Mahmoud Abbas (L), Jared Kushner (C) and Benjamin Netanyahu (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS & MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration now believes it has a window of just a year to roll out its plans for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, after Israel’s elections in April and before the launch of the US 2020 presidential campaign the following summer.
According to three senior aides, US President Donald Trump’s peace team is negotiating out a timetable for the release of their plan that calibrates with these election markers and also provides a substantial runway for negotiations, should the plan take off.
That has led some in the administration to consider releasing the plan as soon as possible after Israelis vote on April 9.
Their short timetable might conflict with efforts in Israel to form a governing coalition right after voting– a process that could take several weeks. US officials declined to comment as to whether that process would affect their launch of the peace plan.
“Longer is not our friend,” one senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. “It is hard for us to imagine a set of circumstances where the plan is never released. We have every intention of releasing it.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Tuesday that the administration plans on waiting until after Israelis go to the polls
to launch the initiative. He also said the peace team has begun laying the appropriate groundwork for negotiations, sharing “elements” of the plan to regional partners.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who is leading the peace team, will be a public face of the effort while also leading the private push for a resumption of talks. He then reportedly plans on being involved in Trump’s reelection bid once the general campaign enters full swing in the spring of 2020.
Kushner does not believe that the election timeline will impact the White House peace process – or his role in it – largely due to the expected length of the Democratic primary. But the Democrats will have a nominee by May 2020, ahead of the party conventions in July and August, providing him and the team with a definite timetable for their peace efforts.
And they are aware that these negotiations take time. During the last US peace push, under Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013 and 2014, the Obama administration proposed a 10-month timetable for talks – and spent the entire time wrestling both sides to the negotiating table, to no avail.
White House aides doubt they will share Kerry's patience. They expect the Israelis to come to the table swiftly, and hope the Palestinians will see merit in the plan with regional encouragement – but understand that certain elements are likely to aggravate both sides.
They are also relying on the election of an Israeli government that is supportive of a two-state paradigm.
“The Israelis do risk more, and may not need it, but we think when they weigh the pros and cons they will want to work with this plan,” one official said. “They should not just think about the current situation but the future as well.”