What happens to the Trump peace plan if he loses in November - Analysis
The next president could reverse parts of the plan, but it would not be without significant political battles.
By HERB KEINON
While US President Donald Trump’s peace deal may have earned support this week from both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Blue and White rival Benny Gantz – no small feat – it did not have the same effect on Trump’s own political opponents in the US.Within hours of the dramatic unveiling of the plan in the White House’s East Room, a ceremony during which Netanyahu proclaimed that Trump is by far the best US president Israel has ever had in the White House, all of the Democratic presidential contenders sounded off on the plan.And, no surprise, none of them liked it much.The reactions ranged from former vice president Joe Biden – who tweeted that the plan was a “political stunt that could spark unilateral moves to annex territory and set back peace even more” – to Elizabeth Warren, whose response was even tougher.“Trump’s ‘peace plan’ is a rubber stamp for annexation and offers no chance for a real Palestinian state,” she tweeted. “Releasing a plan without negotiating with Palestinians isn’t diplomacy, it’s a sham. I will oppose unilateral annexation in any form – and reverse any policy that supports it.”Bernie Sanders echoed her sentiments, and candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar came out against it. Even former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who at least said that it was “good” that Trump’s plan affirmed a two-state solution, then went on to blast him for hurting “the US’s position as an effective broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”Considering those reactions, and with no guarantee that Trump will be voted back into office in November, what good is the plan and the promises held therein, if it is possible that someone new will move into the White House in January and try to overturn it? Or, the flip side of the same question, should Israel wait until after the US elections in November, not only the upcoming balloting here in March, before beginning implementation?For what would happen if Israel now goes ahead and annexes the Jordan Valley and extends its sovereignty over the settlements, only to watch as a President Warren or President Sanders sweeps into office and wants to reverse it? Then Israel would find itself not in a situation of peace and harmony with the resident of the White House, as is the case now, but rather in a state of open confrontation over a highly contentious issue.Why risk that? Why not just wait a few months before taking any action?The main reason, according to a senior US official, is that Israel cannot determine its policy based on “what if” concerns regarding who will win the US election in November.Jerusalem, the official said, would be ill advised to make decisions that affect it deeply based on wanting to be well received by Warren or Sanders if they win. Israel cannot determine how other countries respond or react; it can control only what it does – make the decisions it feels are best for it – and then deal with the geopolitical fallout when it happens as best it can.“It’s like an investor,” the official said. “Saying that Israel should wait to take action until it sees who wins in November is like someone saying that he will not invest in a company unless there is 100% certainty that he will make a 20% return on his money.“Then, guess what? you’ll never make an investment, because nobody guarantees 20%,” he said. “You take risks – educated, calculated risks that you think will get you where you want to go. You make the investment and hope you will do well.”Warren and Sanders have both said that they would consider using the $3.8 billion in military aid the US gives to Israel each year as leverage with Jerusalem, so one thing is certain if they win: the kind of plan that Trump rolled out Tuesday night – where Israel’s security concerns are addressed, Jerusalem inside the security fence remains undivided, Israel is not called upon to absorb any Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem is given a green light to extend its sovereignty over the settlements – won’t be on the table.While Warren may try to reverse any annexation that Israel may carry out under the plan, there are certain elements of the plan that will be difficult to reverse, such as the milestones that the Palestinians will need to meet before getting a state.Under the plan, the Palestinians may get US recognition of a state if they accept the plan and take a number of steps toward good governance, such as disarming Hamas, stop paying terrorists in Israeli jails, stop inciting to terrorism, stop rampant corruption, and enable basic freedoms, such as freedom of religion and freedom of the press.Over the years, there has been much talk of a Palestinian state, and less talk about what needs to happen internally in the Palestinian Authority before that happens. This plan bakes those conditions into eventual recognition of a Palestinian state, and it will be difficult for any administration – even Warren’s or Sanders’s – to come along and remove those conditions and say a Palestinian state can come into existence even if Hamas is not disarmed and payments to terrorists and their families do not stop.Regarding Warren’s promises to reverse any decision to annex settlements, while this could be done, there would surely be pushback, as Israel would argue that this was done as part of a plan under which it agreed to the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.“Wait a minute,” Israel could say. “Extending sovereignty to the settlements was the basis upon which we agreed to a Palestinian state. If you reverse the decision, it will be you – not us – killing the prospects of Palestinian statehood.”The next president could reverse parts of the plan, but it would not be without significant political battles.
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