Deal of the Century
Recently, Arab states’ higher-ups, including those of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have had a chain of meetings with Israeli officials and Netanyahu himself, over a ‘peace plan’ in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Earlier there have been such meetings with Egypt’s al-Sisi and Jordan’s Abdullah too. According to news, these Arab states are now putting pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas to accept Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. Though the Saudi king has warned of reverting from the deal after the US embassy move, the King has not made any public proclamation, which means another retraction may be possible.
It seems like after 70 years of bitter enmity against Israel, burdensome realpolitik has forced the Arabs to transverse into a completely antithetical reality from the one they have been rehearsing all these years — from self-determination to a two-state solution and now to a ‘zero-state’ for the Palestinians. How these Arab states, seemingly having strained diplomatic relations with Israel have in sub-rosa come so close to Israel, is a grave question mark.
The ‘Deal of the Century’ brooded between Trump and Netanyahu in May last year did not come in seclusion. It was fraternised by Britain’s yearlong Centenary of the Balfour Declaration and US’ indirect recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy there.
The deal offers the Gaza Strip to Egypt and some parts of the West Bank to Jordan, and the remaining West Bank to Israel. So that everybody gets something and Palestine is ‘no more’, and the issue thereby settled. Though Mahmood Abbas had immediately called such a deal a ‘slap of the century’, the docile leader is not totally removed from the possibility of an under the table understanding.
In such a case, if the deal goes forward, what would become of the Palestinians? Over seven million around the world are still awaiting their right-of-return and millions pay with their freedom, their wellbeing and their lives, every day, in the hope of a free homeland.
Let’s for once forget about the Palestinians being humans or having the right to think for themselves and let’s just overview the future of Palestine. Will those in Gaza become equal citizens of Egypt, or will Egypt still keep them cordoned off like it has done for decades before? Because perhaps within a few years Israel would want this part of Greater Israel too. Possibly, Egypt might attempt to change the demography of the Strip by dislocating the Gazans as permanent refugees. Thereby rendering the land just as Mark Twain envisaged it in his 1867 visit to Palestine — a Palestine that was “desolate and unlovely” with “hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere”, and with “not a solitary village throughout its whole extent.” That is exactly the kind of Palestine Israel came to occupy and that is what it will make it, at least for the gentiles. Or will they even be refugees? Jared Kushner is already working to strip the two million Palestinians living in Jordan of refugee status so that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine can be rendered irrelevant.
And what of the West Bank? Though Jordan has always boosted itself to be the custodian of al-Quds, it has hardly ever been a custodian to the people of West Bank. Palestinians won’t be forgetting, how four decades ago, when they were organising themselves against Israel in Jordan’s soil, Jordan killed thousands of Palestinians and evicted thousands in the infamous ‘Black September Campaign’. Will Jordan not still be frightened in assimilating into itself an aggrieved populace that would continuously be considering itself evicted from its rightful homeland? With many Palestinians still in the West Bank and an open bridge with Jordan — would that not be like patching itself up with an open wound for Jordan!
But the real question is still the same. Will the Palestinians be no more? Will there be only Jordanians and Egyptians and no Phoenicians? The Phoenicians, who had greeted Abraham in this land, who were here when Moses brought the Children of Israel back from Egypt, who remained in the land when the Romans had expelled the Jews in the century following the Christ and who remain here till now! Will it be their turn now to face another exodus and another holocaust!
It must be reckoned that a minus-state for the Palestinians is in direct conflict with the right of statehood on the basis of ethnicity that became the principle behind the establishment of nation-states after the two world wars. The Kurd, Yoruba, Sikhs and many more are all stateless nations that get the aegis of the UN for their distinct and populous ethnicities. Denying the Palestinians the same right will only add to the duplicity of the UN’s way of working.
Moreover, the fact that the majority of the Palestinian refugees are either internally displaced or in camps in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, means that immediately after such a deal matures there will be tonnes of more refugees across the borders of the Promised Land. This hopelessness and dejection will only add to the angst and restlessness to an already volatile population. A restlessness that can only be silenced by eliminating them.
But can the Palestinians do anything to stop this deal from happening? With no weapons, all that the Palestinians can do is agitate, at full swing. They could ignite a Third Intifada. Once the Intifada is on, the Iran-Syria-Lebanon nexus might take it as their last chance to forward their growing strength in the region as a champion of the oldest existing Muslim dilemma of the world. There might be several other Muslim groups and organisations that would be willing to join the Intifada in any way possible. Only Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not help, making any physical route into Gaza or the West Bank impossible, and making an Arab collective response almost dumb to the shrieking cries of pain and death, as if nothing was happening.
In any case Palestinian blood will be profuse and Israeli projectiles of finis will be uncountable. Then is the only long-lasting solution to the Palestine issue is a Zero-State-Solution that is being envisioned in the Deal of the Century?
But then the real question still remains. Will the Palestinians be no more?
Previously Published in The Express Tribune