Thursday, 20 February, 2020
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Trump’s ‘Peace Plan’ Sows Confusion & Dismay



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Alexander Osang

The morning after Donald Trump announced his “deal of the century,” Orit Artsiely is standing on the muddy, black banks of the Jordan River, contemplating what the deal would mean for her. It had rained throughout the night and into the morning and the sky is just beginning to clear up. The air is warm and humid and flies have already discovered the box of dates Artsiely put out for her guests.
Artsiely is the secretary of finance of the Jordan Valley Regional Council (JVRC), an umbrella organisation for Jewish settlers here. She had spoken the night before to her boss, who was on a trip to Washington with an Israeli delegation. His name is David Elhayani, but most people here refer to him as the Mayor of the Jordan Valley. He recently stood in a room with Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The American president talked a lot, but the mayor had difficult time getting a grasp of what it all might mean for the Jordan Valley.
“He told me: We need details,” Artsiely says.
When asked whether Elhayani clapped along with the others present for Trump’s speech, she just shrugs.
Artsiely says she saw the images from Washington of the press conference with Trump and Netanyahu. Trump announced that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel. His plan also foresees the Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem, which lies behind Israel’s border wall, as their capital. The holy sites on the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, would be administered by Israel. As compensation for their losses in the West Bank, the Palestinians would receive parts of the Negev Desert. Meanwhile, Israeli settlements would remain untouched.
Natanyahu could hardly stop smiling during the press conference in Washington. A few hours later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Trump’s plan a conspiracy against his people. So much for the American plan.
Many Unanswered Questions
Originally, Netanyahu had planned to have his cabinet vote Sunday on the annexation -- or as he puts it, the sovereignty -- of the lands in the West Bank. Now it doesn’t look like that will happen, at least not for the time being. The Israeli interior minister was here a few days ago, but all he said was that they were getting the paperwork in order.
“It took us a long time to understand how to make the land fertile,” says Artsiely, who has lived in the Jordan Valley since 1982. “The soil is very salty. We grow dates, peppers, grapes and mangos. If I understand the interior minister correctly, it’s not farmers who are in demand now, but lawyers.” The ground doesn’t belong to the farmers. They just use it.
Artsiely has a lot of questions. Who’s going to replace the military that currently controls the area? Is the valley going to need new administrators? “And who are our partners? If the Palestinians don’t go along with it, we can forget about the grand peace plan,” she says.
Elbaz points to the mountains shimmering in the midday sun. He told most of his workers not to come in today since it had rained in the morning. Three Palestinians squat in an old container nestled between the palm trees. They say they don’t want to talk because it never does any good anyway.
One of them apparently changes his mind and gets up. His name is Tarek Hossni. He lives in Nablus and has been working on the farm for five years. Elbaz is a good boss, he says, and the pay is good, too. He wears a sweatshirt with the word “Unbreakable” emblazoned across the front in big letters. But Hossni doesn’t really give the impression that this word applies to him.
After the Oslo Accords, Ghrouf says, the Palestinians were left with only 22 percent of their land. And now they are supposed to relinquish 40 percent of it again. “Where’s the deal?” Ghrouf shouts. “We reject this plan. It’s unfair. It gives rights to people who have no rights.”
He describes a city that would be cut off from the surrounding countryside. That’s according to a plan, he says, which is less a plan and more a “project,” one that would ruin economic and social relations, destroy families and separate Jericho from the “breadbasket” of the rest of the country. Ghrouf says the valley would be carved up into pieces. It was originally intended to be a home for the Palestinians living in the diaspora. Thirteen million were supposed to live here one day. That was the plan. Their plan.
Unfair Treatment
Ismail Daiq is a successful Palestinian date farmer in the Jordan Valley. He explains what the area could look like in the very near future. He pins a map of the valley to a wall. Two-thirds of the plantations he manages fall within the area that would be annexed under the so-called peace plan. Daiq, who once served as agricultural minister for the Palestinian territories, says the future can be divined by looking to the past.
As the sun goes down behind the mountains of Jerusalem, Daiq laments the sleepless nights he suffers and the injustices of his Israeli neighbors. The Jewish settlers receive subsidies from the Israeli government. The Palestinians, on the other hand, recently had 120 tractors confiscated. They weren’t told why, only that if they wanted their machinery back, they would have to pay a fee. Trump boasts of a “deal of the century.” But for Daiq, the date farmer from the Jordan Valley, 100 years aren’t nearly enough.
- SPIEGEL International

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