Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (left) and US President Donald Trump meet Monday on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ Might be Revealed Prior to Israeli Elections

No surprises are expected from long-touted plan the Palestinians have already rejected

US President Donald Trump met on Monday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

The two discussed military and strategic cooperation, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Trump told reporters that reaching a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the Palestinians was the only way to solve the conflict.

“I think the Palestinians would like to make a deal. I cut off a lot of funding and I think they would like to get it back,” the US president said in Biarritz.

He noted that the specifics of his peace plan, which he once dubbed the Deal of the Century (a term still used, although mostly by critics, and with no little scorn) might be revealed prior to the Israeli elections on September 17.

“I think the Israelis want to make a deal. After so many years and decades, people are a bit tired of fighting,” he told reporters before his meeting with Sisi. “Everyone says it is a deal that can’t be made, but we’ll see if we can make it happen.”

Nour Odeh, a Palestinian analyst and former spokeswoman for the Palestinian Authority (PA), told The Media Line that President Trump’s announcement was little more than a ploy to ensure Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s electoral victory and keep the extreme right-wing parties in power in the Israeli parliament.

“It is the alliance and partnership of the like-minded,” Odeh said.

“That is the rich, spoiled man talking,” she continued. “Trump thinks he can buy everything. He has no historical perspective or appreciation of what the conflict is about. This conflict is about freedom and dignity, and if he or anybody else in his administration thinks the Palestinians can be bought, they are not only mistaken, but living in an alternative reality.”

President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner presented the economic component of the plan during a June conference in Bahrain. The administration says it is seeking to raise more than $50 billion – mostly for the PA, but also for neighboring countries with faltering economies – and create one million jobs for Palestinians within a decade.

The PA unequivocally rejects the plan.

“I think the writing is on wall as far as Palestinians are concerned,” Odeh said. “Right now we have a [US] administration that wants to market [Israel’s] extreme right-wing settler agenda as a formula for peace.”

Given the PA’s public rejection, it will be very easy for Netanyahu to come out in favor of the plan, notes Prof. Eytan Gilboa, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

“For Trump, this means he has done whatever he could,” Gilboa told The Media Line.

“Trump as a businessman thinks that the economic part [of the plan] should compensate for some of [its] political deficiencies,” he went on. “Trump… gives much less weight to history and honor in the Middle East, [where] honor is the number one factor. For him, the Middle East is a piece of land [and] real estate, [and he does not take into account] its religion, history and culture – which Americans ignore anyway.”

Gilboa added that Trump seemed to be banking on support for his plan from Arab allies such as Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel already has peace agreements, as well as with allies in the Gulf. He appears to hope they can exert pressure on the Palestinians to accept the deal, with an eye toward joint regional interests regarding a hostile Iran.

“Iran is more important to those Arab countries than the Palestinians [are], so Trump thinks he can use this joint interest… to push forward a regional solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “But based on history, whenever the US comes up with a detailed [peace] plan, it is rejected by all sides – simply because each [side] looks at what they have to give up rather than what they will get in return.”

In late September, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will address the annual opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to deliver another resounding denunciation of the US peace plan.

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