Self-doubts further imperil ‘Deal of the Century’ despite economic focus

Alsiasi_Agencies

The yet-to-be-announced US peace plan for the Middle East that is commonly referred to as the “Deal of the Century” appears to have suffered setbacks, prompting Washington to focus on the economic aspects of a possible Israeli-Arab agreement. Its expressions of doubt about the practicality of the deal are further imperilling the initiative.

The Trump administration is nonetheless pressing ahead with a US-led conference on the Palestinian economy, June 25-26 in Bahrain, despite Palestinian political leaders and businessmen declaring they would not take part.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said they would attend the gathering, dubbed the “Peace for Prosperity” conference.

Regional support for any political measure that may be announced at the conference is already reserved. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they would attend the conference but they are unlikely to publicly endorse a political deal rejected by the Palestinians.

Statements from leaders at the Arab and Islamic summits in Mecca were univocal in their rejection of Washington’s stances on the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights. The leaders reiterated their support for an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian objections, Arab caution, European insistence on international conventions and the absence of an electoral mandate in the current Israeli government are not the only obstacles to the “Deal of the Century.”

Members of the Trump administration seem divided on the practicality of the plan.

Speaking in a private meeting with Jewish leaders, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a candid assessment of the plan. In an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the Washington Post, Pompeo noted that “one might argue” that the deal is “unexecutable” and it might not “gain traction.”

Pompeo acknowledged that “frankly, this has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might.” He confirmed: “It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say: ‘It’s not particularly original. It doesn’t particularly work for me,’ that is, ‘It’s got two good things and nine bad things, I’m out’.”

Such concerns were not expressed only by Pompeo.

“Prominent conservative and pro-Israel voices close to the White House are increasingly sharing their fears, which range from the possibility that the peace proposal could trigger violence to worries that its offerings could forever kill efforts to craft a two-state solution,” reported Politico.

“Many hoped the plan would get shelved even before the latest political turmoil in Israel prompted the scheduling of new elections in the fall. Now, some are going on the record to urge the Trump administration to set aside the plan indefinitely, even though few people have seen the closely held proposal.”

Recent statements by Kushner have raised eyebrows. The Palestinians, who have long accused Trump of siding with Israel at their expense, are likely to feel their position validated after Trump’s son-in-law suggested they were not yet ready to govern themselves.

“The hope is, is that over time, they (Palestinians) can become capable of governing,” Kushner told news site Axios. He said he was not concerned whether the Palestinians do not trust him. “I’m not here to be trusted,” he said.

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