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21
Jun
2018

The Gaza Strip and “the Deal of the Century”


Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas (kremlin.ru)

  • Sources in the Palestinian Authority claim that the Trump administration is trying to use the Gaza Strip as the “key” to the hearts of Arab leaders so that they will accept its Middle East peace “deal of the century.”
  • The U.S. administration is planning a series of projects for the Gaza Strip that will create calm the security crisis and provide positive momentum for Trump’s peace program.

Senior figures in the Palestinian Authority are concerned about the visit of a U.S. team, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, to the region and American preparations for promoting President Trump’s peace plan, known as “the deal of the century.”

With this in mind, they see the June 18, 2018, meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman as an additional American-Israeli attempt to soften the King’s opposition to “the deal of the century” and an American effort to create a barrier between him and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Sources in the Authority do not dismiss the possibility that Prime Minister Netanyahu has soothed the Jordanian monarch’s concerns regarding anything challenging Jordan’s position as guardian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, in accordance with the 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan, and that Netanyahu has promised that Jordan’s position will not be harmed by “the deal of the century.”

The Palestinian Authority claims that the Trump administration is trying to use the Gaza Strip as a “key” to present to the leaders of the moderate Arab states to advance “the deal of the century.” These Arab leaders want complete calm in Gaza, and they are concerned that continued violence and the “return march” campaign will upset the stability in their own countries and will lead to a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas on the southern border, the results of which would be particularly hard on the Palestinians.

The fears of the senior PA officials are based on a report in the Haaretz newspaper on June 17, 2018, that, according to sources in the Trump administration, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt will try to raise between $500 million and $1 billion from Qatar and Saudi Arabia for a series of projects serving the Gaza Strip. It is hoped that these projects will quiet the security situation and create positive momentum for the presentation of President Trump’s “the deal of the century” plan.

Is Northern Sinai Part of the Deal?

Among other things, projects built in northern Sinai will provide the needs of the residents of Gaza, such as solar energy, a power station, and a seaport.

Some of these ideas were presented to the U.S. team during a conference at the White House in March 13, 2018, by the then-coordinator of activities in the territories Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai. PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was invited to the conference, attended by the representatives of 20 countries, but he boycotted it.

Of course, implementing these ideas requires the agreement of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

A considerable part of “the deal of the century” deals with the Gaza Strip. According to PA sources, which learned about the plan from Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Gaza Strip will be declared an independent state together with parts of the West Bank, excluding east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The Palestinian capital will be located in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, along with several Arab neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem.

All of this is meant to solve the problems of the Gaza Strip and soften the resistance of Arab leaders to the new U.S. peace plan.

Senior sources in the Palestinian Authority told the Al-Hayat newspaper on June 17, 2018, that Kushner and Greenblatt are working to raise Arab funding for essential projects in Gaza in order to put it at the center of a diplomatic solution in accordance with Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Nabil Abu Rudeina, the PA chairman’s spokesman, claims that the United States and Israel are planning to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank under the headline “humanitarian aid for Gaza.”

The Palestinian Authority Fears Permanent Split of Gaza and West Bank

He added that the Palestinian leadership warns against any measures where the objective is to bypass the Palestinian “national project” and perpetuate the division of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and to compromise on Jerusalem and the holy sites.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is continuing to boycott the Trump administration since its declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He also continues to rail against the administration and to “reveal” the details of “the deal of the century” plan even though he has never seen any of its details.

Abbas is afraid of possible betrayal by the Arab leaders over the Palestinian problem because, for them, the Iranian danger takes priority.

Therefore, the senior officials of the Palestinian Authority make sure to issue regular reminders through the media that not only is the PA chairman opposed to “the deal of the century,” but so are all of the leaders of the Arab countries.

Nabil Shaath, Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser for international affairs, told the Al-Hayat newspaper on June 17, 2018, that the Palestinians relied on the resistance of the Arab leaders to “the deal of the century” and that they promised to oppose any diplomatic plan that was not acceptable to the Palestinian leadership.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been working in recent months to build a Palestinian, Arab, and international consensus to torpedo “the deal of the century,” the motto of which is “there’s no state in Gaza, and there’s no state without Gaza.”

The Trump administration is now working hard to break up this consensus. Hamas terror in the Gaza Strip is increasing the concerns of the leaders of the Arab world who want quiet, and it is most likely that they will cooperate with the ideas of President Trump.

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
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