US President Donald Trump gesticulates as he returns from a trip to trip to Annapolis, Maryland, in Washington, US, May 25, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)
On the heels of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump is sending his peace team to the Middle East next week to begin planning the long-anticipated rollout of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
It seems that the plan’s unveiling is coming soon.
This should not be a surprise. Shortly after winning the election in 2016, Trump announced that he had his eye set on negotiating a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or as he referred to it, the “ultimate deal”.
The plan seems to have been completed already some months ago but the president and the team charged with this issue – Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Ambassador David Friedman and Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt – have been debating the right time and method for rolling it out. Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington Bureau Chief, reported Friday that the team has been in disagreement about the right time to roll out the plan. Kushner, it seems, wants the plan expedited.
Friedman has been lobbying for a delay.
“You can’t put something out where everybody says, ‘Ah, this is dead on arrival,’” one senior administration official told Wilner. “You can’t do that. And the same exact document that may be dead on arrival on a Monday might not be dead on arrival on a Thursday. That sounds kind of counterintuitive, but that’s the way this works.”
We question the administration’s intention in rolling out the plan to begin with. Palestinian confidence in Trump and his team appears beyond repair and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be unlikely to sign up to a peace deal that requires him to make unpopular concessions and security risks with the possibility of elections around the corner. That would not bode well for Netanyahu who is now seeing a rise in popularity.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the man who has called Friedman the “son of a dog” and for Trump’s “house to be destroyed”, has proven numerous times in recent years that he is not sincere about making a peace deal. Some senior members of Trump’s inner circle question the chance of a deal this time as well. So the question begs to be asked – why bother? We would add another word of caution. Violence between Israel and the Palestinians has been known to break out after peace talks fall apart. This is what happened in 2000 with the eruption of the Second Intifada after the failed Camp David talks and what might have happened in 2015 with the round of stabbings that came on the heels of the breakdown in the talks brokered by former secretary of state John Kerry. While this is not the only reason for violence, it does seem that peace talks create hope but that when that hope is shattered, violence erupts.
The value of rolling out the plan may be in the details.
If, for example, the peace deal removes the possibility of an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 lines as advocated by Kerry, accepts an indefinite Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley and does not call for the evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, this could be advantageous for Israel since it would move the goal post on these issues for future administrations that will try to broker a deal once the possibility of peace becomes truly viable.
For Israel, and possibly the ultimate objective of achieving peace, this would be beneficial. For far too long the Palestinians have lived in an illusion that their intransigence will pay off. They have believed that they can sit and wait for the world to do the work for them. Instead of true economic, educational and social reforms, the Palestinians have invested their efforts in delegitimizing Israel and achieving small wins like getting Lionel Messi to cancel a friendly soccer match in Israel. That is not the way to make peace.
Trump has changed that. He has not blindly taken the Palestinian side. He has moved the embassy to Jerusalem and has a declared policy of support for Israel, as seen on display this week once again at the United Nations.
Before rolling out the plan, Trump and his team need to ask themselves the most important question of all – what is their real purpose? Their answer will determine what might be the best course of action.
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