US PRESIDENT Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they pose in the Rose Garden at the White House this week.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
Even before the Trump administration reveals the peace plan it has been working on for the past two years, which is referred to as the “Deal of the Century,” it can already be argued that given the current geopolitics in the region, it is doomed to fail.
On Israel’s side, there are two significant obstacles to making any real progress. The first of these, of course, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment that includes one count of bribery and three counts of breach of trust. Despite these serious allegations, Netanyahu has proven to maintain public support in the April 9 general elections that earned him his fifth term in office.
But when it comes to negotiating a peace plan, he is unlikely to have the public consensus needed. While these allegations are present, he will have a harder time convincing different sectors of the population that he has the authority to make decisions in this matter.
The second obstacle in the advancement of any peace plan at the moment is Netanyahu’s expected coalition partners, that include far-right religious parties such as the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP), which AIPAC referred to as racist and reprehensible. Such parties are against the dismantlement of any settlements and go as far as advocating for the mass transfer of the Arab population and rebuilding the Third Temple where the Dome of the Rock stands today. Reaching an agreement with their approval is nearly impossible.
If this wasn’t complicating things enough, the Palestinian side is also far from being in a place to make any progress in a peace deal. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected in 2005 for a four-year-term, is currently going on his 14th year. Abbas, now nearly 85, is facing recurring health problems. Ultimately, he does not hold the necessary political support of the Palestinian people to make any significant decisions such as accepting a peace plan.
Moreover, President Abbas has referred to Trump’s peace plan as the “slap of the century,” and has expressed his lack of trust in Trump’s administration, mainly following many changes including transferring the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and cutting aid to the PA. Given this reality, the PLO has refused to meet with any representatives for the international negotiation for over a year, therefore making an advantageous deal by the Palestinians doubtful.
Even within Palestinian society, there is a great divide. Currently, the PLO only controls the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. At present, the relations between Hamas and the PLO are broken as a result of, among other things, the refusal of Hamas to accept any previous deals done with Israel. This reality poses the question of whether the agreement will include both territories or only the West Bank. If the case is the former, it means the United States will have to be willing to negotiate with Hamas, recognized by them as a terrorist organization which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. If the case is the latter, no realistic and long-lasting peace deal can be achieved, as even within the West Bank, Hamas enjoys increasing support.
Lastly, and no less important, is the fact that at present, there are no significant local grassroots movements lead by the citizens of either side. Too many foreign organizations claim to be promoting a solution for the conflict, while on the ground, where it really matters, the effect is usually the complete opposite. An example of such is the BDS movement, who claim to support the Palestinian cause but as a result of their activity, 500 Palestinian workers lost their job with the closing of the SodaStream factory.
All the good intentions and time the Trump administration has invested towards this issue are likely to fail not because the ideas are inherently bad, but rather due to the inherent unstable geopolitical situation of the two key players at the moment. Leveraging the support of countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia is the most likely the right path to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, before these two parties initiate any form of negotiation on the more difficult issues, one should work to create an adequate field where any agreement reached will have the necessary political support from the citizens of both sides that can guarantee a lasting peace.
The writer is a former Knesset intern and currently studies political science, diplomacy and leadership in the Argov fellowship at IDC Herzliya.
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