Palestinian rage, new realities and the real deal

Who said threats won’t get you anywhere?

A PALESTINIAN man in a coffee shop in Hebron uses his shoe to hit a television screen broadcasting the announcement of the peace plan by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
A PALESTINIAN man in a coffee shop in Hebron uses his shoe to hit a television screen broadcasting the announcement of the peace plan by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday
When US President Donald Trump released his “Deal of the Century” at the White House on January 28, it was a moving experience: Paradigms shifted. Although it is too early to say what else will result from this much anticipated plan, some three years in the making, the fresh approach and new paradigms are welcome. Trump changed the discourse and the diplomatic course. Gone was the “two states along 1967 borders” terminology; in was the recognition that Israel has historic, religious and cultural rights in its ancient homeland, and also has valid security needs.
Netanyahu and many on the Israeli side responded by declaring the date “historic.” The Palestinians declared a Day of Rage. It was typical. As a means of applying pressure, the Palestinians are willing to have a day of rage, or a week, or a month, year or eternity of rage, no matter how many people – Jews and Palestinians – die in the process.
Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas proclaimed “We say a thousand times: No, no and no to the ‘Deal of the Century’” and I had a flashback to PLO chief Yasser Arafat standing at the United Nations podium in 1974 giving his infamous speech: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
Who said threats won’t get you anywhere? The Palestinians were granted observer status and later were given non-member state status, which, in UN terms at least, puts it on the same level as the Vatican. The Holy See should consider that an insult.
It’s hard to sum up a document that runs to some 180 pages including all the appendices – among them the all-important map, as The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon noted. The main points indicate that Israel would be able to assume sovereignty over the areas of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley where the bulk of the Jewish communities are found but would be required to hold off expansion or building new settlements for four years; no Israelis or Palestinians would be evicted from their homes; Israel would maintain full security control of the West Bank area; Israel would retain control over a united Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, but lose some of the outlying Palestinian neighborhoods beyond the security fence such as the Shuafat refugee camp; the Palestinians would be able to establish a capital in Abu Dis, just outside eastern Jerusalem, and Trump even promised to locate the US embassy there.
Under the plan, there would ultimately be a Palestinian state that could encompass some 70% of the West Bank, with land swaps with Israel in the southern Negev. Palestinian “refugees” would not be able to move to Israel. The creation of the Palestinian state depends on certain conditions being met within a four-year period including the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state within the expanded borders; Hamas being disarmed and the PA resuming control in Gaza; the abolition of the “Pay for Slay” policy, which grants monthly payments to jailed terrorists and the families of dead terrorists; and the end of incitement to violence. Judging by the declaration of the Days of Rage, the Palestinians can’t even manage to stop encouraging violence at this stage.
The Trump plan is not perfect. I am concerned about the fate of some 15 isolated Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should they come under Palestinian control; having Palestinian towns and cities right along the future borders does not give me a sense of security and I would prefer clear linkage of the West Bank to Jordan and of Gaza to Egypt rather than a tunnel connecting the two under Israel – you can blame Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah for my fear of terror tunnels. Yet this might be the best plan that Israel could hope for.
Whenever anyone refers to the “1967 borders” what they really mean is the 1949 armistice lines. Arab countries attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973 regardless of what the borders were. It wasn’t the borders that bothered them, but Israel’s very existence.
Israel continued building the country, growing into today’s technological powerhouse by turning its need for evermore sophisticated defense systems into the basis of the so-called “Start-up Nation.” The Palestinians focused on trying to destroy Israel and preserving refugee status (and UNRWA economic support) instead of creating the groundwork for their own viable state. Hence, as analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs noted, to a certain extent for the Palestinians the Trump deal has created a situation similar to that when the Arabs had to decide whether or not to accept the UN Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947.
“The Palestinians made the mistake of rejecting the plan,” wrote Ben-Menachem. “The Palestinian refusal today to discuss the ‘Deal of the Century’ may be another historic mistake that the Palestinians will pay dearly for in the future.”
The world has changed and that includes the Arab world, emerging from the longest, hardest spring. It is noteworthy that the diplomatic envoys of Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were present at the White House ceremony and countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt did not reject the plan out of hand. They have come to recognize that Israel is not the source of all evil and – on the contrary – can provide many solutions in the war against Islamist extremists and Iran’s nuclear aspirations and support of global terrorism.
THERE ARE those who see the plan – and in particular the timing of its release – as political: aimed at deflecting attention from Netanyahu’s criminal charges and Trump’s impeachment process, winning more support for the Republican president among Evangelicals in an election year or influencing the result of the March 2 Israeli elections. When Blue and White leader Benny Gantz praised the plan, it occurred to me that Trump might be laying the foundation for another sort of peace: a national unity government after the elections.
Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh promised to work together to thwart the deal but I don’t see a situation in which Hamas allows the PA to peacefully retake control of Gaza. Given their deep mutual hatred and mistrust, if they do manage to overcome their differences and cooperate on opposing the Trump deal, it really will be worthy of the description “peace deal.”
Whatever you think of Netanyahu and Trump, the plan is not the act of politicians but of statesmen. It has vision. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called it “a serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort.” Much of the credit must go to Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner as well as former special envoy Jason Greenblatt who stepped down last year but continues to promote the diplomatic deal.
In a joint opinion piece in The Jerusalem Post on January 28, Greenblatt and former Palestinian official Bishara A. Bahbah wrote: “We are hopeful that many Palestinians will see the advantages of counting to 10 before officially reacting to the proposed peace plan and the vision it contains for both Palestinians and Israelis.” In other words, they called for a new page rather than old rage.
The “Deal of the Century” is a well-thought out plan. It’s not a hastily drawn up treaty signed with a flourish only to literally blow up within hours. Israelis no longer expect festive balloons being released into the air at a peace treaty ceremony with the Palestinians. We’d be happy if the Palestinians were to stop their new terror tactic of releasing clusters of balloons attached to explosive devices.
Sadly, instead of looking ahead to a brighter future, the Palestinian leadership seems determined to look back in anger, one day of rage after another.
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