After three years, the “Deal of The Century” has finally been revealed, generating some support from a number of Israel’s Muslim neighbors and opposition from some in the Democratic Party.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer voiced concern about Israel annexing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria per the plan. “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,” Schumer warned. The plan was panned by Democratic presidential hopefuls Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg. Much of their opposition, as well as the resistance of liberal newspapers such as the New York 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 takes an approach that is different than that used in previous peace efforts.
The reaction of the Palestinians was foretold years ago by Abba Eban when he said, “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The day before President Trump announced his deal, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to take Trump’s phone call and told Palestinian media, “Trump is a dog and the son of a dog.”
One aspect of the deal cited by critics point is that Abbas and the PA weren’t involved in its creation. This is only partially true. Remember, this deal was developed over almost three years. The PA participated until they decided not to talk anymore, which they did right after Trump’s announcement about moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. However, the demands of the Palestinians were considered and implemented in the Trump plan.
Many observers were surprised that the deal was received positively by many of Israel’s Muslim neighbors while and other did not trash the plan. But 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. 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 plan. With a substantial Palestinian population living within its borders, Jordan was compelled to criticize 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 announcement was delayed twice because of two previous Israeli elections. An increasing Iranian threat convinced the president that this was the time to move 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 — 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. Part of the plan requires the Palestinians to remove and disarm the terrorists, most of whom are supported by Iran to aid in its objective of causing turmoil in the region and 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 what’s already there.
A basic fact that most reports ignore is that the deal’s map is not meant as 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 called a “conceptional 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 not required from the Palestinians. Trump’s vision 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 others, full demilitarizing of Gaza, rejecting terrorism in all its forms, “completely cease making prisoner and martyr payments,” and to stop inciting its population (especially its youth) to hate Israel and Jews.
The proposal requires Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. Trump’s plan also requires the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, another point of contention from the deal’s critics. They say recognizing Israel’s Jewishness encourages the denial of equal rights to non-Jewish citizens of Israel. These 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 United Nations resolutions to trash the deal, the original partition plan, UN Resolution 181, called for the creation of a Palestinian Jewish State (back then Jews living in the Holy Land were called Palestinians).
Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s 2008 plan called for a land swap through which Israel would retain some communities in Judea and Samaria in exchange for land in Israel to turned over to a Palestinian state. The Trump proposal has a more significant territory exchange through which Israel retains almost all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and the PA gets new territory south of Gaza to make up the difference.
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.
For eight years, President Obama ignored the facts on the ground and demanded Israel start negotiations by retreating to the pre-1967 borders and negotiate from there.
Many critics of the Trump peace vision incorrectly say that UN Resolution 242 calls for Israel to withdraw from all of the territories gained in the Six Day War. But in fact the resolution leaves out the word “the.” It calls for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” If the wording included “the,” then Resolution 242 would mean a withdrawal from all territories. The omission of “the” was no accident.
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. Trump’s plan is unique in that it follows the true meaning of UN 242
The “Deal of The Century” calls for a four-year Israeli “settlement” freeze. Others’ deals have called for a freeze, but this time Israel has agreed to the halt. There will be no Israeli building in the lands outlined as belonging to the Palestinians in the conceptional map. In 2010, Israel offered a ten-month freeze, which was the only building stoppage agreed to by Israel before the Trump deal. For the first nine and a half months of that freeze, the Palestinians refused to negotiate.
The Trump vision calls for the construction of tunnels and roads, guaranteeing the free movement of Palestinians throughout their state.
An Israeli concession that is of concern to many of supporters of the Jewish state is the plan to build a tunnel to connect Gaza and the PA’s West Bank territories. That tunnel 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, that is only an assumption. There is nothing in the text of the plan outlining tunnel 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.
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 money. The US and other nations will help a 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 President 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 is different from the Middle East peace plans they have seen before. Those earlier approaches to peace didn’t work, so a different approach is warranted. 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.”
Will Trump’s plan 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 the courage, but based on the Israeli acceptance of the deal, they have four years to change their minds.