By: Jeff Dunetz
ClashDaily Guest Contributor
Mah Nishtanah Ha Peace Plan Ha Zeh?
After three years, the Deal of The Century has finally been revealed. Trump’s version of an Israeli Palestinian peace plan is different in its approach than previous plans. The deal received support from some of Israel’s Muslim neighbors, and opposition by some Democratic party politicians. Chuck Schumer worried about Israel annexing the communities in Judea and Samaria per the plan. He said, “Unilateral action taken by either side in response to the release of the Trump administration’s plan will diminish the prospects of a future peace” The plan was panned by much of the Democratic presidential field, including Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg. Much of their opposition, as well as the resistance of liberal newspapers such as N.Y. Times and Washington Post in the U.S., the Guardian in the U.K., and Ha’aretz in Israel stems from the fact that Trump’s plan is different than the approaches of previous peace efforts.
More important than the other reactions is the reaction of the Palestinians. Their response was foretold by Abba Eban years ago when he said, “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The day before the U.S. President announced his deal, The Palestinian Authority leader refused to take Trump’s phone call and told Palestinian media. “Trump is a dog, and the son of a dog,” Sorry Abu Mazen, but not only is Trump, not a dog, but he also doesn’t own a dog.
And despite the Abbas threat to cut off all ties with Israel and the U.S., the security ties Israel and the United States were still intact, He’s not an idiot. That security cooperation also protects the Palestinians.
One part of the deal that critics like to point out is that Abbas and the P.A. weren’t involved in its creation. This is only partially true. Remember this deal was almost three years in making The PA participated until they decided not to talk anymore, which they did right after Trump’s announcement he was moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Despite their refusal to speak, the demands of the Palestinians were considered and implemented in the Trump plan.
Many observers were surprised that the deal received a positive reaction from some of Israel’s Muslim neighbors, and others responded by not trashing the plan as expected. It really shouldn’t be a surprise. In another difference from previous efforts, the President and the plan’s creator, Jared Kushner, sought input from Israel’s Arab neighbors in its development. And they worked on selling the program to the neighborhood before the public announcement last week. And it worked. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE issued statements welcoming the Trump administration’s peace plan. With a substantial Palestinian population living within its borders, Jordan had to trash the deal to maintain internal calm.
Part of the reason for the support from Israel’s neighbors is also part of the rationale for announcing the deal last week—Iran. The proposal’s announcement was delayed twice because of the two previous Israeli elections in recent months. An increasing Iranian threat convinced the President that this was the time to strike while the iron is hot, even though Israel is facing a third election in March.
The Iran threat is one of the tactics the administration used to motivate Israel’s neighbors to support the plan no matter how tepidly. Or at least not to vehemently reject the effort. Much of the Arab Middle East is as wary of Iran and its surrogates as is Israel. The plan requires the Palestinians to remove and disarm the terrorists, most of whom are supported by Iran as the terror groups aid Iran in its objective of causing turmoil in the region. Thus threatening those “moderate” Arab states. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE are majority Sunni Muslim states. Iran is majority Shia Muslim state which threatens the Sunnis.
The “Deal of The Century” itself is typical Donald Trump. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or worry about the past. Instead, it takes a realistic look at facts already on the ground and takes off from there. Some critics claim the plan favors Israel, but that is nonsense. The proposal supports peace by adjusting the present situations.
One basic fact that most news reports ignore is that the” Deal of The Century” map is not supposed to be a finalized deal to be imposed on both sides. The sketch is a suggestion meant to be a starting point for negotiations. To that point, within the text of the proposal, it is described as a “conceptual map.”
Trump’s plan is different from anything seen before in many ways. Previous deals made demands of Israel for one-sided concessions, be it land or release of jailed Palestinians. The concessions were ordered for the Jewish State to prove her goodwill — similar demands were never required from the Palestinians. Trump’s vision of a deal requires concessions from both sides but requires the Palestinians to demonstrate its commitment to peace by disarming all terrorist groups like Hamas, PIJ, and all other terror organizations, full demilitarizing of Gaza, rejecting terrorism in all its forms, “completely cease making prisoner and martyr payments” by the time of signing a peace agreement,” and to stop inciting its population (especially its youth) to hate Israel and Jews.
The proposal requires Israel to recognize a Palestinian State. But something included by Trump and not in previous plans is it requires the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. This is another point of contention of the deal’s critics. They say recognizing Israel’s Jewishness encourages the denial of equal rights to non-Jewish citizens of Israel. The critics fail to realize that unlike many of her neighbors, Israel has always guaranteed equal rights to all. Israel’s declaration of independence requires it to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.
And for those critics who are tossing around their versions of U.N. resolutions to trash the deal, the original partition plan, U.N. Resolution 181, called for the creation of a Palestinian Jewish State (back then Jews living in the Holy Land were called Palestinians) and an Arab one. The countries of the Arab league rejected both with Egypt taking over Gaza and Jordan taking the West Bank.
Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s 2008 plan called for a land swap for Israel to retain some communities in Judea and Samaria in exchange for land in Israel to make a Palestinian State. The Trump proposal has a more significant territory exchange where Israel retains almost all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and the P.A. gets new territory south of Gaza to make up the difference. The land allocated to a Palestinian State is the same acreage as the combined area of pre-1967 Gaza and West Bank.
Unlike previous efforts, the Trump version is the first to allow Israel to retain ownership of the old city of Jerusalem, recognizing the facts on the ground and that Israel has done an excellent job of protecting the holy sites of all faiths in the 53 years since it gained control. A tiny part of the city outside the existing security barrier goes to the Palestinians, so they can say they retained part of the city.
The eight years of Obama ignored the facts on the ground and demanded Israel start negotiations by retreating to the pre-1967 borders and negotiate from there. Many of the critics of the Trump peace effort agree. They incorrectly say that U.N. Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from all of the territories gained in the Six-Day-War. But Resolution 242 leaves out the word “the.” It calls for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” If the wording included that “the” Resolution 242 would mean a withdrawal from all territories. It was no accident, “the” was left out. Diplomats are very exact in their language. During the negotiations to create resolution 242, Arab governments tried three times to have “the” inserted in the resolution. The resolution’s authors rejected the request.
The authors of 242 said the word was left out because they realized there would have to be territorial adjustments for Israel’s security. By repeating what they wanted the resolution to read all these years rather than what was written, the Palestinians and their supporters succeeded in convincing people to accept their distorted interpretation of 242. The proposal released last week by Trump is unique in the fact that it follows the true meaning of U.N. 242.
The “Deal of The Century” calls for a four-year Israeli “settlement” freeze. Earlier deals have called for a freeze, but this time Israel has agreed to the stoppage. There will be no Israeli building in the lands outlined as belonging to the Palestinians in the conceptual map.
In 2010 Israel offered a ten-month freeze, which was the only building stoppage agreed to by Israel before the “Deal of the Century.” For the first nine and a half months of that earlier freeze, the Palestinians refused to negotiate.
The Trump vision calls for tunnels and roads, guaranteeing the free movement of Palestinians throughout their State. One Israeli concession that is concerning to many of her supporters is a tunnel that runs from Gaza to the P.A. territories in the West Bank. This connection or one like it has been a Palestinian demand.
This particular tunnel is worrisome, and not just because it effectively cuts Israel in half. While one would assume that Israel wouldn’t agree to that part of the deal without some method of the IDF guaranteeing the tunnel remains secure, it is only an assumption. There is nothing in the text of the 181-page plan outlining that tunnel’s security. How will it prevent the remnants of Hamas from sending camouflaged truckloads of missiles through the tunnel corridor? Outreach to the White House on this issue has remained unanswered. Of course, the lack of a response may have nothing to do with trying to hide something in the Trump peace proposal. I hear there’s a trial going on in the U.S. Senate, which might be taking some of the attention of my W.H. contacts.
Perhaps the most significant and most crucial part of the deal is the economic section, which is also different than previous peace plans. During the announcement, Trump spoke of the $50 billion given to the Palestinians. But it’s more than just dumping money. Previous efforts to provide aid has filled the P.A. leadership’s pockets and done little to help the Palestinian people. This particular plan is more than a money dump. Based on Palestinian acceptance, the U.S. and other nations will help the nascent Palestinian State create an economic infrastructure that will guarantee the jobs and businesses that the territories now lack. For example, there are proposals for creating a technology industry in the expanded Gaza area and a joint tourism effort between Israel and the Palestinians. This effort understands that peace can only come if the Palestinian citizens have jobs and can feed their families. or, as Bubba Clinton’s former campaign manager James Carville was famous for saying, “It’s the economy stupid!”
The Trump “Deal of the Century” has its supporters and detractors, each of whom has taken their positions for the same reason. It’s different from the Middle-East peace plans they have seen before. Will it result in peace? That depends on the Palestinians. Do they have the courage to try and make peace?
Right now, one of the things keeping the Palestinian leadership in power is exploiting and inciting hatred of Israel and Jews. As of this writing, it does not seem that they found courage. President Abbas’ party Fatah is threatening violence. Israel will not accept a return to violence and will protect herself. In lieu of Palestinian violence, based on the Israeli acceptance of the deal, the Palestinians have four years to change their minds.
While this President Trump’s vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is different from all others, it is not a reason to reject the “Deal of the Century.” Those earlier approaches to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians didn’t work, so a different approach is warranted. After all, as a nice Jewish boy named Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting the same result.”
Note: Some people have asked me why it took so long to analyze the deal. Well, 181 pages is a lot to digest and I wanted to understand them all before I wrote about the deal.
This article was originally posted on The Lid on Feb. 3, 2020, and is reprinted with permission.