Will Donald Trump's Deal of the Century succeed where others have failed?

Trump’s message to both: “You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it,”

US President Donald Trump addresses a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on January 24 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump addresses a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on January 24
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The impact of President Donald Trump’s dramatic decision in late January to unveil the US Middle East peace plan remains to be seen, but it succeeded overnight in changing the focus of the Israeli election campaign.
Out went the incessant talk surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to receive Knesset immunity ahead of his corruption trial, replaced by analysis of the US plan and the possibility of Netanyahu’s outgoing caretaker government extending sovereignty to West Bank settlements and annexation of the Jordan Valley.
Both the prime minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz flew to Washington for separate talks with Trump before the details of the long-awaited peace plan, dubbed the Deal of the Century, were released.
A US official quoted by Reuters said Trump wanted to know that both Netanyahu and Gantz were on board with the plan before announcing it.
Trump’s message to both: “You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it,” the official told Reuters.
Before departing for Washington, Netanyahu declared his intention to make history, declaring that the peace plan was a historic opportunity that Israel cannot miss.
“We have the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, and therefore, we have the best opportunity we ever had,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said he had been talking about the plan for three years with members of the US team who had drafted the document, stressing Israel’s vital security needs that should be taken into account.
“I found that the White House was willing to listen to those needs. Therefore, I am full of hope that we are before a historic moment in the history of our country,” he stated.
Such an opportunity “to secure Israel’s future” will not come again, Netanyahu warned.
A US official said the decision to hold discussions with both Netanyahu and Gantz was aimed at defusing any suggestion that Trump might be favoring one Israeli candidate over another ahead of Israel’s March 2 elections.
For his part, Gantz welcomed the outlines of the peace plan but warned of difficulties ahead.
“The proposal is destined to create large and painful internal disagreements among us. I pledge to reduce the disagreement to the minimum, but to act so that the plan can be the basis for progress towards an agreed-to arrangement with the Palestinians and with countries in the region, along with continued and deeper strategic partnership with Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region,” Gantz said. “I can say that the Deal of the Century that was conceived of by President Trump will be recorded in the annals of history as a significant milestone that defines the path down which the various parties to the conflict in the Middle East can walk to an historic regional agreement.”
Gantz stressed that immediately after the Washington meeting, he would “return to Israel in order to lead, from up close, the discussions on removing Benjamin Netanyahu’s immunity.”
The peace plan was drawn up by Donald Trump’s former special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Ahead of the release of details of the plan, Israeli media called it “the most generous offer” ever made to Israel. It will reportedly allow Israel to extend sovereignty to Jewish settlements and to annex the strategically important Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, comprising about 30 percent of the entire West Bank.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said, sardonically, that the prime minister wasn’t traveling to the US but was “running away.” He noted that the day the plan was due to be unveiled was the same day scheduled for the start of Knesset deliberations on removing Netanyahu’s immunity, and the timing was no coincidence.
“To unveil such a plan five weeks before an election is very suspicious,” Liberman said. “The very timing of it will prevent any serious, in-depth discussion of the proposal.” And in a peace plan, he added, “every word and every line counts.”
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett urged the interim government to act quickly and approve in early February a plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank.
“The most important mission is to apply sovereignty,” Bennett told a press conference held in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. “Annex, we’ll support. Don’t annex — we’ll oppose. If this whole event ends without applying sovereignty now, before the elections, with the American tailwind, then this won’t be the Deal of the Century, but the missed opportunity of the century.”
The Palestinians made it clear that the Trump administration proposals were a non-starter as far as they are concerned. Relations between the Palestinians and Washington hit rock bottom when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the end of 2017 and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem the following year.
Senior Palestinian Authority officials said that European and Arab states have pledged not to support the US plan. The Palestinian officials stressed that the US peace initiative had no value without international recognition and was an invalid agreement between two friends – the United States and Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Israel and the US not to cross any “red lines.” Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, suggested the Palestinians could dissolve the PA.
“The leadership will hold a series of meetings on all levels – including the factions and organizations – to announce its total rejection of conceding Jerusalem,” he said.
Calling for a series of protests to foil the “Zionist-American conspiracy,” Palestinian officials warned that the peace plan would spark a new wave of mass protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said what the Trump administration has done so far and the full partnership with Netanyahu will enter history as the ‘fraud of the century’ against international law, UN resolutions, and the terms of reference of the peace process.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denounced the plan as a “Zionist-American plot to liquidate the Palestinian issue.” He called on the Palestinian Authority leadership to respond with a series of measures, including halting security coordination with Israel in the West Bank.
Jordan also made clear its opposition to the plan. “Our position regarding the plan is very clear: We are opposed to it,” said Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned that Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would spell the death of the two-state solution and terminate all opportunities to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
Despite the fanfare surrounding the launch of the peace plan it was clear, in the short term at least, that a genuine dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at ending the conflict remains a pipedream. 
According to Israeli sources, the Trump administration will not allow the sides to pick and choose elements of the peace plan – it’s all or nothing. Washington will support and encourage a side that endorses the plan in full. The side that refuses to do so is liable to pay a high price.