Much ink has already been used by commentators on the recent Deal of the Century proposed by Donald Trump. Despite that, I will share some things that I have not been reading in the press.
The great majority of Israeli leaders and the Israeli public are in favor of the Trump plan. The important thing is that it explodes the 23 year plus consensus on the parameters of what would bring peace in a two state solution.
The old two state proposal assumed that Israel would withdraw to the ‘67 armistice lines. It expected that Israel would keep the major settlement blocks and offer land in exchange for them. These Jewish towns would have been totally within Palestine. East Jerusalem would have been given to the Palestinians as their capital. Finally, there would have been a limited right of return to Israel proper for descendants of the ‘48 war refugees. Ehud Barak was willing to give almost this much, and Ehud Olmert agreed to it all. However, the Palestinians refused these conditions.
The Trump administration is the first to see these parameters as unrealistic and dangerous to Israel’s security. Trump’s plan offers a new paradigm:
A limited demilitarized Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank plus Gaza.
- Israel retains control of all the settlements and the Jordan Valley for security purposes. It can eventually annex the remaining 30% and keep security control overall.
Since Israel is strongly in favor of the Trump plan, once again, the final decision lies with the Palestinians. To my view, the Palestinians cannot really claim they are occupied if they reject this offer. It changes the narrative on the situation. This is Trumpian, and a new and out-of-the-box proposal!
I want to mention something that is not usually noted. This is the issue of Israel being claimed to be in violation of international law in its occupation of the territories. Some people mistakenly interpret Israel’s control of the West Bank as if there was a full Palestinian state. But international law as written gives no basis for claiming an occupation against land that is not part of a recognized state.
International law is also wrong in requiring all land to be returned to the aggressor after there is peace. This is contrary to all historic laws of war. The gain of territory and expansion for defense was considered legitimate if the defender could somehow win. The change from this principle now brings a loss of deterrence. A nation can be aggressive again and again and lose nothing.
This is exactly the situation we face. In each situation where peace was refused, the Palestinians lost more opportunities. After rejecting the UN partition plan, the Arabs went to war and 700,000 refugees fled. The armistice lines with slight changes are what we call the ‘67 lines. Arab aggression in ‘67 and ‘73 however, led to Israel taking and keeping the Golan territory (now annexed).
Trump’s current plan offers the Palestinians less land, but with the incentive of money for business development. The Oslo Peace Plan parameters are no longer relevant. If the Palestinians reject this proposal, they will likely be offered even less the next time.
My own view is that the Palestinians should have residency in Israel and Jordanian citizenship. The Jordanian government does not want this since the majority of Jordan’s citizens are already Palestinian. The elephant in the room that no political leaders want to draw attention to, is that Jordan is actually the Palestinian State. They want to preserve a more moderate regime led by King Abdullah and prevent a violent Palestinian state in Jordan.
It seems to me that the Palestinian resistance to Trump’s plan is like God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. It is as if Israel is not able to cede the land to the Palestinians. The Palestinians block it!
[*I have included Israeli diplomat Dore Gold and Jason Greenblatt (Trump’s Middle East Coordinator) as playing a major role in the creation of this deal.]