Peace plan unveiling: A little like a Purim party

Ehud Olmert says that this party won't end well.

US President Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
US President Donald Trump welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The show that was put on this week at the White House, starring US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reminded me a little bit of a Purim party, even though there are still a few weeks until the holiday. The whole world held its breath as Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which he hopes will end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The prime minister was there as the representative of the State of Israel, and the rest of the members of the audience (most of whom were Jews, and a large number of whom were wearing kippot) had been carefully selected so that the plan and its creator would be applauded properly.
The only people who were missing were the Palestinians, as if they had no connection to the plan. Evidently, this was our event, designed for us and only for our wellbeing. Designed to help an Israeli prime minister escape from his personal hardships – at least for a few moments – and to celebrate with his friend, the US president, the illusion that it is possible to end this historic conflict saturated with emotions, memories, the bloodshed of so many innocent victims – many from our side, but also many from the other side – in a media carnival of fireworks full of worn-out slogans and simplistic suggestions.
Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is not a baseline for beginning negotiations. It is not a recipe for historical reconciliation between us and the Palestinians and it is surely not a pathway that will lead to negotiations, which will help us attain positive neighborly relations with a Palestinian state next door.
Most importantly, the foundation on which the Israeli leadership’s worldview has been based for many years has been focused on keeping us separate from the Palestinians. Living together in a single territorial framework would lead to constant friction, terrorist attacks that would impossible to thwart, and a bitterness that feeds hatred.
Not only does Trump’s plan prevent us from living separately from the Palestinians but it, in practice, creates an urban fabric that would make it exceedingly difficult to separate the Jews from the Palestinians. It’s delusional to think that this will not change in the future – that settlers won’t continue their relentless efforts to expand their settlements and encircle Palestinian population concentrations in the West Bank such that the two can no longer be easily separated.
The Trump peace plan is a propaganda windfall and an impressive political achievement for Netanyahu. He could not have dreamed for a more beautiful gift, all wrapped up and tied with a bow, than the one he received from the American president this week. I’ve already written about how Netanyahu is not a leader who seeks to bring about historic change that will put the State of Israel on solid ground, be recognized by the global community and lead us to internal reconciliation and perhaps even peace among its Jewish and non-Jewish residents, who are historical enemies. Instead, he is an actor – albeit a brilliant, skilled and experienced one – and he gave one of his best performances ever this week at the White House, better than any show playing on Broadway.
It’s not a coincidence the Palestinians were not invited to take part in the event. From the outset, Trump has viewed them as nothing more than a marginal hindrance to deal with on his way to achieving his main goal. All the work done by his administration has not been a serious, genuine effort to create dialogue between the Palestinians and Israel. The American team has been focused on fulfilling the needs of a minority of the Israeli public that has become dominant and decisive during the years Netanyahu has served as prime minister.
The Trump plan is a plan to unilaterally annex all of the Jewish communities in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and perhaps even lay the foundation to liberate the State of Israel from certain areas of land that are currently part of Israel but inhabited by Arabs who are Israeli citizens.
In order to ensure that the plan would never actually lead to real negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a number of prerequisites for Palestinian concessions were added to it. For example, it calls for the dismantling and annihilation of the Hamas terrorist organization; the cessation of payments from the Palestinian Authority to terrorists’ families; changes in Palestinian textbooks that contain intolerable, almost antisemitic content; and the most important one of all: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. All of these requirements must be part of any peace agreement at the time of signing. But to assume that all of these preconditions must be met as a prerequisite for beginning negotiations will blow up any prospect of future negotiations ever taking place.
If Netanyahu decides to enforce any of these unilateral moves he will not only be giving up any prospect of convincing the Palestinians to sit down at the negotiating table, but it could also lead to the creation of a united Arab front, including Jordan and Egypt, as well as moderate Sunni Arab countries who yearn for official peaceful relations with Israel. It could also spur many European countries that have been our allies to join international efforts against Israel.
However, these are just a few of the ways Trump’s “Deal of the Century” will cause damage.
In this new reality, Israel will be a country with two types of residents: Citizens (mostly Jews) who enjoy all the privileges a country can offer its citizens; and Palestinians, who live in territories ruled over by Israel, with no rights, no freedom of movement and no status that guarantees them or their children a life of value and self-respect.
Of course, we can use terms that are well-known in international discourse to explain how a future State of Israel would look and how the international community would treat us, but I prefer not to delve into these subjects just now, since they are self-evident.
There’s no doubt that Trump’s plan is nothing short of revolutionary – but revolutionary in a negative, dangerous way. It could distort our understanding of the internal reality in which we live; the desired behavioral patterns in the relationship between citizens and their country and most importantly, what is allowed and prohibited in the relationship between the State of Israel and the people who live in it, but who are not entitled to enjoy even the most fundamental rights, the lack of which could cause many of them to engage in violent opposition among themselves and against us.
The State of Israel – as a state that is Jewish, democratic, tolerant, self-respecting and respectful of others – will cease to exist. Israel will turn into an occupying, exploiting nation that enslaves people who do not wish to be a part of it. And in the end, Israel will cease to act in a democratic way toward its own citizens, because when you begin to slide down that slippery slope, it’s extremely difficult to define limits, and we will be destined to end in self-destruction.
This past Tuesday, a big party was held in Washington. Trump enjoyed basking in the glory, and for those few minutes he was able to forget about the bedlam he is currently experiencing. From the bottom of my heart, I hope he makes it through safely. Netanyahu was also treated to great applause and cheers from the carefully selected audience.
Unfortunately, this party is destined to end with one of the sides crying. I’m afraid that side will be ours.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.