Trump knew his “Deal of the Century” had to be rejected by Palestinians. So what was he thinking?

abbas and map

“A thousand times NO!!”, Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have said in response to  Trump’s “Deal of the Century”. Trump and Kushner knew of course, that no Palestinian could accept the “deal” as being fair or honest. But Trump is not stupid. So what was his real objective? Read more…

ctip analysisThe Trump “peace plan” was constructed in such a way as to guarantee that the Palestinians would have to reject it, says CNN reporter Fareed Zacharia. In a live video interview with Jared Kushner, Zacharia pointed out that the apparent promise of a “Palestinian State” was made conditional on things that NO Arab state in the region could meet. It other words the “promise” of a Palestinian “state” was an illusion from the beginning.

Zacharia was not the only one to notice it. The plan “ included innumerable elements guaranteed to infuriate the Palestinians — radically constraining their future sovereign rights, denying them significant status in Jerusalem, refusing their demand for a “right of return” for refugees, and plenty more“, wrote the Times of Israel.

Trump is not stupid. Neither is his son-in-law Jared Kushner. So what were they thinking?

aiming for peace

From “The Economist” magazine: Trump was aiming at the Palestinians, not at “peace”.

It would be a mistake to evaluate the Trump “Peace Plan” through the lens of the a US role as “mediator” between Israel and the Palestinians. From that perspective, the plan is a failure. But what if that was not Trump’s intention? America has never been a “neutral mediator”. It has interests in the region which it pursues actively. Presenting itself as a “mediator” supports those objectives.

Viewed from the point of view of real politics, considering both Trump’s domestic political interests and broader US geostrategic interests, the plan makes sense.

First – Trump’s domestic politics

Clearly Mr. Trump is focussed on winning the election in 2020. That in large part depends on not only securing his base, but firing them up to be active – both financially and doorknocking in the election. The Trump plan gave the Jewish conservative establishment everything it wanted. It also met the dreams of Trump’s Evangelical Christian base who were equally enthusiastic about it.

Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu

The Trump plan was aimed to please his right wing Jewish and Evangelical base. The room at the White House included people like Sheldon Adelson, and many representatives of the evangelical Christian movement.

Several evangelical Christian leaders joined Trump in the East Room, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee when he announced the plan.

Among the Christians: Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, which claims eight million members, and Mike Evans, the founder of the “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” which has more than 70 million Facebook followers, according to Forward Magazine.

On the other side? There was remarkably little pushback in America. The New York Times took the most generous construction possible, somewhat dishonestly claiming that the proposal offered the Palestinians the possibility of a state with limited sovereignty.

Several mainstream newspapers did go so far as to note that, if implemented, his plan would mean the end of the two-state solution, but didn’t actually oppose the plan. Apart from the predictable (and justified) reaction by some left wing and pro-Palestinian groups, it seems most of America was more interested in the theatre of the impeachment process and the concerns over the corona virus.

Summary: From the point of view of domestic politics, this was a win for Trump – it appealed to his right wing fundamentalist base, without stirring significant opposition.

Second – strengthen Israel’s hand

Israel’s desire to take over as much of historic Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible, is well known. This “plan” gives the appearance of legitimacy (at least the benediction of the world’s biggest superpower) to several more steps in that process, including the annexation of the Jordan Valley, a permanent denial of the “right of return” for all but a token number of Palestinians, and the consolidation of Jerusalem as a Jewish city under Israeli control.

In the past, Israel has been successful implementing the parts of international plans or agreements it likes, while ignoring the parts it doesn’t like, using each one as a step forward toward its ultimate objective of maximum territory with minimum Arabs.

The 1947 UN partition plan, for example, which gave 55% of historic Palestine to a new Jewish state, included provisions to protect the civil and religious liberties of non-Jews (i.e. the Palestinians). The Jewish Agency quickly “adopted” the plan publicly, but in practice Zionist forces went far beyond its proposal taking over nearly 78% of the land and expelling over 750,000 Palestinians who lost all their belongings.

There is little doubt that Israel will try to move to adopt as much of the Trump “Plan” as it can. However, it does face opposition, not only from the Palestinians but also from many European countries as well as (in a limited way) the Arab league.

Third – consolidate a pro US/Israel geo-political alliance in the region

A third Trump objective was to break the existing Arab opposition to Israel, and consolidate an emerging geo-political alliance in the region by putting forward a plan that claimed to offer a “Palestinian State’ that major players like Saudi and Egypt could endorse.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has defined the battle lines and the foreign policies of Sunni Arab states for more than half a century”, writes Caroline Rose of Geopolitical Futures.

regional lineup trump plan

Many Sunni Arab states (in blue) initially showed support for the Trump Deal, to the anger of the Palestinians. However, a few days later, many seemed to back away from their position.

“Siding with the Palestinian cause and opposing Israeli aggression was a policy fixture of Arab countries, particularly of Egypt, which led the pan-Arab movement in the mid-20th century. Arab support in this regard was formalized in the Arab League, the Palestinian National Council and, later, the Palestine Liberation Organization.” she argues.

Since 1948, the Palestinians have relied heavily on Arab funds and weaponry in their resistance. Even after Arab states began to engage in limited cooperation with Israel, they still rhetorically advocated for Palestine.

But over the past few years, Gulf countries have found their fear of Iran has led them to make links with Israel. Their unconditional backing of Palestine seems to coming to an end.

“The US-Iran brief military confrontation in January has convinced some Gulf countries that Washington is their only protector,” Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian author and journalist, told Al Jazeera. “Some Arabs have completely forsaken Palestine and are embracing Israel to fend against an imaginary Iranian threat,” Baroud said.

However, on this score, Trump and Kushner may have overshot. After initially showing (qualified) support for the plan, countries like Egypt and even Saudi Arabic have backpeddled.  Meeting in Cairo a few days after the release of the plan, the Arab league “rejected the plan saying it did not meet the “minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people’. Significantly, however, they did not say what those “minimum rights and aspirations” are leaving the door open to future negotiations.


At the moment, Trump appears to be in a strong position, both domestically and regionally. However, the USA has definitively lost its claim to be a “mediator” in the Israel/Palestine conflict.

And as it becomes more and more apparent that the “2 state” idea is a fiction, both Palestinian and world opinion will slowly come to the awareness that Israel is bent on either dominating or expelling the Palestinians completely. This might take a couple of years, but it seems inevitable. And that will put Israel, and its US backer, in a difficult situation on the world stage.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue.

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  1. One of the main obstacles for the Palestinians to achieve anything is The Palestinian Authority itself. Abbas and his cronies for so many years did nothing to further the plight of their people. They were and are totally ineffective, never had and innovative or inspiring idea/plan. More so they cooperated with Israel to suppress any resistance and are corrupt.
    A few years ago I heard Abbas in an interview on TV in U.K. The host asked him “what are you doing in the face of Israel slowly taking it all. Abbas said we’ll ask them to give it back. The host burst into laughter saying “you will ask them huh”. Abbas added “we’ll insist”, which brought more laughter.
    Than you have the fighting and hatred between Gaza and West Bank. Instead of uniting they are killing each other.
    Generally the Palestinian leaders, due to empty and misplaced pride, never could explain and educate the world the extent of the Israeli oppression.
    Activists around the world and people with conscience like yourself, are doing more to expose the Israeli crimes than the Palestinians.

    Last week the Palestinian Authority spokesperson Saeb Erakat was interviewed on CNN by Farid Zackaria, were he said that the only way to achieve peace and get a sovereign state is by direct negotiations with Israel, without any involvement of other countries.You have to wonder is he hallucinating. Really, negotiating with Israel. Are they totally oblivious to what is taking place for a hundred years. They really can’t see what is happening everyday. What ever Israel gave them or even hinted at giving.

  2. Additionally to my previous comment.
    Abbas in his appearance in UN a few days ago took one of the biggest Israeli war criminals and oppressors Ehud Olmert, to help him out, which backfired on him. This criminal said that Trump deal is not bad and can be a starting point.
    Isn’t it about time for the Palestinians to get rid of this imbecile and his cronies?

    1. Hey Jake, I hesitate to get into Palestinian politics. But I cannot help but observe that Palestinian society is highly stratified.

      There are a small number of rather wealthy Palestinians who do rather well under the occupation. (I don’t know how many – maybe 5% of the pop’n). They get special “Business man’s permits’ to travel, live in big houses and drive big cars. (Driving around Ramallah and thru the West Bank this is quite dramatically obvious.) They don’t want to upset the applecart. Some even make money off the construction of new settlements, roads and walls. They have a good life as long as the illusion of the peace process continues. They want to perpetuate it.
      Meanwhile, the vast majority of Palestinians are being squeezed more and more.

  3. Peter, I was not clear what you meant in your last paragraph: “And as it becomes more and more apparent that the “2 state” idea is a fiction, both Palestinian and world opinion will slowly come to the awareness that Israel is bent on either dominating or expelling the Palestinians completely. This might take a couple of years… ”
    Do you mean complete domination/expulsion of the Palestinians may be achieved in 2 years? Or (as I think you mean) that world opinion will wake up in 2 years to the true objective of Israel?
    One thing the Trump deal makes crystal clear now is (as you said) bestowing the benediction of the world’s biggest superpower on Israel’s intent to take over the Jordan Valley and Jerusalem, and deny the right of return. Until now, (in spite of its support of heinous abuses) the US statements were hedged just enough to allow argument. Will the world now react more strongly in supporting the indigenous and human rights of the Palestinians? Will Canadians?

    1. Hey Doug, thanks for your question.
      As I see it, from the beginning Israel has wanted to take over as much land as it can with as few Palestinians as possible. It continues to do this today.
      Where will this end, or what will stop it? It is not clear.
      What is clear, however, is that even though Israel has now taken over 80% (+/-) of Historic Palesltine, and is now proposing to take over another big chunk, the Palestinians are not leaving. In fact, there are MORE PALESTINIANS living inside the borders of historic Palestine today, than at any time in history.
      How long will the world allow a minority of Jews to rule over a majority of Palestinians is not clear.

      One scenario is exactly the one you mentioned – the expulsion of millions of Palestinians by Israel. That is quite unlikely except in the context of a generalised regional war. In peacetime, I don’t think the world community would stand for it.

      Countries follow their own interests. Most countries are afraid of the USA (with reason) and few are willing to confront it to save the Palestinians, who find themselves with very few, and very weak allies t the moment.

  4. Your analysis somehow assumes that the Palestinians found themselves in that predicament throw no fault of their own, yet nothing is further away from the truth.

    Ever since 1979 the Palestinians foolishly aligned themselves in near sighted alliances with the enemies of their fellow Sunni Arabs and therefore lost the support Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the gulf emirates and the Maghreb

    Instead of focusing on what promotes the Palestinian cause, the Palestinian leadership had been focused on what’s bad for Israel (Hamas, Islamic Jihad) or what’s good for the Palestinian leadership (PLO)

    Ask an Israeli what are the mistakes that Israel did over the last 80 years and he will start a three hour lecture with a hundred examples, ask a Palestinian what are the mistakes that the Palestinian did over that deme period and he will tell you nothing, not a single mistake

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