Yesterday, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

The top two contenders to be Israel’s next prime minister — Netanyahu and his challenger, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz — support the deal. Naturally, the Palestinians said that it’s a non-starter.

The current Israeli-Palestinian peace process since early 2014, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to a unity government with the terror group Hamas. (It’s also worth noting that the Obama administration had put forth a diplomatic framework that Netanyahu reluctantly accepted and Abbas refused to acknowledge.)

Before covering the implications of Trump’s peace plan, it’s worth giving some background.

Rabin’s Vision

We all know the language by now. The goal of Israeli-Palestinian is “two states living side-by-side in peace and security,” or some similar formulation.

But the crystallization of the idea that peace demanded statehood for the Palestinians wasn’t made explicit until President Bill Clinton enunciated the “Clinton parameters” — after Yasser Arafat refused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s peace offer in 2000 and subsequently launched the so-called “Aqsa intifada” later that year — in an effort to quell the violence of the new terror war launched by the Palestinians against Israel. It was later reaffirmed in President Bush’s Rose Garden speech in 2002. (More on this later.)

But Palestinian statehood wasn’t always viewed as a necessity. In a tweet, Michael Doran recalled that Trump’s vision is similar to the terms for peace laid out by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzcha Rabin in his final speech to the Knesset in 1995.

The ironic thing is that thinking on the peace process has evolved so much in the past 24+ years, despite the Palestinian refusal to eschew terror, negotiate directly, or recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, that Rabin’s vision would now be considered by many to be “extreme right-wing.”

Bush’s Vision

As mentioned above, Bush laid out a vision for “two states, living side by side in peace and security,” in a speech delivered in June 2002. In the speech, Bush called for “a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.”

I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

Seventeen years later, the Palestinians have fulfilled none of those conditions. Yet critics of the Trump plan remember “two states,” and are oblivious to any responsibilities the Palestinians have for peace.

The Palestinian Peace Veto

Over the past 26 years Israel has retreated from the main Palestinian population centers in the West Bank (1995) and withdrawn totally from Gaza (2005). Both of these increased the terror risk to Israel. In the meantime, the Palestinians have rejected at least three peace offers (Camp David, 2000; Clinton Parameters, 2001; Olmert-Abbas, 2008). Hamas, a genocidal terror organization, has full political and military control of Gaza. The corrupt Palestinian Authority rules much of the West Bank and incentivizes terror.

Yet the peace processors will insist that Israel must make peace — including a Palestinian state — to maintain its legitimacy. Thus the Palestinians by failing to build the institutions necessary for statehood (and refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state) hold veto power not only over peace but over Israel’s legitimacy. Under the old way of thinking what incentive do the Palestinians have to compromise for peace?

What’s in the Deal?

The deal is being described as favorable to Israel. To some that’s a bug; to others a featured. The Jerusalem Post summarized the main of the deal:

The Trump plan would allow Israel to retain about 20% of the West Bank. Israel would be called upon to cede some land in the south near Egypt’s border with Gaza. The plan also leaves open the possibility that Israel could cede the Triangle — three Arab cities in the Galilee — to a future Palestinian state, subject to negotiations between the parties.

Israel will be allowed to keep 15 communities as “enclaves” within the future Palestinian state. Israel would be responsible for their security.

Under the plan there could be a Palestinian state in four years if the Palestinians meet certain conditions. The total area of the state would encompass about 70% of the West Bank, including what is termed Areas A and B. The Post explains:

The state will only come into existence in four years if the Palestinians accept the plan, if the Palestinian Authority stops paying terrorists and inciting terrorism and if Hamas and Islamic Jihad put down their weapons. In addition, the American plan calls on the Palestinians to give up corruption, respect human rights, freedom of religion and a free press, so that they don’t have a failed state.

If the Palestinian Authority meets these conditions the United States would recognize the state and promise a massive aid package. During the four years, both sides would also be barred from beginning new construction in any part of Area C where it did not yet have a presence.

The plan would also allow for a limited number of refugees to settle in the new Palestinian state.

Also in the Post, Herb Keinon explained the importance of the map included in the plan:

The presentation of a map does not a deal make, obviously, and there is no guarantee that there will be a Palestinian state. But if there ever is one, this map shows the territory that Israel feels it can live with within the context of that state. It shows, for the first time, the territory Israel feels is vital for it to retain in a situation where it cedes land to the Palestinians to separate from them.

The map, by the way, shows that Israel would retain control over the Jordan Valley — the land just to the west of the Jordan River — which was one of the demands of Yitzchak Rabin.

Moshe Koppel, chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum, identified the key difference between the Trump plan and previous peace plans.

The demand that the Palestinians take significant steps to demonstrate their peaceful intentions prior to receiving any concessions is the key change in approach. Stability will only be achieved when the Palestinians are treated like responsible adults; the perfectly reasonable demands being made of them as prerequisites to statehood do exactly that. The fact that all of their supporters regard the expectation that the Palestinians will act like responsible adults as an unrealistic and unreasonable imposition tells us all we need to know.

Will the Trump plan bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians? It’s impossible to tell.

The Palestinians have expressed their opposition to the plan. Abbas said, “1,000 “nos” to the plan. And of course, there are violent protests.

For the Trump plan to work, the Palestinians will have to change their attitude.

Ironically, while Saudi Arabia, Qatar (!), Bahrain, United Araba Emirates, Oman, and Egypt have offered some level of support for the plan, presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and ten other Democratic senators oppose it.

Michael Makovsky had a nice thread assessing the Trump plan.

In particular, this point is important.

While there are aspects to the plan that are questionable — for example, a tunnel extending from the West Bank to Gaza and Palestinian statehood — if the Palestinians want a state, they will have to take responsibility for themselves. That is the most encouraging part of President Trump’s vision.

 

 
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