It’s been a long time since Israel had to deal with these matters. Actually, it has been a nice delay or let’s say recess, but it looks like it might be most appropriate to simply state, “Here we go again.”
There are many dimensions to President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” that was finally unveiled this week. On Monday, elements on the right in Israel were singing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s praises. On Tuesday, he was being depicted by the same people as a traitor.
In the long history of peace proposals only one thing is certain, and that is that nothing is as it seems on the surface. The good thing about this so-called deal is that the Trump administration is saying to both sides that if they want to go with these proposals and ideas, that’s good. And if they reject them, that is good, too.
From the distance it appears that all is going well in the region so the question is why throw a wrench into the process and start this negotiation process all over again?
And the answer to that is that this time around there is much more at stake and much more to gain for Israel than continued sovereignty of a few kilometers of arid land where no one will ever build or live.
Regardless of the details of the plan that will become public over the next few days, the good news and Israel’s ace in the hole is the fact that the Palestinian leadership will reject the plan from the get-go. If that is the case, what is the problem and what is the hubbub about?
The problem at its core, whether this plan ever moves forward or not, is that officially Israel is acknowledging almost 53 years after the Six Day War that Israel is not the rightful owner to parts of the land of Israel. For most of the right in Israel this is an unacceptable and untenable situation.
So the battle in Israel today is mostly a struggle between maintaining the status quo on the ground and moving ahead and seeking to realize a long-term future for the region. The additional problem for the right is a person like Netanyahu, long-considered the champion of the right in Israel, conceding to the creation of a Palestinian state, long considered an anathema on the right.
At the same time, this week Netanyahu has withdrawn his request for immunity from prosecution and will be going on trial over the next few weeks. That position seems to indicate that Bibi has come to grips with leaving the past behind and moving ahead on a multiplicity of levels. That means abandoning the status quo and moving into the future, which, as in the past, always exposes Israel to an assortment of dangers.
The good news is that there is no partner for Israel on the Palestinian side. On Monday, when it became known that Trump would be meeting with Bibi and Benny Gantz, Mahmoud Abbas wasted no time in referring to Trump — according to The Jerusalem Post — as “a dog and the son of a dog.” What Mr. Trump’s mother or father has to do with any of this is a mystery.
Let’s look for a moment at the preliminary positive aspects of the deal as we know them so far. First, Israel maintains full and absolute control over all of Jerusalem. The long-sought-after, ridiculous idea of dividing Jerusalem was just thrown into the dustbin of history. Second, Israel gets to openly annex the Jordan Valley, which the king of Jordan has to say he opposes for health reasons but which would not have been part of the plan without his agreeing to it.
Third, all existing settlement communities become part of the state of Israel and come under Israeli law. Roads will be constructed to accommodate residents of settlement communities deep in Judea and Samaria and they will continue to be protected by the IDF. That still sounds somewhat risky and even dangerous, and that’s something that Israel does not need more of — danger.
The release of the plan by the Trump administration will be spun in a variety of self-serving and agenda-driven directions. J Street and the left both here and in Israel will focus their attention and commentary on the remote sliver of the outskirts of Jerusalem that the plan offers as an area that they will be allowed to designate as the Palestinian capital. That’s an old and meaningless formula on their needing a capital in east Jerusalem.
The right is already accusing Netanyahu of being soft on the future and caving in to pressure from the Trump administration. That is all fine and good, but there does not appear to be any real pressure on Israel emanating from the Trump White House. Remember, this plan was mostly crafted by three yeshiva graduates — Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and David Friedman.
For their part and for now, Abbas and his corrupt co-conspirators are going to have to wait at least a year to see if Mr. Trump is reelected, while hoping and praying in their mosques that their savior will be a Jewish candidate like Bernie Sanders or Mike Bloomberg. (Is that ironic or what?)
The kicker, or the big victory, in all this is the cooperation of the Gulf States in these issues. The Saudis are no longer calling for jihad or the mass slaughter of Jews, and that has to be a relief. The other Gulf States have come to the realization that, under Trump anyway, Israel is going to be well-protected from any zaniness and they have come to the realization that it is no longer prudent or sensible to oppose Israel or to dream about its destruction. It was impossible way back when, and now they realize that it is now impossible and ridiculous.
They finally realize that Israel can help bring these deliberately backward countries into the 21st century if only they will allow it. As with most other issues that Mr. Trump undertakes, he brings the brutally realistic aspect of what is truly needed to effectuate change and that is: just follow the money trail.
The U.S., the Europeans, and Gulf States are ready to commit over $50 billion to the Palestinian Authority to entice them to cooperate and negotiate these somewhat new proposals. Considering that the PA is mostly about grabbing billions from the world and not doing much more for their people, it might be difficult for them to resist.
So here is the preliminary takeaway from all this. The king of the right in Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, has agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on Israel’s approximate borders. On the one hand, the settlers are rightfully livid at the prospects of concessions to a terror-supporting entity. On the other hand, the establishment of this independent entity will not be realized for a very long time — if ever. As Mr. Trump poignantly said on Tuesday, “Peace requires compromise, but not compromise on Israel’s security.”
Jared Kushner said it best the other day when he said that the Palestinians have “blown every chance” they ever had to help their people. What he was doing was just reworking an observation by the late Israel UN Ambassador Abba Eban who notoriously said many times, “The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” And so far, that is the only real truth here.