Next month will mark two years since U.S. President Donald Trump’s historic visit to the Middle East. It was during that visit that discussions began for a peace plan that focuses on neighboring countries Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan more than on the Palestinians themselves.
Over these two years, Israel has steadily improved its relations and cooperation with these countries, while Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has opted to admonish and mock the president—“may your house be destroyed,” “you son of a dog.” The Americans have removed from their safe all the valuables Israel has always desired: Jerusalem, reduction of aid to the Palestinians, expelling the Palestinian embassy from Washington, drastically cutting the budget of the United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights—the crown jewel unveiled prior to the April 9 Israeli election—is the clearest sign that the current U.S. administration no longer considers the 1967 borders a sacred cow grazing the blood-soaked fields of the Middle East. All these steps indicate that the upcoming Mideast peace place (aka, the “deal of the century”) is essentially a vision comprising a series of diplomatic and economic initiatives involving Israel and Arab countries.
The Palestinians are the objective of the plan—their situation is supposed to improve, mostly economically. But taking a sober view, all past frameworks of thought have been shattered. It’s hard to envision a piece of paper resembling an actual peace agreement that Israeli and Palestinian leaders would sign. Maybe it can happen. But only at the end, which isn’t on the horizon.
What we haven’t seen is a flurry of intensive diplomacy of the kind that in the past has only served to exacerbate divisions. It’s hard to see a summit ending in a ceremonial signing, followed by a timetable for the implementation of all that was discussed. Is the never-ending “arrangement” with Hamas a prototype? Will Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi also mediate the “deal of the century”? If he does so in a manner similar to his mediation with Hamas, he’ll probably have to change the Egyptian constitution again and extend his term beyond 2030.
But perhaps there’s a tangible reason for El-Sisi to mediate, because Israel has certainly taken part in talks about building a deep-water port between Gaza and El-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula. It’s difficult to exaggerate the effect such a port would have, even with all of Israel’s security demands met. The Palestinians won’t receive more territory, but such a port—if it’s built—will be a revolutionary economic initiative from Gaza’s perspective.
The same can be said with regard the vast sums apparently being offered to Jordan and Egypt. There will be economic development for the betterment of the Palestinians, and Abbas will be able to postpone the Trump deal and hold on to power until he dies. It’s the only way he can continue ruling and also resign, which everyone has anticipated for the past two years at least.
Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” Mida, Azure, Nativ and Achshav.
This article first appeared on Israel Hayom.