Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 29, 2020
Timed perfectly as distraction from his own impeachment proceedings and towards providing a lifeline to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump has unveiled a long-building Middle East peace plan that seems assured of failure.
Among other things, the distraction element is not working and the split in the Israeli Knesset isn’t going away, so even the showmanship seems to have landed with a thud.
But the plan itself heavily favors Israel, and was introduced without even having Palestinians present or with the participation of cooperative Arab neighbors like Jordan.
I want badly to take any plan for Middle East peace seriously, but this one is a pitch high and wide of the plate.
Trump’s 80-page plan — or the Jared Kushner plan, if he actually concocted it — would guarantee that Israel keep settlements in the West Bank, hand a unified Jerusalem to Israel as its capital and dangle $50 billion in development funds and a new U.S. embassy to Palestinians to take the deal. The package calls for a remapping of the West Bank and Jerusalem while offering Palestinians, with a capital outside Jerusalem, and a pathway to statehood i — f they meet a set of tests.
It seems a good point to remind the Art of the Deal guy that deals come about by having all parties feeling as if they participated and that all got something they want. This “deal” is one-sided, and a guarantor only of continued violence in the region.
If there was any question of the lean of on Israel or support for Netanyahu personally, it took Netanyanhu only another few hours to announced that his government will vote Sunday to annex 30% of the West Bank as permanently Israel property.
It’s like these guys are playing Monopoly with property deeds that they control without having to think of people or consequences.
With Netanyahu at his side — not even Netanyahu’s election opponent Benny Gantz — Trump said this “vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood into security.”
Trump insisted his plan would be good for the Palestinians, asking President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to “choose the path to peace,” with a promise of economic help. Palestinians were busy rejecting it even as it was being announced. Palestinian militants calling for residents of both the West Bank and neighboring Jordan to take to the streets for “days of rage,” the Israel Defense Forces dispatched a brigade of infantry troops the Jordan Valley.
Some peace plan.
To me, it was noteworthy to see a U.S. president under pressure of removal standing with an Israeli prime minister now under formal indictment and facing his third election in a year talking about peace with Palestinians not even present.
This is a plan guaranteed not to be adopted by anyone, not to be accepted as any kind of deal.
In the international sphere beyond Palestinians themselves, the Arab world, Iran, the United Nations and likely European nations will find it meaningless, except for its insistence on granting Israel control over contested lands and all of Jerusalem. In Israel itself, it is likely to enflame divisions in politics and with Israeli Arabs, who are losing civil rights. Leaders of several settler groups, for example, who have been calling for a rapid annexation of the West Bank, declared that they could not support any plan that leads to Palestinian sovereignty over up to 70% of the contested territories.
In the United States, this proposal already has split the American Jewish community to say nothing of Americans at large, and satisfies only evangelical Christian rightists whose interest in an Israeli-controlled Middle East reflects the confusing politics of the region.
The New York Times noted that “The event in the East Room of the White House had a Kabuki-theater quality to it as the president ended years of suspense over a highly-touted peace plan that was widely considered dead on arrival. Rather than a serious blueprint for peace, analysts called it a political document by a president in the middle of an impeachment trial working in tandem with a prime minister under criminal indictment and facing his third election in a year in barely over a month.”
Under the proposal, Israeli borders would extend into the West Bank, and Palestinians would be barred from having an army — which will come as a surprise to Hamas, Fatah and Hezzbollah-backed militias that ignore such things as American-introduced peace plans. Trump insisted that it would double the amount of Palestinian territory, while ensuring that no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.
If the uprooting is already done, it apparently doesn’t count in this plan.
The plan would cement an American okay for decades of Israeli settlement building in Palestinian areas seized in two wars between Israel and Arab states. Whatever else Jared Kushner did in forming a plan in Washington, it was not an inclusive discussion among the parties. Indeed, according to news reports, Kusher and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, ended any contact with Palestinian officials ended after Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2017.
Since then, the Trump administration cut off American funds for Palestinian areas and shutting the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.
But it will serve to help both Netanyahu and Trump in their respective election campaigns, in both cases serving as a banner that ignores the fact that the deal as introduced will go nowhere.