth Ahronoth called conference a Trump “present” to Netanyahu.
3. Kushner, as an Orthodox Jew, will do his utmost to take political advantage of the deal of the century for the good of Tel Aviv. He tries to crack the firm Palestinian camp. On Wednesday, he traveled to Jordan. Before his Amman visit, Abbas had visited Jordan at an invitation by Jordanian King Abdullah II to discuss Trump envoy’s possible offers. Kushner seeks to shape the Palestinian opposition to the deal as a pretext to justify the Israeli crackdown, and even war– something the Israeli regime has been doing against the Palestinians over the past seven decades of occupation.
So, Trump’s advisor, who is also the president’s son-in-law, uses the regional visit to press the Arab leaders for a tacit agreement with the Israeli policies and gradual diplomatic normalization with Tel Aviv. He builds his anti-Palestinian pressure using Arab states. But the reality is that vague equation of the deal of the century only invites for resistance from the Palestinian groups as a response.