The Trump plan, political wisdom and double standards – opinion

After having rejected the peace plan, the Palestinian leadership and the international community cannot, with clean hands, condemn Israel for declaring its aims to apply parts of the plan.

WILL THE peace plan work? (photo credit: REUTERS)
WILL THE peace plan work?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The long awaited Trump peace plan introduced in Washington on January 28, 2020 has thrown the Middle East and the international community into a maze of confusion, conflicting declarations and intense discussion as to its meaning and mode of implementation.
Regrettably, even before its conception, the peace plan was plagued by obstinate refusal of the Palestinian leadership to cooperate in its development and formulation. Their subsequent refusal to accept or even to consider it, despite the considerable political, economic and financial benefits that it proffered to the Palestinians threatens to undermine any possible return to a genuine mode of bona fide negotiation.
This refusal emanated from an acute sense of betrayal felt by the Palestinian leadership, principally following President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, and his decision to locate the US Israel embassy in Jerusalem. It also was the result of deep personal enmity by Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PLO, to Trump, to the point of serious and most undiplomatic public insults voiced by Abbas against him.
Palestinian principled opposition to, and practical obstruction of a realistic attempt to reopen the impasse in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, even before they were aware of the contents of the plan, represents a serious, ill-advised mistake on the part of the Palestinian leadership. This especially so since their opposition to the plan has never been based on any substantive reasoning or analysis of its content, but more on personal pique and animosity.
Principally, such refusal undermines the underlying principle and commitment by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in the name of the Palestinian people, in his September 9, 1993 letter to Israel prime minister Yitzhak Rabin according to which:
“The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.”
After the failure of several peace proposals submitted during the years, one might have expected that a modicum of political wisdom, good sense and public responsibility on the part of the Palestinian leadership, would at least have generated a will to cooperate and consider the new plan and even view it as a basis for negotiation, rather than rejecting it outright.
Clearly, normal political wisdom should have guided the Palestinian leadership in welcoming the opportunity to enter into bona fide negotiation, without any obligation or pressure to accept anything against their will.
Logically, considering the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute in international politics, and after the extensive effort by the US peace team to propose a basis for negotiating a wide platform for a two-state solution, with peaceful relations and economic development, such abject Palestinian refusal should logically have generated considerable international condemnation of the Palestinian leadership.
Even more curious and regrettable is the fact that international community organs such as the United Nations and the European Union, international leaders and the international media remained silent and refrained from criticizing or condemning the Palestinian refusal to cooperate in a plan intended to restore peace negotiations. To the contrary, rather than urging the Palestinian leadership to cooperate with the peace plan, through their silence, they encouraged the Palestinian leadership in its determination to undermine the plan. 
Whatever the specific viewpoints of states and international organizations, and personal opinions of international leaders regarding Trump the man and the policies of the US administration, one might have expected that the oft-expressed and lofty concern by European states, the UN and international leaders, for Middle East peace, for a two-state solution and for the welfare of the Palestinian people, would have overridden any ulterior political and personal motives.
Such concern should have driven them to urge the Palestinians to give the plan a chance at the least, and to enter into a bona fide mode of negotiation. Such obdurate Palestinian refusal and obstruction should logically have been seen to be the central issue undermining the plan’s implementation.
But, somewhat hypocritically, no such voice emanated from the UN Secretary General, from international leaders or from the responsible EU officialdom.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, one issue has dominated, and continues to dominate all discussion of the peace plan. This is neither the plan’s substantive content nor the Palestinian refusal to consider it on its merits. But it is rather the possibility, in light of the Palestinian boycott of the plan, that Israel might unilaterally apply its sovereignty to those parts of the territories foreseen by the plan to become part of Israel.
The international community and specifically the European states, after having closed a blind eye to the Palestinian boycott of the peace plan, are not really in the position to criticize and condemn Israel for considering ways to realize those components of the plan that are ultimately intended to apply to Israel.
Israel’s declared intentions have been greeted by a major international outcry of condemnations and threats against Israel of undermining the peace process, of generating instability and violence and of violating international law. All this without Israel having in fact done anything except make declarations, as politically unwise as that may be.
Regrettably and curiously, no such outcry emanated from that same international community in light of the Palestinian obstruction of a genuine effort to advance toward a viable peaceful relationship.
This is a clear and unacceptable double standard.
After having rejected the peace plan, the Palestinian leadership and the international community cannot, with clean hands, condemn Israel for declaring its aims to apply parts of the plan relating to sovereignty when they themselves are undermining any chance of entering into negotiation on the plan.
The Palestinians cannot have their cake and eat it. If they reject out-of-hand the Trump peace plan without even considering it and without even expressing a modicum of willingness to negotiate it, then they are stopped from condemning Israel for considering implementation of parts of the plan.
The Palestinian leadership cannot exercise an indefinite right of veto over peace negotiations.
Had they used political wisdom from the start and welcomed the plan as a basis for negotiation, then the issue of unilateral application of sovereignty by Israel would most likely not have arisen.
The writer, who has served as the legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada, presently heads the International Law Program and Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.