President Trump unveiled his new Middle East peace plan and Bibi Netanyahu seems pretty excited about it. There’s no signal that the Palestinians are onboard yet, but if someone went to all the trouble to put this together, we might as well take a look at it.
The plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace currently lacks Palestinian buy-in but nevertheless provides a path to Palestinian statehood and substantial territorial gains.
Trump said that Israel would adopt the plan as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians. The plan itself calls for more than doubling the area of the West Bank currently under Palestinian control, as well as a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
However, the President also insisted that Israel would retain “undivided” control over its capital of Jerusalem, and that no Israelis or Palestinians would be uprooted from their homes to make the deal.
I’m not going to throw cold water all over this idea out of hand and I commend the administration for making the effort. Of course, there have been any number of peace plans proposed for basically all of my adult life and I’m getting a little long in the tooth. But if someone could get the Palestinians to go along for the ride, that would indeed be awesome.
In terms of the details, Israel being willing to give up some territory on the West Bank, provide a path to statehood and recognize a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem seems like the sort of concessions that would be needed to get everyone to the table. And as I already said, if it could somehow crystallize into a lasting peace, that would be awesome indeed.
Now, with all of that said, let me tell you why I don’t think it’s going to happen. First of all, we can infer that this agreement was drawn up between the United States and Israel with little – if any – structured input from the Palestinians. We can safely assume that’s why Abbas or one of his surrogates wasn’t involved with the unveiling. It also explains why the announcement included the phrase saying that Israel would use it as “a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians.”
In case that doesn’t make it abundantly clear, there were no negotiations with the Palestinians yet. And they’ve never struck me as being really big on surprises. Nor have they ever shown a tendency to be willing to listen to a voice of reason. Just saying…
But let’s just say that there was some sort of path toward an agreement from the other side. In order to create an agreement of this magnitude and complexity, you need two honest brokers at the table who have both the authority to speak for their people and the power to stick to and enforce the agreement from their side. Those qualities are present in Israel to be sure. But not with the Palestinians.
I have no doubt that there are some among the Palestinians who are tired of generations of battle and acrimony and would like to have peace. However, those people are not really in charge of things and have no control over the forces that don’t give a hoot about a two-state solution or anything else. They want the Jews driven into the sea and Isreal wiped off the face of the map. That’s their idea of compromise.
Further, we’ve been getting steady signals from Mahmoud Abbas that he sees the United States as completely loyal to Israel and hostile toward the Palestinians. Less than a year ago, after forming the new government, Abbas came out and said that he had no interest in the peace plan being worked on by the Trump administration and it wasn’t worth discussing after we moved our embassy.
Look, I’d love to be wrong. And I sincerely hope I am. If this somehow works and lasting peace is established, I will be the happiest person you’ve ever seen wolfing down a big old plate of crow. But I’m afraid that when it comes to the Palestinians, there is no responsible party that could forge a deal that the rest of them would stick to. If an agreement is somehow signed, I will personally be starting a clock to see how long it takes before the first missiles fly over the border toward Israel. I’m willing to bet that I won’t need to change the batteries in that clock.