Hold the plan

By
September 21, 2019 21:23
3 minute read.
Hold the plan

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in March. (photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)

The results of the election in Israel last week has some interesting implications regarding the peace process and US President Donald Trump’s ‘deal of the century.’

With neither Blue & White nor the Likud in possession of a clear path to form a coalition and both sides seemingly unwilling to be the junior partner in a national unity government, it’s likely to take all of the six-week period allotted to negotiations for the party chosen by President Reuven Rivlin to form the coalition. And if that doesn’t result in a coalition, then another 28 days is allotted to the next party Rivlin chooses, based on recommendations of all the parties in the Knesset.

With all the holidays in between, we’re looking at December and the likelihood that there still won’t be a governing coalition in Israel. And if the end result is yet another vote to go to elections, which all sides proclaim will not happen, then it takes us well in to 2020.

Where does that leave the US peace plan? Years in the making, the plan has been an enigma, looked at warily by Israel and dismissed out of hand by the Palestinians. To many, it seems like a non-starter that will meet the fate of all of the previous US-led efforts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to use the plan as part of his campaign, saying in the final days that it would be released within days of Tuesday’s election, and intimating that only he would have the clout, due to his close personal relationship with Trump, to push back on elements that would not be perceived to be in Israel’s interests.

Now, with the election behind us, some analysts have speculated that the administration will roll out its plan soon to try and push the candidates together into a unity government.

However, Greenblatt, in an interview last week with Hamodia, said that it wasn’t clear if the plan would be released, and The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported that there are voices within the administration saying that the plan will not be released until after a government is formed.

Greenblatt is back in Israel now, ostensibly to attend the wedding of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s daughter. He met on Friday with Netanyahu, and is expected to hold a similar meeting with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

Hopefully, they will both be courtesy calls and refrain from substantive issues pertaining to the peace plan. The US should wait until Israel’s next government is in place before it rolls out the plan. It should let its ally go through the democratic process of choosing its leadership without the urgency of having to respond to the challenges that the publication of a far-reaching peace plan would raise.

Trump, to his credit, reacted with rare restraint when asked last week about Israel’s election results.

“The relations are between our countries,” he said, implying that the special US-Israel relationship goes beyond himself and Netanyahu.

While some pundits considered that as giving Netanyahu the cold shoulder, it was the correct statement to make from an ally, showing what most people already know – the ties between Israel and the US transcend their leaders, they are between the peoples and don’t depend on one prime minister or one president.

Even though holding off the publication of the plan will push it deep into the US presidential campaigning period, and likely detract from Trump’s interest or involvement in its implementation, it’s a course that needs to be taken.

No matter whether Netanyahu or Gantz, or some surprise candidate, forms the next government, it is unlikely for us to see a major shift in Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinian issue. Gantz is as security minded as Netanyahu, and the Israeli reaction to the peace plan’s thorny elements won’t veer sharply no matter who’s in power.

The  coalition negotiations are going to focus on a myriad of topics, but peace with the Palestinians is not going to be at the top of the list. The US will be wise to let those negotiations take place without the extra element of the ‘deal of the century’ to contend with.


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