The White House is likely to delay the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan now that Israel has gone back to elections, according to an article published over the weekend by the New York Times.
White House correspondent Mark Landler claims that the expected “Deal of the Century” is at a "crossroads" due to the failed coalition talks in Israel last week, which on Wednesday night spun the Jewish state into a second round of elections in one year.
According to the report, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in Jerusalem to discuss the status of the plan. The Times purports that Kushner is likely now proposing a "longer timetable and a narrower diplomatic mission."
"Rather than make concessions to the Palestinians, Mr. Kushner will be under pressure to tilt the plan ever further in Israel’s favor," Landler wrote. "Far from being a bold effort to break decades of enmity between the two sides, it could end up becoming a vehicle to resurrect Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes and to protect Mr. Trump’s."
Kushner has claimed in the past that the peace plan will not include the creation of a Palestinian state, veering away from decades of American policy, Landler exclaimed.
The correspondent, who has been with the Times for 24 years, said that the White House is expected to wait to reveal the political portion of the Middle East peace plan now until after Israel's second election, which will only take place on September 17.
"But that timing has grown increasingly problematic,” he continued. “Any new Israeli coalition probably would not be formed until at least October, which would delay the announcement of a Trump plan until November, uncomfortably close to the first primaries of the 2020 election in the United States.”
Landler explains that Trump might be worried about "alienating" pro-Israel and evangelical voters or donors, so "therefore, the political calculus will argue for a plan that makes as few demands of Israel as possible.”
Landler quoted former American ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk as saying that, “To get Netanyahu re-elected, Trump is clearly now willing to take instructions from him. I believe Netanyahu will return the favor by arguing forcefully to American Jews and evangelical voters that they should vote for Trump because he’s the best friend Israel has ever had.”
Landler said that following the failed coalition, Trump "did nothing to disguise his disappointment."
“It looked like a total win for Netanyahu, who’s a great guy,” Trump said. “That is too bad. Because they don’t need this. I mean they’ve got enough turmoil over there. It’s a tough place.”
The economic portion of the peace plan that was scheduled to be presented in Bahrain at the end of this June has been expected to be rejected by the Palestinians as well as many other Arab nations. Moreover, although the author explains the political climate is likely to get any less tumultuous in September, the fact that the United States elections are scheduled for that time, might create a whole new round of considerations as Trump prepares for his re-election bid.
While very little is really known about the Mideast peace framework that the Trump administration has been working on for the last two years, one of the basic assumptions has been that it is written in a document that will be presented at the right time.
That assumption was based on comments some of the architects of the plan – Trump’s senior advisor Kushner and the president’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt – have made.
Earlier in May, at an event sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Kushner spoke repeatedly of a “document.”
“What we’ve put together over the last year is, I would say, more of an in-depth operational document that shows what we think is possible and how the people can live together, how security could work, how interaction can work and really how do you try to form the outline of what a brighter future could be,” Kushner said at the time.
He also said in more than one public appearance that the plan would be presented after Ramadan, which ends on June 4, leaving the impression that there would be a single plan that would be rolled out on a specific date.
Greenblatt also left that impression in public comments he made.
It came as somewhat of a surprise, therefore, that when the White House finally announced something concrete about the plan on Sunday, it was the convening of an “economic workshop” in Bahrain to get countries and businessmen from around the world to invest in the peace deal – a type of donor conference on steroids to raise tens of billions of dollars to benefit the Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and Lebanese economies.
The apparent aim is to use this money – the goal is a reported $68 billion – to convince the Palestinians and other countries in the region that it is worth making compromises for peace, because those compromises will lead to a fundamental improvement in economies throughout the region.
That there would be a massive economic component to this plan was never a secret. But what was surprising was that the two elements – the political and the economic – would be separated in both time and place.
Now that this is apparently the way the plan will be rolled out gives the impression that this is a last minute shift of tactics – an audible, to use an American football metaphor, at the line of scrimmage. It seems an attempt by the Trump administration, which has been talking in broad terms about the plan for so long, to finally present something, though it is neither convinced nor confident that the timing is right to present everything, specifically its views on how to solve the core issues, on which Landler and many other experts agree.
The Jerusalem Post previously reported senior officials saying that the plan was not set in stone, and that it was being tweaked and evaluated in light of the realities on the ground. According to these officials, the plan was being adjusted as new information came in from various quarters.
Deciding to first present the “economic peace” part of the package, and only later – at a still undetermined time – lay out the political component is no small tweak, a sign that the signals the administration was picking up from the ground against presenting the political part of the plan at this time must have been very strong.
However, as Lander contends, after coalition talks failed, it is now unclear if the plan will be released on time or if the same plan will even be presented.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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