Avi Issacharoff

The bribe of the century

The Palestinian leadership’s unequivocal refusal to accept any part of the Trump plan dooms the plan to complete failure
Jared Kushner, center, and Jason Greenblatt, left, attend the opening session of a Middle East peace conference in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images via JTA)
Jared Kushner, center, and Jason Greenblatt, left, attend the opening session of a Middle East peace conference in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images via JTA)

The economic portion of the “Deal of the Century,” or, in the name’s updated version, the “Opportunity of the Century,” may be summed up as a fairly blatant attempt to bribe the Palestinian people.

To the credit of those who came up with this plan, it should be said that the bribe is neither small nor modest. It involves an enormous sum of money: approximately 50 billion dollars that are slated to bolster several Middle Eastern economies, and of which a significant part will be transferred to the Palestinian territories.

It is doubtful whether Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner know where that 50 billion dollars is going to come from. It is doubtful that either of them has thought too deeply about the implications of connecting the West Bank and Gaza (via Israel) — as far as that goes, similar plans have been proposed quite a few times in the past, based on the idea that Gaza would have leadership that wanted peace with Israel (good luck with that).

Still, the primary aim of the American team seems to have been to confuse the Palestinian public, and it appears Washington partly succeeded in doing just that. In other words, due to the strong opposition of the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah and even Hamas’s leadership in Gaza to the plan, the Americans tried to offer an aid package fat enough to would ignite the imaginations of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

They may have succeeded. Not all the Palestinians in the territories were on board with the Palestinian leadership’s out and out rejection of everything to do with the Trump plan. At a time when the PA is paying approximately 50 percent of its employees’ salaries (due to its refusal to accept tax revenues from Israel), and at a time when stories of corruption by high-ranking PA officials are breaking every day, the public is rather pessimistic about the chances of establishing a Palestinian state. For this reason, talk of economic improvement and the billions of dollars in investment is stirring a great deal of thought among many West Bank residents, who wonder if, perhaps, in light of the political stalemate and the absence of worthy Palestinian leadership, it is time to focus on the here and now and aim for economic improvement.

But it is doubtful that moderate public pressure to give the American proposal a try will change the leadership’s stance. There is not even any real pressure at present — perhaps a few exceptional statements like those of Fadi Elsalameen, the Palestinian Facebook and Twitter star who lives in Washington, who in one of his tweets called upon President Abbas at least to try to listen to the American team and see what it could offer the Palestinian people. At this stage, Elsalameen is seen as an outlier. Most of the statements and calls have been to boycott the summit in Bahrain, whatever the price to the Palestinians may be.

This is where the problem starts for Greenblatt and Kushner. At this stage, not even a single high-ranking Palestinian official can be found who will encourage the PA to attend the summit. On the contrary, a mixed multitude of high-ranking Palestinians from the PLO and Hamas have been quick to condemn the Americans’ attempt to buy off the Palestinians.

As things appear at present, the link between the economic plan, which is only theoretical at this stage, and the Palestinian leadership’s unequivocal refusal to accept any part of the Trump plan, doom the plan to complete failure. In the meantime, the Palestinians will have to make do with fantasies of a better economic future, and perhaps of a worthy leadership as well.

About the Author
Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
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