The unilateral plan for so-called Palestinian “Peace to Prosperity” recently announced at a press conference by U.S. President Donald Trump alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sparked heated debate.
The so-called “Deal of the Century” has been presented with the purpose of legitimizing the lawless reality, which they created by force, and preparing the grounds for occupation with the goal of annexation. The plan removes regional politics from the boundaries of law and places it into a lawless chaos.
The so-called peace plan consists of two parts: a “Political Framework” and an “Economic Framework”. Under the plan, bridges and tunnels would connect the state of Palestine and its lands to one another, which would render the country totally ungovernable and fragmented. Jerusalem would be entirely left to Israel and recognized as its “indivisible capital.” Consequently, Palestine’s land mass in the West Bank would diminish from 95% to approximately 75%. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 will be completely disregarded, around six million Palestinian refugees would be stripped of their right of return and the existence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be preserved. One of the preliminary conditions of surrender that has been proposed in order for Hamas to be recognized as an interlocutor in Gaza is to give up the armed struggle. Consequently, the slightest chance for this country to act independently is entirely wiped out because at the end of this process, it is left disintegrated, completely dependent on Israel in foreign policy and with no military. This plan, promoted by Trump to the international audience as “the last chance for Palestine,” is therefore a threat to Palestinians and has the potential to prompt them to rebellion.
It is useful to remind that this plan is not only an ideologically racist project; it is also a dangerous proposition that could be realized by one of the most lawless countries in the world and could have dire consequences in the end.
In order to understand how the situation in Palestine would unfold in the context of the plan, we need to wait and see the results of the Israeli elections that will be held on March 2.
It is known that there is a certain disagreement about the “annexation schedule of Palestinian lands” between U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, the latter of whom particularly hates Palestinian authorities. Ambassador Friedman wants to go forward with the annexation as soon as possible so as to ensure the re-election of Netanyahu. However, Kushner prefers to hold off on annexation for the time being in order to gain more support for the plan from Arab countries. In fact, his suggestions to Netanyahu resulted in the decision to postpone annexation until after the March 2 elections.
Countries that have shown the strongest opposition to this plan, which could plunge the Middle East into unprecedented chaos, are Turkey and Iran. Turkey has stated that the plan is a complete annexation project aimed at destroying the two-state solution and extorting Palestinian lands, and the authorities have announced Jerusalem as their “red line,” adopting a very strong position politically. Nevertheless, contrary to common belief, those who support this plan are not scarce in number. Many countries support the plan to varying degrees.
From Germany to the United Arab Emirates, France and Saudi Arabia, what are the motivations behind the apparent and hidden support of this plan? How is it that such a lawless and scandalous decision has gained this much support?
First, we need to remember that we face a new form of world geopolitics and Middle Eastern politics that started during the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama and then became significantly apparent in the Trump era. In this new era, the issue of Palestine was originally left behind in terms of its importance. Expectations and measures regarding the problem were lowered. For both global and regional powers, the problem of Palestine was now a secondary issue. Similarly, due to the poignant distress in the Middle East such as the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni civil wars, the issue of Palestine had lost its priority in the region. On the foreign policy agendas and interests of the Arab regimes, the issue of Palestine hardly had a place. The situation was similar for the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and even for Egypt for a long time.
From an institutional perspective, the Arab League with its 21 members and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with its 57 members have issued institutional declarations that they oppose the plan. However, it is safe to assert that many Arab countries are in a tactical silence right now on the issue. They may show their apparent support for the plan in the future. The fact that many Arab diplomats were consulted in the preparation process and that the ambassadors of Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE were present at the White House while the plan was being announced confirms this assumption.
One of the significant reasons behind this remarkable Arab support for the plan is that Iran is using the issue of Palestine very effectively as one of its personal military-ideological power bases in the Middle East. Arab administrative elites (such as the Washington lobby of the UAE) want to end Iran’s search for hegemony in the region, which they regard as a threat to the security of their own regimes.
Support for the plan from certain European countries at the state level is also notable. For instance, the support coming from the governments of the U.K., Germany and France is worth examining. While he was analyzing the plan in his call for Palestinians to give it fair consideration, U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said they should “approach the situation from a sincere and just point of view” and consider this plan as a possible “first step for further negotiations.”
The U.K.’s endorsement of the plan does not come as a surprise, considering that newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson had gained the support of the American alt-right and especially that of former White House chief political strategist Steve Bannon. Trump’s understanding of the administration, which has conservatives working hand in hand with the extreme right, also complies with the U.K.’s approach to the issue.
Germany’s reaction to the plan is even more remarkable. It is possible to list a few reasons for their support. The first one is the historical baggage. Without a doubt, the Nazi history of Germany and the crimes of the Holocaust is one of the main dynamics that has shaped their relationship with Israel since the Second World War and Israel’s foundation in 1948. Related to this, the aforementioned plan was announced a day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. It is possible to arrive at the conclusion that the German government is very sensitive in terms of avoiding hard criticism about the plan, considering Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s visit to Berlin in late January, his attendance at the Federal Parliament’s Holocaust remembrance event and the fact that the German media was debating the issue of struggle with anti-Semitism at this very moment.
When it comes to current relations between the two countries, it is right to assume that after previous German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel completed his time in office, a new era of convergence policy with Israel started. Right after his successor Heiko Maas took office, he said “he took office due to Auschwitz,” signaling that the period of making statements such as ‘Palestinians live in an apartheid regime’ and condemning Jewish settlements (the latter of which Gabriel did, leaving his country face to face with a diplomatic crisis with Israel) is now over.
Germany, which can be defined as the transatlantic guarantor of bilateral relations with Israel and its foreign policy, takes coordinated steps with its most important ally, the United States. There are also internal political reasons at hand here. The current government sees the security of Israel as one of its reasons for existence (Staatsrason) and it also needs to preserve its internal credibility against the extreme right AfD party. To look back, AfD is the strongest opposition party in Germany that has close ties with the Likud regime in Israel. Besides, it is useful to remind that the leftist party Die Linke, which condemned the peace plan as an annexation project that undermines international law, represents a significantly marginalized position in the eyes of the German public.
When we take a look at the statements by the parliamentary groups of the coalition government, it is possible to observe the following: They are of the position that leaving Palestinians out of this vital decision results in a representation crisis, but they choose their words very carefully while giving statements in this sense. For that reason, they also acknowledge that this plan with a very fragile legitimacy background is not going to help achieve peace in the region. They emphasize that the so-called “Deal of the Century” has been devised as a result of Trump and Netanyahu’s cooperative efforts, both of whom try to present this deal as a political triumph to their voters. However, this approach rules out the progress that have been made until now, along with the historical mistakes that have been done in the process to prepare the plan. The possible consequences and current responsibilities of the international community are hardly mentioned.
Viewed from a foreign policy point of view, it is possible to assert that Germany has not been able to show a strong enough position in terms of the nuclear consensus issue, to which it personally contributed as a negotiator and cared about it due to its own and the European Union’s security.
We should also remind that thanks to Israel’s hard efforts, the U.S. unilaterally annulled this consensus. In addition, left in the shadows of its own economic interests and the transatlantic cooperation it endeavors to preserve, Germany have not been able to carry out independent politics in terms of the nuclear deal, as well. It simply confines itself to announce that the “Deal of the Century” will be discussed within the EU. Germany, who has made multilateralism one of its main principles in politics, also faces a dilemma in foreign policy due to its temporary membership in the UN Security Council. Squeezed between its policy of integrating into the dominant discourses in the international platforms (such as the rule of law) and supporting Israel’s interests and security, Germany tries to achieve an equilibrium policy.
Although they are not the power equals of the Jewish lobby in the United States, there are some significant actors in German politics, specifically in terms of its Middle Eastern policies, who work for the purpose of directing these policies into Israel’s benefits. It is safe to assume that repeating the need for a two-state solution that would be consented to by both Israel and Palestine to no end while at the same time ignoring the actual contents and possible outcomes of the “Deal of the Century” will not result in serious and concrete actions.
France’s approach to Trump’s plan is positive in general terms. In the official statement by the Foreign Ministry, it was stated that “a two-state solution on the basis of law is indispensable in order to achieve peace in the region.” In addition, it was emphasized that “France will continue to work together with its European allies, the U.S. and all other partners who aim at contributing to this purpose.”
Among these “partners”, without doubt, we can count Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are at the top of the list of France’s weapon exports agenda. The current stance of the regional countries, which deviates between support and abstention, is an opportunity for France, which strives for good relations with Trump’s America as well as with Netanyahu’s Israel. This support comes at no cost in terms of foreign policy and has a similar resonance in internal politics as well. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim that anti-Semitism is no different from anti-Zionism signaled the ruling that extended the scope of anti-Semitism, passing in parliament 154-72. For Israel, who viewed this decision as a political triumph, the fact that the Macron government supports Trump’s plan and that France is a permanent member of the UN Security Council might add up to a serious achievement in the process of transforming occupation into annexation.
The Trump administration has two primary targets based on the so-called peace plan. First, if we look at the timing of all of Trump’s decisions regarding Israel, we can arrive at the conclusion that he is trying to cover up the internal political scandals. For instance, two days before the announcement of the plan, Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that Trump lied about the issue of Ukraine.
However, reducing this plan to similar motivations (such as the impeachment trials) would be a mistake, which is quite common in Turkey as well. We need to see that there is a greater plan at hand here both in terms of internal and foreign politics which goes beyond the impeachment process. First, there are presidential elections in nine months. In the election process, Trump is very much dependent on the financial support of certain names such as gambling billionaire and Jewish businessman Sheldon Adelson (who was at Trump’s side while he was announcing the peace plan), along with other evangelical benefactors, some of whom were also present. In addition, Trump wants to strengthen the hand of Netanyahu, who is facing a much bigger political challenge than himself, in elections on March 2. With the plan, he wants to place Netanyahu in a wider arena within Israeli politics.
Along with all these internal political calculations, we need to see that this plan feeds the new “grand” strategy of the U.S. As we know, the U.S. wants to diminish the influence of China and Russia in the Middle East, which considerably grew during the Obama era. In fact, the hatred of Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries of Obama, which was caused by the fact that his government signed the Iran nuclear deal, brought them closer with China and Russia. The Trump administration wants to stop Iran and Saudi Arabia’s sources fueling Chinese industry and annihilate this trend altogether.
In sum, we can suggest that announcing its independence in energy supplies, the U.S. Middle East policy is no longer within the bounds of state politics but is subject to personal benefits (Kushner) and ideologies (Christian Zionism). Public and hidden support for this scandalous plan coming from various countries around the world and the giving up on the Palestinian cause in general show that international law and foreign policy does not favor what is reasonable. Thus, Palestine might face further isolation in the arena of international world politics.
Turkey should evaluate its choices and priorities in this given situation. Palestine might be facing harder impositions in the near future. Turkey has to be ready for a tight and challenging process of diplomacy.
*Professor Tuncay Kardas is head of Sakarya University's Middle Eastern Institute focusing on critical security studies, the sociology of war, and media semiotics.
*Serra Can is a research associate at Sakarya University's Middle Eastern Institute focusing on relations between Europe and the Mideast and hierarchies in the region.
*Translated by Firdevs Bulut