I believe it was Henry Kissinger who described his approach to running Arab-Israeli negotiations as creating the illusion of momentum to compensate for the lack of momentum.
The goal wasn’t the outcome, it was to keep everyone involved in the process.
Successive generations of US diplomats have “led” a peace process more for its own sake, than for establishing a just and lasting peace.
The Trump Administration has, it appears, now taken this approach one step further.
Instead of wasting time trying to create the fiction of negotiations between an ideologically intransigent Israeli government and a weakened and dysfunctional Palestinian Authority, the Trump team promised to do the work themselves by putting together “the deal of the century”.
We have been waiting for this “deal” for almost two years and have been told, at regular intervals, that it would be coming “in a matter of weeks or months”.
As I see it, the Kushner, Greenblatt, Friedman team may have found a way to create the illusion of a deal to compensate for the absence of a deal.
During the past two years, in order to keep the suspense growing, there have been leaks from “official” (Arab, Israeli and American) sources.
These have, each in turn, been coyly denied by the Trump team with the cautionary note that their effort remained a work in progress and would only be revealed when the time was right.
Since most of the leaks have suggested proposals that were wholly unacceptable to the Palestinians, the Trump team has accompanied denials with warnings that the Palestinians should not reject the “deal” until they see it.
I have come to see this as nothing more than a cynical ploy to buy time.
What if there is no deal of the century? What if this entire enterprise is, as I suggested, merely “creating an illusion of a deal” to keep the Palestinians quiet and hold the Arab world at bay.
During this two-year period, while the “deal” was supposedly being concocted the Trump Administration and the Netanyahu government have been busy taking steps that make clear their intentions towards the Palestinians.
Trump has, in his words, taken “Jerusalem off the table” – recognising it as the capital of Israel.
By closing the US Consulate and denying US assistance to Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, he has placed this captive Palestinian community wholly under Israeli control.
Similarly, the Trump Administration has attempted to take the issue of Palestinian refugees “off the table” by suspending all aid to the UNRWA and refusing to consider descendants of those forced into exile in 1948 to be refugees.
Yet by its silence, the Trump Administration has accepted Israeli unilateral actions that have predetermined the future of Palestinian lands and rights.
Israeli settlements have expanded, illegal outposts have been legitimated and Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and exploitation of Palestinian resources and lands have accelerated at an alarming rate.
Add to this the Administration’s suspension of all Palestinian aid; acceptance of Israel’s “Jewish Nation State Law”; failure to criticise Israel’s refusal to reimburse Palestinian VAT revenues; support for Israeli acts that have crippled the PA and fostered divisions between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; protecting Israel from the International Criminal Court; and efforts to criminalise support for BDS – all of which have furthered Palestinian powerlessness and Israel’s sense of impunity.
Even if there is a “deal of the century” (and I’m still agnostic on that question) we can be certain it won’t end occupation of the lands seized in the 1967 war; create true Palestinian sovereignty and control over their land and resources; give Palestinians the opportunity to freely and independently conduct commerce with the outside world; recognise the rights of Palestinian refugees; or do anything to reunite the areas now called “East Jerusalem” to Palestinian control.