The Mideast Peace Plan proposed by President Trump today effectively kills the “two state solution” which has been the official desire of the United States for decades. I find it difficult to mourn that death, because the real end of that hope happened years ago.
The initial death of the two-state solution happened after the Palestinian Liberation Organization could not be satisfied during the Oslo Accords. The leader, Yasser Arafat, had sided with Iraq during the Gulf War and relations had soured with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Pressured, he had reached out to the leader of Israel at the time, Shimon Peres. A peace was negotiated, but peace was not what many in the PLO wanted.
A second death came in 1996, after the first free parliamentary elections. An overwhelming majority of people in the Palestinian territories voted for one of the parties who rejected Israel’s right to exist. The argument prior to the elections had been that a majority of the people wanted peace but their leadership was belligerent; the vote proved otherwise.
The result since then has been one of constant negotiation and attention to minutiae. The hope of optimists has been that somehow the negotiation and years of relative peace will somehow overcome the antipathy and fear which pervades all culture in the contested areas of Israel.
Faced with such a task, even a master negotiator and an utterly brilliant person is unlikely to find a resolution. This is known because the United States and EU nations have all assigned brilliant negotiators to the task, with no permanent solutions found. President Trump, for all of his bombast, has a string of abject failures littering the trail of his life when negotiation is at hand. He has excelled at strongarming weak parties into accepting bad options (although even there he has faced high-profile losses, such as with his attempt to force a woman out of her home to build a casino parking lot.) He has also excelled at convincing people who believe they are his friends to purchase inferior items. When it comes to being a bully and a conman, he is exemplary. At negotiation, he’s fairly pathetic.
This brings us to today.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally indicted for fraud, bribery and breach of Trust on Tuesday morning, shortly after the Prime Minister withdrew his immunity request.
Netanyahu would be eligible for immunity from prosecution as Prime Minister if the Knesset, Israel’s parliamentary body, voted in support. The multiple failures to gain a majority in repeated election have stymied his efforts to remain free of prosecution, and the immunity request was tendered with the expectation that the caretaker Knesset would not be able to convene a vote on the subject. That would have pushed the issue out past the date of the upcoming election. Instead, the Knesset arranged the vote for this week. Netanyahu expected the vote to fail and, rather than face the political damage from a failed attempt at dodging prosecution, made himself available for charges.
The “peace deal” suggested by Trump is an effort to boost the fortunes of both Trump and Netanyahu (although Netanyahu’s main rival, Benny Gantz, is on record as supporting it as well) by framing the people in the Palestinian-claimed territories as the villains in the piece.
This isn’t completely unfair. That group, having repeatedly rejected attempts at a peaceful solution, absolutely deserve the lion’s share of the blame for that conflict. But life isn’t binary; just because Russia is negotiating with Iran doesn’t make one of the countries heroic. The same logic applies to Netanyahu, Trump and the Palestinians.
President Trump has suggested a deal wherein the Israelis get to keep the West Bank settlements in exchange for a four-year freeze on new construction, while the Palestinians would get partial control over the West Bank and Gaza and the construction of roads and tunnels between the two areas, as well as the promise of large financial incentives. The Palestinian groups would be granted limited control over the travel paths, but Israel would be encouraged to cede authority as the Palestinians demonstrate the ability to control the zones in a way that Israel found acceptable. As this runs directly counter to all of the public expectations of the Palestinian authorities, they are not expected to agree to it. In fact, they have already made clear that they reject it wholly and are in the middle of one of their “day of rage” protests.
The plan, as tendered, is dead on arrival, nothing more than a public relations stunt to boost some poll ratings in Israel and to shore up support for Trump during his impeachment trial.