The ‘Deal of the Century’ condemns Palestinians to endless Apartheid

Leaked plan to end the Israel-Palestine conflict by the Trump administration will entrench the ojccupation and perpetuate the economic exploitation of Palestinians, writes Jeremy Wildeman and Emile Badarin.

Leaked details of the Trump administration’s Deal of the Century (the Deal) show that it offers neither an end to Israeli rule nor its policies of colonisation in Palestine. 

What it does do is entrench and codify existing Israeli practices, while demanding that the Palestinians finally submit to domination by the Israeli state, or face the wrath of Israeli and American power should they resist.

Central to the Deal is a discursive repackaging, a rewording, of the status quo meant to legitimise Israel’s colonial practices on Palestinian territory. This includes, above-all-else, legitimising the radical demographic transformations – forced population transfers and settlement building – carried out by the Israeli state since 1967;  an ongoing process of dispossession that dates back to the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948. 

Thus, the US plan is expected first-and-foremost to recognise Israeli annexation of the settlements in Area C of the West Bank. Following US recognition in March of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, this seems to be a foregone conclusion. Area C represents a little over 60 percent of the land originally intended for a Palestinian state by the Oslo Process in the West Bank, without which the entire Oslo Process is rendered unrealistic. 

So, officially recognising settlements that have long been considered illegal under international law would condemn Palestinians to live in discontiguous Bantustans (overcrowded towns and cities): cut off from each other and the outside world, labourers and traders abused in between, stuck in perpetuity under oppressive Israeli rule. 

The Economics of Dehumanisation

Nor do the economic parts of the plan bode well for the Palestinians. As with Israel’s colonial practices, the Deal implies more of the same suffocating economics of capture and decline.

This is because it treads down the same US policy path that dates back to the 1970s. That policy calls on Palestinians to surrender their political aspirations and individual rights, and to accede to living under Israeli rule, no matter how intolerable, all in exchange for some financial inducements offered by international donors. It is the same destructive logic that infused the ‘Development for Peace’ funding underneath the failed Oslo Peace Process since 1993, and which now permeates the ‘Deal of the Century’.

In reality the bantustans Palestinians currently live in are only viable because of the donors. Their funding provides the minimum stimulus necessary to maintain a tolerable level of services and employment, while Israel denies Palestinians their right to free movement to work, to trade and to develop their own economy.

Further, donors do this in such a way as to relieve Israel of the costs of providing services and maintaining security control over the Palestinian territory. This not only makes Israeli colonial practices feasible financially, but at a profit from the captive Palestinian economy, with large trade surpluses and upwards of 78 percent of donor aid trickling back to Israel. This is on top of the very generous aid and charity funding Israel has been receiving for decades from its Western allies. 

Beyond that, the Deal dehumanises Palestinians. It reduces them to mere economic units without national political rights or individual aspirations, lacking any right to self-determination or means to escape Israeli domination. On the other hand, the Deal considers only Israelis to have nonmaterial rights such as national and political aspirations, self-determination, military power and a sovereign claim over the entirety of historic Palestine.

It is important to note that the bulk of the funding (70 percent) for this proposal is expected to come from oil-producing countries – Israel’s new Gulf allies – who are described as the main beneficiaries of the Deal. The rest of the costs would be split between the US (20 percent) and the EU (10 percent). This would amount to $30 billion over five years, with further development projects coming from Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea. These are all countries that have proven consistently willing to fund the Oslo Peace Process, even when it clearly failed and began to do harm. 

Perpetual Colonialism without Moral, Political or Economic Responsibility

So, the Deal will not only allow Israel to maintain its ongoing colonial practices, but to continue to take profit from the exploitation of the Palestinians without any of the moral, political or economic responsibilities required by a government towards a conquered population.

Further, the plan reinforces the notion of population transfer, which is illegal under international law. It calls for instance for the removal of “unwanted” Palestinians out of their rich agricultural communities to develop the inhospitable Sinai desert, paying the Egyptians for the right to do this on temporarily leased land. Meanwhile, industrial zones rumoured to be built in border regions will promise yet further exploitative employment in deplorable conditions, providing Israel with cheap products in its ongoing development. 

The added insult to injury is that Palestinians will be required to “pay” Israel for providing “protection” from “external aggression”, when it is Israel’s military and its settlers that are the aggressors. This is colonial exploitation, pure and simple.

There appear to be many more bitter pills the Palestinians will be expected to swallow. In an effort to push the Palestinians to surrender through despair, the US, the self-proclaimed “honest broker”, has taken stringent measures to dry the sources of their political and economic support. 

Besides cutting all funds given to the Palestinians, the US is exerting systematic pressure on a number of UN organisations that dare express political and legal support to the Palestinians. 

This indicates that the Trump Administration is ready for an escalation to make Palestinian conditions worse, even threatening to inflict harm on their leaders, should they reject the Deal.

The “New” Palestine

Meanwhile, maintaining the idea that there will be someday some form of Palestinian state (a “New Palestine”) will continue to be sustained by the US. This is because it is a useful tool for Israel and most Western governments to cover up the ugly truths of settler colonial and apartheid practices in Palestine, and to not hold it responsible for violations of international law.

The Deal of the Century prescribes a dystopian future for an already unstable Middle East. It seeks to legitimise and fund the current stage in Israeli expropriation and colonisation of Palestinian territory, in an ongoing process that dates back decades to 1948. So the New Palestine would be just one more step forward in an ongoing process, which has no clear endpoint. It stands in stark contrast with a true peace based on justice, humanity, equality and dignity for all peoples, Israeli or Palestinian alike.

*Dr Jeremy Wildeman is a visiting fellow at the University of Bath, studying international relations and the politics of the Middle East, with a specialisation in Palestinian development. *Emile Badarin is a postdoctoral research fellow at the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Chair, College of Europe, Natolin.

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