WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump’s peace plan may not actually bring peace, but it could herald major change in the region by giving Israel a green light not only to apply sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank, but to do it now.When the news came out last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were invited to the White House to be presented with Trump’s peace plan, jokes abounded on social media about Trump making historic peace between the two candidates.Caught on camera during his morning run, Gantz said, “Of course there will be peace. We’ll make sure of it.”But really, it doesn’t seem that way. You need two sides to make peace.The “Deal of the Century” is supposed to be between Israel and the Palestinians. But the Palestinians are nowhere to be found around the White House this week.“Plan” by itself, or maybe “diplomatic plan,” would be a better way to describe what Trump will be presenting on Tuesday at noon.Of course, “diplomatic plan” is a much less exciting turn of phrase than the long-hoped-for “peace” or the much-vaunted “Deal of the Century.” But that does not mean it doesn’t have the potential to have a massive impact on the sides involved.If only one of the two sides – Israel – is playing along, then the plan is a green light for Israel to make unilateral moves in enacting its portion. Netanyahu keeps using the word “historic” for a reason. This plan makes it possible for him and Trump to make history in a matter of days.
In fact, Trump and his team have been pushing for Israel to start putting the plan into action even before the March 2 election.That means, as has been widely been reported, Israel can apply sovereignty to all of its settlements in Judea and Samaria in the broadest meaning, going beyond municipal borders to the areas seized for military use.Israel can do that with a cabinet decision; a vote in the Knesset would be an additional stamp of approval, but not a necessary one. That means as soon as Netanyahu is back in Israel he could call a vote in the cabinet, and he would have no problem getting majority approval for the move.Perhaps it won’t be all of the West Bank at once, for security reasons. It could be Ma’aleh Adumim first, or the Jordan Valley, which has been in the Right’s sights in recent months.Gantz’s invitation to Washington was so that Trump can get him on board with the plan as well.So while there may be legal challenges to annexation done by a third-time interim government, there will likely also be the defense that this has the support of more than three-fourths of the Knesset. There are, of course, many other questions for Netanyahu to consider about the first steps of this plan, such as whether it will make prosecution by the International Criminal Court more likely, or whether Israel will face problems – or even sanctions – from Russia, China, the EU and others, who do not support annexation, or even if a president facing an impeachment trial and a tough reelection race is the right one to lean on for such a radical change.The message from those close to Netanyahu is that America alone is enough.“The idea that if we try to make the world like us we’ll get something out of it hasn’t worked. Israel needs America’s backing to do the things necessary for our security,” a source close to Netanyahu said this week.With America’s imprimatur expected on Tuesday, it’s Netanyahu’s turn. If he makes a move and decides to apply Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, as he has been promising to do for months, then Trump’s plan will take effect even if it’s not a peace deal.
PM Netanyahu and President Trump meet at the White House (video credit: GPO)