The Trump Plan: How Israel Should Respond

There is no doubt that this plan is the best one Israel has ever been offered.

US President Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
US President Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
President Trump’s announcement of his plan promises to dramatically change the nature of the relationship between Israel and its neighbors. Although the details of the plan require further study, the main outlines are already clear.
The United States will recognize Israeli sovereignty over major portions of Judea and Samaria, including all Israeli cities and neighborhoods and the entire Jordan Valley. In areas that have been under Israeli civilian control (Area C) but in which Israel has not built, no construction will be allowed by either side. Israel alone will be responsible for security for all territory west of the Jordan River. The Palestinians will be offered a pathway to statehood, conditional on satisfying a number of conditions – recognizing Israel as a Jewish state with its capital in Jerusalem, disarming Hamas, stopping payments to terrorists, eliminating hateful indoctrination and incitement in schools, and so on.
President Trump, Ambassador Friedman, and envoys Jarred Kushner and Jason Greenblatt deserve the gratitude of the Israeli public for charting a new and more promising direction toward stability in the region. All previous attempts to bring peace to the region were based on the absurd idea that peace could be made with those who don’t seek peace.
The demand that the Palestinians take significant steps to demonstrate their peaceful intentions prior to receiving any concessions is the key change in approach. Stability will only be achieved when the Palestinians are treated like responsible adults; the perfectly reasonable demands being made of them as prerequisites to statehood do exactly that. The fact that all of their supporters regard the expectation that the Palestinians will act like responsible adults as an unrealistic and unreasonable imposition tells us all we need to know.
Israeli security control over the entire area of Judea and Samaria and recognized sovereignty over significant portions of it are also crucial for regional stability. Establishing Israeli permanence in these areas facilitates the necessary massive investment in infrastructure and industry for advancing the prosperity of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Nevertheless, the plan is not without risks that must be addressed. The main problem is that Israeli acceptance of the plan can be misinterpreted as acceptance, in principle, of a future Palestinian state. It is true that the plan foresees a Palestinian state only after a list of conditions is fulfilled – and these conditions are unlikely to ever be fulfilled. Moreover, the state that is foreseen by the plan will have no more authority than the Palestinian Authority – essentially a municipal government – has now. Nevertheless, past experience indicates that such conditional and limited recognition could potentially take on a dynamic of its own and the conditions and limitations could easily be forgotten or swept under the rug by governments less friendly to Israel – including future American administrations. It is therefore crucial that these conditions and limitations be firmly locked in.
How, then, should Israel respond? Given the opportunities and risks, Israel should respond favorably to the plan while taking appropriate action to maximize the plan’s benefits and to mitigate its risks. The response should include the following elements:
-Israel should thank the Trump administration for its efforts and creativity and accept the plan in principle as a basis for continued discussions with the United States regarding details.
-Israel should extend its sovereignty to all the areas in which, according to the plan, the United States has agreed to recognize Israeli sovereignty. This should be done by cabinet decision immediately upon signing, even prior to Israeli elections. Knesset approval of the decision is not required by law, but can be considered. Failure to move boldly on extending sovereignty would be perceived as a loss of nerve with long-term repercussions and would almost certainly, and deservedly, cause the Prime Minister grave electoral damage. 
-Israel must make clear that its acceptance of the plan does not constitute recognition of a Palestinian state or the right to such a state, but rather is predicated on the obvious fact that the Palestinians are not anywhere close to satisfying the conditions set down for such a state.
-Israel is agreeing to this plan because of its trust in this particular American administration. Consequently, it should be agreed by Israel and the United States that Palestinian progress towards satisfying the conditions will be reviewed within several months. If it is found that no progress has been made, Israel will, in coordination with the Trump administration, extend its sovereignty to further areas of Judea and Samaria that are required for its long-term security.
-Israel has been negligent in acting against illegal Palestinian construction in Area C. Now that the United States itself has called for a freeze on Palestinian construction in all of Area C, Israel must enforce this freeze strictly and completely.
-Israel should ask the administration to anchor the plan in a binding agreement with Israel so that the conditions for Palestinian statehood could not be easily reversed or ignored by subsequent administrations.
In short, there is no doubt that this plan is the best one Israel has ever been offered. It is based upon a more realistic understanding of the motivations of the various actors in the region. Nevertheless, despite all good intentions, it could play out poorly under future administrations – leading inadvertently to a hostile Palestinian state on Israel’s doorstep. Thus, Israel must accept the plan as a foundation for continued discussions with the United States, while at the same time moving decisively to maximally assert its own interests and to head off potential abuse of the plan. If the Israeli government responds with appropriate wisdom and courage, the Trump Plan could very well prove to be a historic turning point.
Moshe Koppel is chairman of the Kohelet Policy Forum.