The long-awaited “Deal of the Century” was released this past Tuesday in a press conference at the White House. President Donald Trump hailed the details of the proposed peace plan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said January 28, 2020 will go down in history alongside May 14, 1948 (the day the United States became the first country to recognize Israel after Israel declared independence earlier that day). While there is much being said of the timing of the plan’s release and of the plan itself, there is one fundamental question that should be answered: who does this all help?
The plan helps Trump. For some, Trump is widely seen as the most pro-Israel president in the history of the United States. In December 2017, the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, followed by the U.S. Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018. In March 2019, the U.S. recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. This is another victory in the pro-Israel realm for the president. It also helps to take some (although not as much as anticipated) attention away from the impeachment proceedings taking place in Washington.
The plan unequivocally helps Netanyahu. The third Israeli election in less than a year is a little more than a month away. The timing of the plan’s release could be looked at in the same light as the announcement that the U.S. would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in the weeks before the first election. The proposed plan has much of what Netanyahu has said he wants in one. He can now go to the Israeli public and tout his support for the “Deal of the Century” along with the release of Naama Issachar from Russian prison and the successful World Holocaust Forum last week. Together, these events lessen the blow of the criminal charges he is facing.
The plan helps Republicans and left-leaning Democrats. Republicans are overwhelmingly supportive of Trump’s Middle East policies. Left-leaning Democrats are not. Both groups can now go to their constituents and explain how good/bad the plan is as the upcoming election cycle begins in the U.S.
The plan helps Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party. Gantz met with Trump in advance of the plan’s release and endorsed it. In the event that Gantz wins the upcoming election, he can say to the Israeli public that he is supportive of the plan and move forward in peace negotiations under those parameters. In the event that he loses the election, he can say to the Israeli public that if he were prime minister, then he could have implemented the plan and achieved peace with the Palestinians.
The plan helps numerous Arab countries. Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates sent their ambassadors to the United States to the press conference on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Morocco expressed optimism at this plan. Undoubtedly, the U.S. appreciates the support of these countries and Israel will be sure to continue to thank them publicly. These countries may be brought closer to the U.S. (and Israel) because of their visible support.
Surprisingly, the “Deal of the Century” even helps Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who has outright rejected the plan. Abbas can say that he continues to stand up to a “biased” U.S. and will not cave to pressure. This rejection follows Abbas’s denunciation of the U.S. led economic workshop in Bahrain this past summer as well as other past condemnations of American policy. In the eyes of some, he symbolizes the continued Palestinian struggle for statehood started by his predecessor as head of the PA (and the Palestine Liberation Organization), Yasser Arafat.
While many Israelis would like for there to be a final agreement between them and the Palestinians, they are used to “grandiose” American ideas about peace. Leaving out the right and left extremists, who are minorities within Israeli society, fulfilling the plan will make the majority of Israelis content. It will satisfy the right, as it enhances Israeli security. It will also satisfy the left, as it establishes a Palestinian state next to a Jewish one, fulfilling the two states for two peoples mantra. If the plan is not implemented, then the situation will be status quo. It would be better to have a final agreement but Israelis will not be in a worse position if this plan is not successful. Therefore, Israelis emerge from the release of this plan in the same position as they were before.
There are two distinct groups of people who do not emerge better off from this proposed plan. The (rapidly declining) moderate Democrats, who are more hawkish on foreign policy than their left-leaning colleagues, are stuck. They may be inclined to agree in principle with the Trump plan. However, as their bases move further to the left, can they risk being seen as endorsing a policy constructed by the current administration?
This plan also hurts the Palestinian people, but not for the reasons you might think. Abbas’s personal gain in how the world perceives him is the Palestinian people’s loss. Under Abbas, the Palestinians were never going to take a Trump-led U.S. as a legitimate intermediary, especially after the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, even if the U.S had not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinians were never going to seriously come to the negotiating table. With Abbas in command, the Palestinians did not respond to an exceedingly generous offer from Israel under the leadership of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Six years later, the Palestinians turned their backs on Israel and the U.S. during the 2013-2014 peace talks led by Secretary of State John Kerry when they entered into a unity government with Hamas, an internationally recognized terror group. The Palestinian people, who have been lied to by their leaders for generations, deserve better. Their best chance at securing peace, a state of their own, and a brighter future may be to find another Palestinian leader, one who cares about the future of the Palestinian people more than personal gain.