(June 21, 2018 / JNS) Senior figures in the Palestinian Authority are concerned about the upcoming visit of a U.S. team, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, to the region and American preparations for promoting U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, known as “the deal of the century.”
With this in mind, they see the June 18 meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman as an additional American-Israeli attempt to soften the King’s opposition to “the deal of the century,” and as an American effort to create a barrier between him and P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Sources in the P.A. do not dismiss the possibility that Netanyahu has soothed the Jordanian monarch’s concerns regarding anything challenging Jordan’s position as guardian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, in accordance with the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, and that Netanyahu has promised that Jordan’s position will not be harmed by “the deal of the century.”
The P.A. claims that the Trump administration is trying to use the Gaza Strip as a “key” to present to the leaders of the moderate Arab states to advance “the deal of the century.” These Arab leaders want complete calm in Gaza, and they are concerned that continued violence and the “March of Return” campaign will upset the stability in their own countries and possibly lead to a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas on the southern border, the results of which would be particularly hard on the Palestinians.
The fears of the senior P.A. officials are based on a report in Haaretz on June 17 that, according to sources in the Trump administration, Kushner and Greenblatt will try to raise between $500 million and $1 billion from Qatar and Saudi Arabia for a series of projects serving Gaza. It is hoped that these projects will quiet the security situation and create positive momentum for the presentation of Trump’s peace plan.
Is Northern Sinai part of the deal?
Among other things, projects built in Northern Sinai will provide the needs of the residents of Gaza, such as solar energy, a power station and a seaport.
Some of these ideas were presented to the U.S. team during a conference at the White House in March 13 by the then-coordinator of activities in the territories Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai. Abbas was invited to the conference, which was attended by the representatives of 20 countries, but he boycotted it.
Of course, implementing these ideas requires the agreement of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
A considerable part of “the deal of the century” has to do with Gaza. According to P.A. sources, that learned about the plan from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Gaza Strip will be declared an independent state together with parts of the West Bank, excluding eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The Palestinian capital will be located in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, along with several Arab neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.
All of this is meant to solve the problems of Gaza and soften the resistance of Arab leaders to the new U.S. peace plan.
Senior sources in the Palestinian Authority told the Al-Hayat newspaper on June 17 that Kushner and Greenblatt are working to raise Arab funding for essential projects in Gaza in order to put it at the center of a diplomatic solution in accordance with Trump’s “deal of the century.”
P.A. spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina claims that the United States and Israel are planning to separate Gaza from the West Bank under the headline “humanitarian aid for Gaza.”
Fearing a permanent split between Gaza and West Bank
He added that the Palestinian leadership warns against any measures where the objective is to bypass the Palestinian “national project” and perpetuate the division of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, and to compromise on Jerusalem and the holy sites.
Abbas is continuing to boycott the Trump administration since its declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He also continues to rail against the administration and to “reveal” details of “the deal of the century” plan even though he has never seen it. He remains afraid of possible betrayal by the Arab leaders over the Palestinian problem because for them, the Iranian danger takes priority.
Therefore, the senior officials of the P.A. make sure to issue regular reminders through the media that not only is Abbas opposed to “the deal of the century,” but so are all of the leaders of the Arab countries.
Nabil Shaath, Abbas’s adviser for international affairs, told the Al-Hayat newspaper on June 17 that the Palestinians relied on the resistance of the Arab leaders to “the deal of the century,” and that they promised to oppose any diplomatic plan that was not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership.
Abbas has been working in recent months to build a Palestinian, Arab and international consensus to torpedo “the deal of the century,” the motto of which is “there’s no state in Gaza, and there’s no state without Gaza.”
The Trump administration is now working hard to break up this consensus. Hamas terror in Gaza is increasing the concerns of the leaders of the Arab world who want quiet, and so it is most likely that they will cooperate with the ideas of Trump.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.