Realistic But Rejected

During the 2016 election cycle, presidential candidate Donald Trump often described an Israeli-Palestinian peace as one of history’s toughest deals to negotiate. After railing against past administrations’ failures to bring stability to the region, he comforted his supporters by reminding them he’s not a politician; he’s a businessman who knows how to negotiate complex deals, like one between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Fast-forward four years. Now President Trump and his team have proposed what he considers the “deal of the century.” The Peace to Prosperity plan upholds Israel’s security concerns and establishes a Palestinian state.

Though the news media may portray Trump as having haphazardly concocted a deal full of smokescreens and hot air that will result in the total meltdown of the Middle East, Trump’s team worked diligently to offer a realistic 21st-century plan. It’s not airtight, but the terms bring clarity and pragmatism to a confusing region of the world.

So how did the Trump team lay the foundation for its proposal?

The most significant step was taken when Trump moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His decision signaled everyone that the American people believe Jerusalem is the unified capital of Israel and that debate surrounding this issue ends. The move eliminated one of the major obstacles in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinians have long used Jerusalem as a bargaining chip. They want eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, which would sever the Old City (including the Western Wall, Temple Mount, and Garden of Gethsemane) from Israel. Negotiators have sliced and diced Jerusalem every which way to no avail because no Israeli will accept a deal that divides the city. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital creates a factual statement for Trump’s team that cannot be nuanced.

Bear in mind, the peace plan does include a capital for a future Palestinian state, located just outside eastern Jerusalem in an area that doesn’t impact the city as it exists today.

Another strategic move was the Trump administration’s decision to cut $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in Washington, DC. The PLO offices served as a de facto Palestinian embassy. The PLO pushed back against the Trump peace plan and was encouraging the International Court of Justice in The Hague to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

Cutting funds forced the Palestinian leadership to rethink its strategy. Americans were no longer going to pay to support terrorism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israel rhetoric. Outside pressure also was applied to nudge the Palestinians to the negotiating table. When President Trump announced the plan in January, sitting in the audience were the ambassadors to Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Even Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt expressed support for the president’s endeavors.

The Arab League eventually rejected Trump’s proposal, but his strategy to include these countries was groundbreaking. He opened lines of communication with nations that were once vehemently against Israel and the Jewish people but now could become advocates for peace. Their presence that day in the White House was designed to send a strong signal to the Palestinian leadership.

Yet despite all the planning and strategizing, the Arab response was predictable: “We say 1,000 no’s to the Trump plan,” said Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. This is the fourth time Arabs have rejected a two-state solution with Israel. The first came in 1947: the UN Partition Plan. The second was in 2000 when Ehud Barak was Israel’s prime minister and Yasser Arafat headed the PLO. The third time was in 2008 with Ehud Olmert as prime minister and Abbas as PA president.

Trump’s plan is a deal the Arabs were bound to refuse, and their refusal surprises no one. It merely tells the world what we have known all along: They don’t want peace; they want all of Israel.

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