Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

Trump’s Middle East peace plan is a gift to Iran

Leaving Jerusalem under Israeli control fuels the rallying cries of Palestinian militants allied with Tehran

Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, right, and Jared Kushner, senior White House advisor, smile during a news conference to announce a new peace plan for the Middle East that has been widely rejected by Palestinians. Bloomberg
Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, right, and Jared Kushner, senior White House advisor, smile during a news conference to announce a new peace plan for the Middle East that has been widely rejected by Palestinians. Bloomberg

Washington's overarching foe in the Middle East will be basking in satisfaction after US President Donald Trump unveiled a peace plan that leaves the heart of East Jerusalem under Israeli occupation.

Excluding the holy city from the narrow path to Palestinian statehood that Mr Trump has offered will boost the rallying cries of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups in Gaza supported by Iran.

Although these groups' capabilities lag far behind Israeli firepower, they have communication channels with Tehran and the missiles they have used in three wars against Israel since 2008.

Even before Mr Trump made public the political component of the plan, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the proposals “delusional” and “dead on arrival”.

Omar Shaban, a political researcher who leads the Pal-Think for Strategic Studies group, said the plan boosted Iran’s model of defiance as the way for Palestinians to have any hope of securing their rights.

“The Palestinians look at Iran and see that it has carved itself room for manoeuvre against bigger powers,” Mr Shaban told The National from Gaza.

“But no Palestinian could accept the Trump plan, whether they are militant or not."

Hamas said Muslims needed to “fulfil their duty” towards Jerusalem by foiling the deal. It agreed to be at a meeting called by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to denounce the plan.

The authority's president, Mahmoud Abbas, called the plan “rubbish” and said it contained “nothing new”, justifying the rejection in advance by the Palestinians.

Mr Abbas said the US had sought Palestinian surrender when it recognised Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital in December 2017.

But past displays of unity between moderate and militant Palestinian factions turned out to be unsustainable.

This month, Iran treated Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a major guest at the funeral of Qassem Suleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, who was killed in a US drone strike on January 3.

Iran has been using every move it considers to be Israeli or US intransigence to portray itself as the only powerful defender of aggrieved Palestinians.

Its most lethal foreign operations division, the Quds Force, is named after Jerusalem. The unit was established in 1980 as Iran sought to undermine Saddam Hussein’s regional appeal.

Saddam established his own Al Quds Army in 2001. But the two formations stayed away from any direct confrontation with Israel.

With the Hamas leader in attendance, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prayed in Arabic in front of Suleimani’s coffin, calling him a martyr.

Mr Shaban said that apart from its ties with the Gaza militants, Iran had made negligible investment in the territory, such as building basic infrastructure or providing services.

“Iran’s physical presence is not that much felt and this limits its influence on the street,” he said.

The political framework of Mr Trump’s plan calls for Jerusalem to be undivided and to remain the sovereign capital of Israel.

Any capital of a future Palestinian state would be east and north of the West Bank wall, which Israel says is needed to preserve its security, clearly excluding occupied territory inside the walls of the Old City.

The plan says the Palestinian capital “could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine”.

But every Palestinian knows what Al Quds is. So does Iran, after decades of placing the city at the centre of its drive to spread its version of liberation.

Updated: January 29, 2020 11:52 AM

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