US PRESIDENT Donald Trump.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Within a year following his election, US President Donald Trump announced that an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan was being formulated. The plan was dubbed the “Deal of the Century” for its original thought, but details were not given. Such promise elicited high expectations as many saw it as a means of hope. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reticent from the beginning.
Just as important as the proposed peace plan itself is the timing of its release. President Trump has been waiting for a period of reduced distractions to roll out his plan. While biding the time, Trump moved ahead with filling other political promises.
In February 2018, President Trump announced the US would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As expected, Palestinian reaction was negative. This move prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to declare that he would not so much as look at Trump’s proposed deal, despite the fact that Trump gave assurances, without tipping his hand, that the Palestinians would be given an equitable “good deal.” Much of the peace plan news thereafter centered on indications from Washington that both Israel and the PA would have to make tough decisions.
In the meantime, Trump’s advisers and officials crisscrossed the Middle East initiating new and closer relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states such as Egypt and Jordan.
However, in March 2018, President Trump signed the Taylor Force Act, ending aid to the PA unless it stopped using the money to fund terrorists and their families. The PA refused to stop funding terrorists. They view the issue as unfair leverage against them by the US.
Palestinian ire was once again raised in September 2018, when it was announced the US would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNWRA, over what it deemed to be a flawed education program for Palestinian school children. Teaching intolerance, violence and hate are not helpful for the advancement of peace.
As the world waited for the PA indignation to simmer down, the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 made headlines. The international implication of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman temporarily soured US-Saudi relations and, once again, halted the release of Trump’s peace plan.
Throughout the year, Netanyahu’s legal troubles for alleged corruption and bribery were going forward, leading to possible indictments against him. All the while, Netanyahu wore several hats, handling active rocket and arson attacks from Gaza, discovery of terrorist tunnels into northern Israel from Lebanon, military missions in Syria against Iranian threats, personal legal woes, and battling political opposition over internal affairs. In addition, his barely operable coalition was choked by debate over conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews into national service that continues to this day.
Finally, Israel called for new elections in December 2018, but elections were not held until April 2019. Netanyahu’s Likud Party won but, for the first time in Israel’s history, a coalition for a new government failed to materialize, and Israel now faces another election in September.
Other than a few ruffles, Europe has been strangely quiet. However, Jared Kushner, who is the president’s adviser and author of the Middle East peace plan, will soon be meeting with the EU Commission chief and foreign policy chief to discuss this plan. Clearly, there hasn’t been a suitable time to release the “Deal of the Century” peace plan, and doing so in the near future looks bleak.
In early June 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump were, for the first time, conceding that the “Deal” was not a slam-dunk event, as overall prospects for a favorable outcome were dimming. The protracted delay for release of the plan is proving to be the Achilles’ heel of the peace plan.
For Israel, nothing is lost.
Israel has been balancing the status quo with the PA for many years. Continuing its current policies will not be a significant problem above what they have been all along. By its own self-imposed recalcitrance, it appears the PA is opting for the status quo as well.
Washington is hinting that it now plans to release the peace plan in stages, starting with a summit in Bahrain later this month. Discussions will include Middle East economic boosts. Later, there will be summits on regional security issues and politics. The PA has publicly announced it will not be attending any of the summits that have anything to do with a peace plan. On the opposite side, the Israelis will attend every summit. Israel will not miss an opportunity to forge ahead in the hopes of gaining peace.
The writer is an international Christian broadcaster and journalist who also serves as Israel’s ambassador of goodwill.
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