There’s nothing really new about the President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu peace plan or “Deal of The Century.” This isn’t the first time an American President has attempted to implement a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. In 2000, President Bill Clinton was also invited to be a part of the peace process following his impeachment. Even the necessity to have sovereignty over the Jordan Valley has been a part of Israeli security concerns since the 1960’s. However, this is the first time an American President has drawn up a map of the proposed two -state solution. More importantly, it’s the first time in history the United States recognizes Israel’s right to implement its sovereignty over the West Bank said Dr. Ido Zelkovitz Head of Middle East Studies at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College.
“This is the first time an U.S. Administration is saying they will no longer see the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal settlements,” but Zelkovitz cautions. “This is like a marriage without the bride.”
Though the plan largely favors Israel, according to Zelkovitz the Israeli sentiment is for The U.S. to stay out of it.
“Any peace plan should be between Israel and the Palestinians,” Zelkovitz said.
Former diplomat and Board Member at the Mitvim Institute, Nadav Tamir said in a statement that the Trump plan cannot be considered a real peace plan. However, the favorable regional climate and the moderate Palestinian leadership currently create better conditions for Israel to reach a peace agreement better than it has been in the past. Such an agreement is dependent, he said, on the Palestinians having a state, capital and U.S. Embassy in East Jerusalem. Tamir believes that if the West Bank and the Jordan Valley are annexed it could lead to instability and halt the progress being made in Israel’s relations with Arab countries in the Middle East.
“A two-state solution is an existential Israeli interest and is required in order to maintain the Zionist dream of Israel as both the state of the Jewish people and a democracy with equal rights for all its citizens. The two-state solution cannot be reached while disregarding Palestinian interests and without their involvement in the process,” claimed Tamir.
The plan includes a future Palestinian State formed four years from now, Israeli sovereignty over The Jordan Valley, West Bank, and Jerusalem, “The undivided city and capital of Israel.” In addition, the 50-page document also states al-Quds as the internationally recognized capital of the State of Palestine, but al-Quds is just another Arabic word for Jerusalem. Zelkovitz said the language leaves room for interpretation.
“The neighborhoods of Jerusalem behind the security wall will be the al-Quds. The Temple Mount, which is under Jordanian control, will remain at status quo. Some of the Arabic neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will be part of the Palestinian al-Quds and some are going under Israel sovereignty.”
The future of Jerusalem has been left open for negotiation and Zelkovitz said it’s one of the most centralized obstacles. This is the first time Netanyahu recognized the right of Palestinians as a people and their right to have a Palestinian state. According to Zelkovitz, The U.S. and Israel, presented the plan to the to the media before Palestinian leaders developed the right framework to present the peace plan to the Palestinian public. In addition, the Palestinians will only have sovereignty over 70% of the West Bank which makes the deal impossible to accept, considering they were offered 97% of the West Bank in 2000.
Oman, Bahrain and the UAE were the only countries in the Arab League in attendance at the unveiling of the new plan. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and most importantly, Palestinian leaders were not present. Saudi Arabia has established some inconspicuous diplomatic ties with Israel. Oman, Bahrain, Morrocco and the UAE are in the middle of talks to sign a non-aggression pact with Israel. Jordan and Egypt are peace partners with Israel and both want security in the West Bank, Jordan Valley and the Gaza Strip. But Jordan is unlikely to accept the plan because 70% of Jordan’s population is Palestinian and Egyptian society tends to align with Palestinian popular opinion Zelkovitz said.
Though, the plan seems a failure hope is not lost. The “Deal of the Century” opened the table for negotiations because everyone involved has an interest in peace. Zelkovitz said the peace plan serves as a distraction for Netanyahu who could possibly be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and corruption. It also serves the same purpose for Trump who announced the plan during his impeachment trial. But if Israel and the Palestinians accept a plan, Trump could walk away with a Nobel Peace Prize.
“Trump knew that without Arab support he cannot do this plan,” Zelkovitz said. “The strategy right now for Mahmoud Abbas should be to build a strong coalition of Arab States that will back them and try to improve the conditions of the plan.”
Zelkovitz predicts there will be a split among Arab countries because of their different needs. Right now, the Palestinians are in a weak position. There is inner strife between Fatah and Hamas,but Zelkovitz said in a diplomatic crisis weakness can become a strength.
“The Palestinians can’t totally ignore the United States,” Zelkowitz said. “But they are so weak they can not be pressured to do anything because they have nothing to lose.”
First and foremost, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are in political disarray. The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas which is rejecting the plan without any thought Zelkovitz explained. This puts all the responsibility on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership’s shoulders. The $50 billion dollars proposed to invest in Palestine could do magic for the Palestinian economy and the future of the younger generations, but Zelkovitz said no one can pressure them to do anything.
“Abbas is 84 years old, this is his last year and he does not want to be seen as the President who surrendered to Israel and the U.S., but a new leader can have a new vision. He would still need to give the Palestinians some hope,” Zelkovitz continued. “I would think the PLO would try to maneuver and create other terms that help them in the future to come back to the negotiation table.”
It’s a moment of truth for Palestinians if they want to have a vital Palestinian State and take steps in their own interest Zelkovitz said. But the United State’s reputation as a mediator is marred. Abbas is not taking phone calls from President Trump after he moved the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem, which means an agreement authored by the current administration is likely to go down as another failed attempt at peace in a long-standing feud.