- Emphasis mine:
- Trump’s Peace Plan Would Give Palestinian Refugees Many, Many Countries
by Zvi Bar’el, https://www.haaretz.com/
By taking a soft stance with Beirut in border demarcation talks, the U.S. is hoping Lebanon will provide citizenship to its Palestinian refugees and support its Mideast peace plan.
U.S. diplomat David Satterfield is currently shaking things up in Lebanon. In the space of about two weeks, the acting assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs has visited Beirut twice to mediate between Lebanon and Israel on demarcating the land and sea border between the two countries. Satterfield, who speaks perfect Arabic and has served in the Middle East for about 40 years – including a stint as ambassador to Lebanon from 1998 to 2001 – is a familiar but not necessarily well-liked figure among Lebanese officials.
Now that he’s representing the Trump administration in such sensitive negotiations, he’s perceived as mainly serving Israel’s interests, and that’s precisely why the Lebanese are concerned. According to Lebanese commentators, the demarcation of the Israeli-Lebanese border may be the focus of the talks, but there’s also a hidden agenda.
What caused the United States and Israel, which have usually been insistent over every comma, to retreat from their position? In Lebanon, the amazing flexibility is attributed to Donald Trump’s plan in the works for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The perception is that Washington is pressing to bring Lebanon on board with Trump’s “deal of the century” by granting Lebanese citizenship to Palestinian refugees living in the country.
In the process, this is seen as defusing the issue of a right of return of refugees to Israel, which has been a major obstacle to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lebanon isn’t the only country concerned about Washington dictating a solution to the refugee problem. Jordan is horrified over the prospect that the United States will demand that it absorb hundreds of thousands or even a million Palestinian refugees in the country.
Investigative journalist Vicky Ward recounts in her new book “Kushner Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption” that the Trump administration’s peace plan sees Jordan providing territory to the Palestinians and receiving Saudi territory in return. The Saudis, for their part, would get the islands of Sanafir and Tiran from Egypt.
It’s doubtful that such a land swap would be acceptable to the countries involved. Saudi Arabia has already been transferred the islands, following a confrontation with Egypt that ended with presidential approval to return the islands to the Saudis in exchange for generous economic aid. In Jordan, any territorial concession would be considered national betrayal, particularly if it’s done as part of a Trump plan viewed as an Israeli-American deal.
Land swaps appear to be the magic formula that the Trump administration has adopted, and not just for Jordan. According to Ward, it has been suggested that Egypt give up territory along the Sinai coast between Gaza and El-Arish, to which some of the Gaza population would be transferred. In return, Israel would give Egypt territory of equivalent size in the western Negev.
Israel would let the Egyptians dig an underwater tunnel between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that would include a rail line and an oil pipeline. The funding for these projects would come from European countries, the United States and wealthy Arab states. Factories, a port and an airport would be built in the Egyptian territory transferred to Gaza, and both Gazans and Egyptians would be employed there.
The Egyptians have also been promised a whopping $65 billion to help boost their economy. Meanwhile, the plan says Palestinian refugees in Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries would receive citizenship in exchange for generous assistance to the host countries.