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Donald Trump’s promise of “a deal of the century” to end the conflict between Israel and the Arabs is getting legs. After a year of discussions led by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the main elements of the president’s design are coming into view. But it’s not exactly what the Palestinians want to see.
It would be an exaggeration to call the ideas and suggestions raised by Trump’s intimates a bona fide plan. In the first case, the assembly of government experts and intimates thinking about the issue this past year have yet to demonstrate an ability to conceptualize an agreed upon and coherent view of a successful diplomatic engagement worthy of the definition. And second, there is no evidence to suggest that the Trump team is capable of successfully translating such a plan, if it exists, into a successful diplomatic engagement.
Nevertheless, Trump’s decision in December to accede to Congress’s long-standing demand that the U.S. set the diplomatic ball rolling and gave concrete expression, whether consciously or not, to a set of assumptions supporting the maximalist and unilateralist agenda of the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinians, meanwhile, find themselves the passive, rather than actively engaged agents of this process. Before Christmas, top PLO official Saeb Erekat with a wide-ranging summary of the hostile diplomatic landscape in Washington. The report was meant to support the decision of PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas to shun the American effort after Trump’s Jerusalem Declaration. If even a fraction of it is a true reflection of the way things are going, Palestinians have more than enough reason to back Abbas and be very, very wary of the American role here.