Why the Palestinian leadership should not reject Trump’s peace plan

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.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, last year. (photo credit: KHALIL MARZAAWI/REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives to meet with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, last year.
This is a piece written by two friends. We do not see eye-to-eye on the conflict and many of the issues related to the conflict. While each of us would have written this piece differently if we had written it alone, it represents a negotiated “opinion” piece to reflect the collective thoughts that we agree upon. After all, that is how progress, and peace, is made.
The Palestinian leadership is faced with a difficult and fateful decision regarding the unveiling of President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Given the unfortunate cutting of ties by the Palestinian Authority from the Trump administration, and judging from the public statements made by some among the Palestinian leadership, it would not surprise anyone if the Palestinian Authority’s first reaction will be outright rejection of the plan without even reading it. And what of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad? One does not have to wonder what their likely reactions will be.
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.
Here are six reasons why the Palestinian leadership should review the plan, study it and systematically outline its objections to it – and then propose realistic, implementable amendments to the plan for consideration. The plan is an invitation to both sides for serious engagement.
1. Build on the positive elements.
Once Palestinian officials have had the chance to review President Trump’s peace plan, they can build on the positive elements within it, raise their objections to those provisions they oppose, propose alternative, realistic and implementable suggestions, and with diligence and diplomacy, achieve meaningful progress.
2. Learn from history.
Time and avoidance have been among the Palestinians’ worst enemies. Israel grows and prospers while Palestinians, doing better economically in the West Bank, are still left further behind. Palestinians can keep waiting for a better deal, but in all likelihood, it may never come.
It is time to negotiate in good faith to give the next generation of Palestinians a promising future. The Palestinian leadership needs to be pragmatic. Palestinians should recognize what is possible and refrain from being driven solely by what they view as just.
Both sides can argue for decades over what they think is just. They will never agree. Instead, Palestinians should focus on a realistic and implementable plan that has the potential to bring great things to the Palestinians if the leadership negotiates well. Palestinian leaders will also have a real, very significant responsibility to implement what they successfully negotiate. They need to be ready for this so their people can benefit and finally succeed.
3. Don’t count on President Trump not getting re-elected.
If the Palestinian leadership is hoping that this year will be President Trump’s last year in office, they probably will be sorely disappointed. The likelihood of another presidential term for President Trump is extremely high.
For Palestinians, this means that if they fail to deal with the Trump administration, they are potentially signing up for five more years of little to no progress for Palestinians. Is that what they want for their children?
4. What about the two-state solution?
Depending on how the plan reads, and however any entity established for Palestinians is defined, and whether it is demilitarized or not, and who must maintain security for all to be safe, what is the most important thing for Palestinians to focus on? Undoubtedly, a plan that gives Palestinians and Israelis peace of mind, security and safety in their own neighborhoods is of utmost importance to both Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians also seek (and deserve) dignity and prosperity, while maintaining their distinct identity.
5. Raise issues and concerns.
Once around the negotiating table, Palestinians can work in good faith to raise their concerns. No one is stopping them from doing so. Whether what they ask for can be achieved is a different story. But if they do not come to the table to negotiate, once again they will miss an opportunity to see what they might achieve. The opportunities could be endless and so very promising if an agreement can be achieved based on the plan. It is time to seize the dream, not dash it against the rocks.
6. Economic prosperity.
A main Palestinian objection to their participation in the Bahrain Economic Conference held in 2019 was the introduction of the economic portion of the peace plan prior to the political portion. With the release of the political portion of the peace plan, Palestinians can now understand the tremendous advantages of the economic benefits that a signed peace agreement can provide to all Palestinians.
Within a decade’s time, Palestinians can become economically successful, trading freely and securing investment from all over the world. There is no reason why Palestinians cannot become another “start-up” society. We both firmly believe it can.
This is not an economic peace plan, but a successful economy is essential to a successful peace agreement and a successful Palestinian society. Americans and Israelis, among so many others, can be trading with and investing with Palestinians.
If these reasons are not sufficient to entice the Palestinian leadership to get involved with President Trump’s peace plan, consider the alternative: Nothing more than the status quo, or continued worsening of conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Is that really what Palestinians want?
Palestinians have much to gain from reviewing the plan and working in good faith with President Trump and Israel. Palestinians have much to lose if they reject the proposed peace plan.
It is time to seize this historic opportunity, as imperfect as some might view it to be, and find out if peace can finally be achieved. There is no perfect plan. It’s time to stop waiting for one.
Jason D. Greenblatt is a former assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations in the Trump administration. Follow him on Twitter at @GreenblattJD. Bishara A. Bahbah is a former member of the Palestinian delegation to the multilateral peace talks. He taught at Harvard University and was associate director of its Middle East Institute.