Azmi Bishara, General Director of the ACRPS, held a talk on Monday evening to discuss “The Trump-Netanyahu Deal: A Historical Perspective of the US-Israeli plan to Liquidate the Palestinian Question.” Bishara began by going over the history of US peace initiatives after the June 1967 war, until the end of President Barack Obama's term; starting with the Zbigniew Brzezinski project in 1977 and the Camp David Accords signed by Egyptian President Mohamed Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978. He also went over the initiatives following the war in Lebanon such as the 1982 Reagan Initiative and those which followed the invasion of Kuwait such as George H.W. Bush’s vision for peace based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land in exchange for peace, which offered no proposals for a solution. Then he detailed George W. Bush’s 2002-03 Road Map for Peace and John Kerry’s attempts to re-start the peace process under the Obama administration. He explained that the initiatives were generally accepted by Arabs and rejected by Israel contrary to the statements of some Arab regimes.

Bishara’s critique of the latest peace plan offered by Trump can be summarized as undermining the foundations of international law and the precedence of power, a major feature that has dominated Trump's policy since his arrival in the White House, and in many regions of the world. The vision is characterized by a colonial and patronising tone, which Bishara demonstrated with quotes from the document.

The plan adopts the Israeli narrative of history literally, which means it uses the biblical version of events with the same effect as international law. The document also documents Israeli claims of dispossession and concessions, with no mention of the Palestinian narrative, not even reference to the Nakba or the suffering endured by the Palestinians due to the ongoing occupation. The suffering of the Palestinians is only mentioned as a consequence of the behaviour and corruption of the Palestinian leadership, or Palestinian “terrorism”. In this sense, the document exonerates Israel from bearing any responsibility for Palestinian suffering and the text does not even use the term occupation to describe the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Bishara also noted that plan appropriated the language of real estate developers, talking about supporting investments to build hotels, restaurants, swimming pools and tourist sites, additional funding to improve training in the field of hospitality and financing advertising campaigns to stimulate tourism; as if Palestine were a piece of land to be granted to companies. He pointed out that this is similar to the American rhetoric about Native Americans in North America and the development of fenced “reserves” affixed to the word “independent.”

Bishara made the point that the first steps in the Trump-Netanyahu deal have been its implementation on the ground, starting with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and subsequently the transfer the US embassy, the decision to legitimize the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories with the direct permission of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the de-funding of UNRWA on 31 August 2018, and the closure of PLO office in Washington two weeks later. He also pointed out that the “deal of the century” constitutes a clear break from previous US initiatives, and promises to break the traditional US alliance with Israel by adopting and identifying with the position of the Israeli right.

Bishara mapped out the masterminds behind Trump's peace plan; his son-in-law Jared Kushner, David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel since 2017 and Trump's former lawyer in bankruptcy cases, Jason Greenblatt, former chief legal officer to Trump and Trump inc. who was appointed as his assistant and Special Representative for International Negotiations, who was later replaced by lawyer Avi Berkowitz, a personal friend and former “coffee boy” to Jared Kushner.

Bishara also argues that the document carried a set of fallacies, the most important of which is the claim that Israel withdrew from at least 88% of the land it seized in 1967, which shows selectivity in how Arabs and Palestinians are discussed. When talking about 1967, suddenly the conversation talks about Arabs as if they were one unified party, and leads the reader to believe that Israel has returned 88% of the land of Palestine. But it is actually talking about the Sinai, and the remaining 12% of the land includes the Golan, Gaza and the West Bank. In addition, the document refers to Jews from Arab countries as refugees, but the truth, according to Bishara, is that Israel considered them “new arrivals” and the basis of building its state. The deal talks about how Israel lost money by absorbing Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and that Israel should be compensated for those losses.

Bishara describes more fallacies borne out by Trump's plan, such as the claim that the Palestinian state will be able to use the ports of Haifa and Ashdod and the portrayal of this as a concession, despite this being the current situation. Bishara argues that the Israeli interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict,” which Israel has interpreted this to mean it need not withdraw from all lands occupied in previous conflicts.

Another goal, Bishara believes, is to get rid of the Palestinians inside the Green Line. Israel will withdraw from the uninhabited Negev regions on the Sinai border and annex the triangle communities of  Kafr Qara, Ar’ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia to the Palestinian entity. However, a truce in 1949 stipulated its annexation to Jordan, but Israel did not abide by that and kept it within the territories it occupied. This would constitute a a transfer and ethnic cleansing in the name of “peace”. The document also stressed the necessity that “Upon the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, Palestinian refugee status will cease to exist, and UNRWA will be terminated and its responsibilities transitioned to the relevant governments,” with no right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Bishara argued that the concept of the state espoused by the deal coincides with the vision of Benjamin Netanyahu expressed in his speech at Bar-Ilan University on 14 June 2009. and he also believes that the document deals with the concept of sovereignty in theory as a flexible, not an absolute concept, and that sovereignty is a stumbling block to peace in its justification of the idea of ​​a state without sovereignty. This is a contradictory idea considering that state means sovereignty, so Bishara contemplates why Palestinian sovereignty alone needs to be theorized and flexible. Bishara also noted that the emerging state will be physically within the state of Israel and under its control, to the extent that Israel will interfere in even the Palestinian internal security administration and will oversee international crossings and borders. Israel will even have sovereignty over space, drilling wells and water.

He added that one of the effects of the Trump-Netanyahu deal is that it perpetuates the idea that Arabs only answer to coercion, direct dictating to them what they must do. Therefore, he believes that the Arab behavior after announcing the deal is a dangerous precedent, encouraging the Israelis to follow the same logic in the future. He points out however that this logic does not mean that the Palestinian or Arab masses will remain silent. This is a form of colonialism and apartheid, and efforts to confront Zionism should focus on the two pillars of the land (occupation, settlement, the Judaization of Jerusalem, etc.) and racism that place the struggle against the apartheid regime.

Bishara concluded his intervention by noting the urgent need to build up and reconsider the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization, provided that it adopts a national strategy based on a democratic basis in which it seeks to attract Arab and international solidarity movements, and adopts the option of resistance. On the other hand, this requires that the Palestinian Authority play its role in running the daily lives of the people in the occupied Palestinian territories and that the Palestinian leadership work with institutions and bodies not linked to agreements with Israel. This means that the Palestine Liberation Organization must withdraw from all the previous agreements because they have become null and void and that the PA avoid making the mistake of deflecting the Palestinian national project to state idolatry, rather than focusing on liberation from the colonial and apartheid system.