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The Deal of the Century – Really?

“To build in Judea and Samaria like in Tel Aviv.” That’s one of the headlines in today’s Yisrael Hayom, the popular daily newspaper distributed without charge and financed by the American-Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The headline is of the report by the paper’s editor Boaz Bismuth about last Tuesday’s Donald and Bibi Show at the White House, when the president of the United States presented his long- heralded Israel-Palestine peace plan, also known as “the deal of the century.”

That Prime Minister Netanyahu was enthusiastic about the plan, even comparing it to the 1948 Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is understandable. As is the Palestinians’ total rejection of it. Having recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declared the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, President Trump has now given Israel the green light to annex parts of what since the 1967 War has been disputed territory and where by now some half-a-million Israeli settlers have built their homes. The Netanyahu government will be quick to try to enact legislation to make it happen – even before the March 2 general election.

Netanyahu’s elation is as obvious and understandable as is the total rejection by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his ministers of the Palestinian Authority. This wouldn’t have come as a surprise to Trump. In addition to humoring Netanyahu, he seems to have hoped to buy off the Palestinians with an aide program of 50 billion dollars and the prospect of an albeit truncated state. He appears to have reckoned that as this kind of deal works in business, with which he’s familiar, it would also work in this case. According to the Palestinian leadership, it won’t.

Surprisingly perhaps, by all accounts, politicians to the right of Netanyahu’s Likud are also dissatisfied, because the plan affirms the creation of a Palestinian state. In the same way as the Palestinians leaders are dreaming of a return to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of a strong Palestinian state, so do the Israeli right-wingers fantasize about the Palestinian state ceasing to be on the agenda. Their mutual fantasies may end up in a lot of violence.

Blue and White that hopes to dominate the next Israeli government seems to be in difficulty, too. Benny Gantz, the party leader, was invited to the White House for a preview of the plan and, not to disappoint his supporters on the right, he expressed approval. However, he also has liberals among his voters. Therefore, no doubt he’ll qualify his approval in several ways to try to appease them.

To strengthen his position, Netanyahu is flying back to Washington via Moscow, where, it is assumed, he’ll pick up the pardon Israeli currently in a Russian jail for smuggling drugs. She’s due to be released and will be paraded by the prime minister as a trophy.

Yes, with the help of Trump and Putin Netanyahu still hopes to get enough votes for his party and its allies to remain as the country’s prime minister. Though writs have been issued on three counts of his alleged criminal activities, and though he has withdrawn his application for immunity in the knowledge that it won’t be granted, the trial will not take place for several months. Perhaps he hopes that he’ll be able to continue to run the country even from his prison cell.

In view of the situation, liberals may not know whom to support in the forthcoming election. In desperation, Jews may end up voting for the Joint Arab List.

Jerusalem 29.1.20                                                                                                                                Dow Marmur

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