Gérard Araud, France’s outgoing envoy to the US, dubbed Israel an “apartheid state” in a farewell interview with the Atlantic magazine on Friday and suggested that the secret plan is “very close to what the Israelis want” and 99 percent “doomed to fail.”
Still, Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, are exerting “immense pressure” on the Palestinians to accept Trump’s deal, a senior Fatah official told Iran’s Press TV on Monday. Those countries are “using all means, including political and financial blackmail” to force Palestinians into agreeing with the deal “despite all the dangers it poses to the Palestinian cause.”
Meanwhile, the Arab League pledged to pay $100 million per-month to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fill the gap left after Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, blocked tax transfers earlier this year. Israel withheld $138 million in transfers in February over Palestinian payments to political prisoners in jail for attacks on Israelis.
Publicly, the group of Arab nations also rejected Trump’s deal, saying it “will not succeed in achieving a long-lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”
The details of Trump’s mysterious peace plan have been kept under wraps, but it is expected to be unveiled at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – although some reports claimed it’s aiming for Israel’s independence day, an unlikely choice for obvious reasons. The effort has been headed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was described by Araud in his Atlantic interview as someone who is “extremely smart” but “has no guts.”
Israel’s dilemma, Araud said, is making the “painful decision” about whether to leave Palestinians “totally stateless” or make them citizens of Israel. But ultimately, he said, Israel is “extremely comfortable” with the status quo, which allows them to avoid making that decision.
Analysts have been warning for months that Trump’s open favoritism towards Israel in highly controversial regional issues would prevent any deal from being taken seriously by the Palestinian side.
Trump, however, has forged ahead with provocative pro-Israel policy decisions, including recognizing Israel’s “sovereignty” over the Golan Heights, designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist” organization and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The White House was hoping to benefit from the fact that Trump is so popular in Israel and that Palestinians might see the deal as their last chance to get “limited sovereignty,” Araud believes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted publicly in April that Israel might annex parts of the West Bank in the coming years and said a Palestinian state would “endanger” Israel’s existence. Kushner’s peace deal, unsurprisingly, is expected to stop short of offering the option of Palestinian statehood – a likely deal-breaker, since this is their core demand.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in March that the Trump administration’s clear pro-Israel bias means the US cannot be accepted as a serious mediator in the conflict.
US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt has, meanwhile, warned both sides against rejecting the deal, saying if they do so “they will have squandered an important opportunity.”