President Donald Trump passes his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during a Hanukkah Reception at the White House.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
With Israel’s elections behind us, Israelis and Palestinians alike are bracing themselves for the imminent publication of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, reportedly this coming June.
Trump’s adviser, Jared Kushner, was quoted as saying that “the plan will require concessions from both sides, but won’t jeopardize the security of Israel.” This statement should not deter Palestinians, but should bring them back on board. Why would the Trump administration promote a plan that compromises the safety of Israelis? It also reassures Palestinians that it is not one-sided: the Americans will clearly be demanding something from Israelis. An agreement is inherently a trade-off.
If the Palestinians are so concerned that their interests won’t be considered within the framework of the deal, how does boycotting the process further their cause? They should be fighting their way into getting as much as they can out of it, rather than pulling out of talks before they’ve begun.
If, for instance, the Palestinians demand clauses that enshrine international investment into their crumbling economy, this would be to their benefit. If, for instance, the Palestinians use the deal to recruit more funding for education of their youth – severely depleted over the past year – this would be to their benefit. If, for instance, the Palestinians would actually cooperate, their cause would return to the agenda of the Arab states, who have recently lost interest in them after seven decades, again, to their benefit. One might ask – what possible reason do the Palestinians have to avoid a deal that outweighs these benefits?
Does it mean they are giving up on the dream of Palestine from the river to the sea? Probably. But it’s about time someone brought them back into the real world, a place where they have apparently unable to arrive at alone after years of indoctrination by groups such as UNRWA.
It is also not a given that the Israelis will jump right in just because the Trump administration has seemingly been more favorable to Israel up until now. Perhaps the concessions they will be asked to make are too difficult, and we do not yet know whether steps will be accepted by the incoming government.
The steps Americans have taken in the past year are not evidence of a favoritism towards Israel. The have only wiped a dirty slate clean. For years, Israelis have heard nothing but the necessity of preconditions for just entering talks. Any student of negotiations knows that one does not enter them by giving something up in advance. And what have Palestinians had to do? Renounce terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist. Wow, thank you very much.
Though grateful, all the Trump administration has done has been to reset the scales and recognize some truths that Israelis already hold, truths that are independent of the peace process with the Palestinians, such as the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
While each side might not immediately agree with the plan’s components, we have an obligation to listen. Change is gradual, and processes take time. The steps that will be raised are likely to be incremental, as are most of the solutions Israelis in the field have been offering over the past few years. Nobody is expecting an overnight solution, and it is exactly this kind of process that can allow each side – including international parties investing in it – to examine the viability of each stride taken.
At the end of the day, sides cannot be forced into an agreement. Rather than reaching a stage of ripeness, which one would assume should arise after a century of bloodshed, the conflict has become more intractable. The ebb and flow of terrorism campaigns launched against Israelis who have known no other reality, and the institutionalized incitement to commit these evil acts of violence grouped with the Palestinians’ desperation that comes from a lack of motivation to improve their lives, has brought the sides further away from an agreed-upon solution than ever before. The use of “armed resistance” against Israelis is supported by 47% of Palestinians, up more than 10% in the last half-decade, according to leading pollster Dr. Khalil Shikaki.
In conflict resolution, the theory of ripeness demands two things: a mutually hurting stalemate and a solution. What the Trump administration has recognized is that, while the first condition does not currently exist, it may be able to provide the second. That said, it might get a lot worse on this end of the world before it gets better, but what our friends in America are offering, is perhaps a way out.The writer is a senior fellow and head of International Press at The Israel Project. She has an MA in Conflict Resolution & Mediation from Tel Aviv University.
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