Rescuing Trump’s Middle East ‘Deal of the Century’

Almost from day one of his presidency, Pres Trump appointed Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to produce a plan for the Middle East which would end the conflict once and for all. This was later dubbed the Deal of the Century. What was encouraging about their thinking was that they rejected what was and focused on what might be.

They even went so far as to abandon the vaunted two-state solution. And now they are confronted by a new US Senate resolution which insists that any American peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, include a two-state solution.

Jared Kushner in 2017

Photo credit: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

This was a big mistake. By talking about a Plan, even the Deal of the Century, they were inviting opposition and controversy.

As the opposition mounted, they were forced to keep postponing the tabling of the Plan and of late, to walk back their confidence in its acceptance.

Just this week, Qatar said U.S. needs Palestinians on board for ME Peace Plan thereby giving the PA a veto, the opposite of what Trump wanted. Also the PA is planning “popular uprisings” against Trump’s Plan to be held during the Bahrain Workshop. Who needs that?

Gatestone Institute recently published an article titled The Iranian-Palestinian Plan to Thwart Trump’s Peace Plan which advised:

As the US administration prepares to roll out its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” Iran appears to be increasing its efforts to help its allies in the region try to thwart the plan.

Recently, Iran seems to have stepped up its political and military support for radical Palestinian groups that are staunchly opposed to any peace agreement with Israel

It is imperative that Trump regain the initiative.

What they should have done is to put facts on the ground that would move their ideas in the desired direction rather than ballyhooing their Plan. In fact, Trump did this by undercutting the UN, UNRWA and the PA over the last two years.  He should continue what he started while at the same time, backing away from his yet to be tabled Plan.

His next “fact” should be to accept the transition of power in Jordan from King Abdullah to Mudar Zahran, the leader of the Jordan Opposition Coalition. The Jordanian people have been protesting for months now and calling for the removal of King Abdullah. This transition can be accomplished bloodlessly in 48 hours.

Zahran’s ascension to power will have major consequences for the Middle East.

Last week the Economist, under the title King Abdullah of Jordan fears that old allies are ditching him wrote:

The dispensable kingdom
Today, though, Jordan doesn’t seem so essential. Many Arab states now deal directly with Israel. Some of them are upset with King Adbullah (pictured) for not toeing the line on regional matters. He has maintained relations with Qatar, which has been ostracised by other Gulf states, and backed away from the war in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He is seen as soft on the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that operates in Jordan but is banned elsewhere. The king has even shaken hands with Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, which is hated by big Arab powers.

In one fell swoop, Jordan would change from an opponent to the policies of the US and Israel to an ally of theirs.

Zahran could then propose to naturalize all Palestinians living in Jordan or elsewhere and approach the Gulf States to finance such activity. Trump could then apply the appropriate pressure to make this happen. This in fact is what the Bahrain Workshop is intended to accomplish. It is far from certain what will happen at the workshop. Isn’t it better to go about the task of getting their support, quietly rather than with fanfare?

Another concession hoped to be obtained at the workshop is to get Jordan to cede to Israel, the two small pieces of Jordanian land currently under lease to Israel. In exchange it is intended that Saudi Arabia would cede some small part of its territory adjacent to Aqaba to Jordan so that Jordan would then have considerable waterfront on the Gulf of Aqaba which they could develop. Now Jordan is hamstrung for lack of it.

Another change that could be agreed upon is to have Jordan relinquish its role in appointing the Wakf for the Temple Mount making it possible for Saudi Arabia to be put in charge. Israel and Saudi Arabia could negotiate the details in private and then announce them. Saudi Arabia has put itself on record as wishing this to happen.

Underscoring all this is the need for a common defense led by the US, against Iranian aggression. That isn’t the only concern of the Gulf states. Trump has convinced them that radical Islam is also a threat to their kingdoms and they have agreed to abandon the ideology of radical Islam including Wahabbism. This agreement was secured in Riyadh two years ago but has yet to be acted on in any meaningful way. Egypt, as we know, partners with Israel to neutralize the Islamists in Sinai and is very much dependent on her.

Also, Jordan under Zahran would be very interested in negotiating a joint defense pact with Israel. Israel would defend Jordan in any event but a mutual pact would be another advance in amical Arab-Israeli relations. Afterall, if Israel can partner with the PA to maintain peace in Area A and B in Judea and Samaria, she could certainly officially partner with Jordan to secure Zahran’s rule of Jordan.

The US is already paving the way to liberate Iraq from Iranian influence. This Iraq wants even though it is 65% Shiite. Iraq would then align with Jordan and Israel to make certain that Iran doesn’t come knocking again. The last leg in this plan for mutual defense, is to create an independent Kurdistan.

In order to get Iran out of Syria, the US and Israel are meeting with Russia to secure her agreement to making it happen. What would interest Russia in doing so is the removal of US sanctions on Russia, US recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, the acceptance of Assad’s rule in Syria and Russia’s presence there. Finally, Russia and Assad need US and Gulf State support for the rebuilding of Syria. With US control of all Syrian lands east of the Euphrates, the US is in a strong position to refashion Syria.

Israel can be counted on to strengthen the Jordanian economy, not only to make Jordan more stable but to create jobs to attract Palestinian emigration from the West Bank. It would even be in Israel’s interest to finance the construction of at least 300,000 homes in Jordan that could be given to all new emigrants from the Judea and Samaria (West Bank). The cost of such housing has been estimated at $30 Billion which Israel could easily afford. If Israel borrowed the money it would only raise their Debt to GDP ratio from 64% to 70%.  The Bahrain Workshop was intended to get the Arab states to commit to providing $100 Billion to Jordan in order to facilitate the ingathering of Palestinians to Jordan. This can and will happen with or without the Workshop.

Trump should recommit to putting facts on the ground and abandon the promotion of the Deal of the Century. It’s a mistake to do otherwise.

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