It is hardly surprising that President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is seen by the Palestinians as being dead on arrival. It is so far removed from anything they could have possibly wished for. But, then, they weren’t involved in its formulation.
Just as the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are important religious symbols for Jews, Haram esh-Sharif, or the Al Aqsa Compound as the Temple Mount is called by Muslims, is a holy site for them.
While it is true that Jordan is entrusted with administering the Muslim holy sites through the agency of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, it is Israel that ultimately exercises sovereignty over the area. From a Palestinian perspective that is a non-starter.
The Israel/Palestinian conflict is not primarily a battle over real estate, but a religious war in which conquest and control of the Holyland have been cardinal features throughout the ages.
One has only to walk down Sultan Suleiman Street adjacent to the Damascus Gate into the Old City to realize that, even though more than fifty years have passed since Jerusalem was “re-united” following the Six Day War, many Palestinians have yet to come to terms with that reality. The signs on all of the stores are either in Arabic or English and there is hardly a word of Hebrew to be seen.
But it is more than that. Just take a look at the territory being offered to the Palestinians. This is a deal that couldn’t possibly appeal to them.
The blue area, which only comprises approximately 75% of the West Bank and which is pockmarked with Israeli settlements and effectively divided into blocs, is hardly an attractive option.
However, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. There were so many attempts to reach a settlement with them, but they declined every initiative and refused to respond positively to each opportunity to reach a compromise. Now they have only been left with the scraps.
As one person put it sarcastically, “We tried for so many years to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It would now appear that we can do so without them!”
The timing of the unwrapping of the “Deal of the Century” is hardly coincidental. President Trump is facing impeachment proceedings and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Elections are around the corner. Trump needs to appeal to his Christian evangelicals while Netanyahu needs the votes of the settlers.
While this may all be good in terms of their short-term political interests, it will do nothing in respect of bringing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to a conclusion on the assumption that that is even possible. The Palestinians will continue to feel that they have been robbed of their land, while Israelis will continue to live with neighbours intent upon their destruction.
Now comes the question of whether the PA and Mahmoud Abbas will respond to the Trump Peace Plan by instigating a Third Intifada? This dangerously self-destructive, wasteful and self defeating ploy has been one of the tools that Palestinian regimes have employed for over seventy years of rejecting Israeli peace offers. Scapegoating Israel displaces the angst which arises from refusing that which might have led and might still lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Rejecting the Jewish state obviously hasn’t led to over all Palestinian prosperity and peace. In fact, as Rabbi Boyden points out, it has left the Palestinian cause in ever less successful positions. Rejection at this point will do exactly this once again.