Surrounded by some of their closest allies, from members of Congress to major megadonors, President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored the corruption charges hanging over both of their heads and unveiled an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that Palestinians are almost sure to reject.
The president’s remarks were typical Trump - he went off-script to praise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for having lashed out at a National Public Radio reporter, and he mispronounced the name of the third-holiest site in Islam as the “al-Aqua Mosque.” (It’s al-Aqsa.)
What are your thoughts on @realDonaldTrump’s #MiddleEastPeacePlan? https://t.co/jtWg3HquL1— The Forward (@jdforward) January 28, 2020
But in between Netanyahu’s praise of Trump as the most pro-Israel president in history, and Trump’s self-praise for the same reason, the two world leaders revealed several details of their 180-page plan, which was later released online. Here’s what you need to know, in plain English:
It’s a green light for annexation - assuming Israel ever gets a government again:
The most notable part of the plan, which was emphasized by Netanyahu but glossed over by Trump, was that it would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the region that forms the border between the West Bank and Jordan. Israel already has military control over the valley, which it considers to have crucial security value, but it doesn’t currently categorize it as part of Israel proper.
Both Netanyahu and Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz, who also endorsed the plan, have said that they will annex the Jordan Valley if elected prime minister in March, Israel’s third election in less than a year. But there are subtle differences in their proposals: Gantz has said that he’d only annex the valley “in coordination with the international community” -— and almost no country in that community outside the United States will be on board.
Netanyahu told Israeli reporters after the speech that he would call a Cabinet vote on Sunday to annex the Jordan Valley - though it’s unclear if the Cabinet has the legal standing to do so because Israel is being run by an interim government in the months before elections.
Palestine’s capital will either be Jerusalem or “Jerusalem”:
One of the sticking points in past negotiations has been the status of Jerusalem. Palestinians have been adamant that the capital of their future state must be in Jerusalem, while subsequent Israeli governments have refused to divide up any part of the city to give to them. Trump said that under his peace plan, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital, but at the same time provide for a Palestinian capital in “eastern Jerusalem.”
How can the Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem, and have control over its capital the way every other country does, without dividing up the city at all? The answer is likely by using a real estate branding technique — claiming that one of the Arab suburbs east of Jerusalem is actually a place called “East Jerusalem.”
It calls for a two-state solution - just not the one you’re thinking of:
Netanyahu disappointed many on the Israeli right in 2009 when he announced his support for a two-state solution with Israel alongside an independent Palestinian state — a position that he spent the subsequent decade backing away from. The Trump peace proposal also calls for a Palestinian state, which Netanyahu has implicitly accepted once again.
But past peace proposals, most notably the Camp David 2000 plan, gave the Palestinians almost the entirety of the West Bank. This one says that the future Palestinian state will be more than double the size of the area that the Palestinian government currently controls - but since the Palestinian Authority currently only controls around 40% of the West Bank, doubling their current holdings would still leave them with less than what was offered to them 20 years ago.
A tunnel between the West Bank and Gaza — plus a lot of desert:
The plan’s maps, released by the White House, show a tunnel that will be built between the West Bank and Gaza — it would likely be the world’s longest tunnel. The plan comes with $50 billion in funding promised by some Arab countries to support the proposal, which would probably be used on that project.
It also provides for Israel ceding land in the Negev Desert, near — though notably, not on — the Egyptian border, for the creation of new communities and manufacturing centers. The West Bank part of the future state of Palestine will technically be contiguous but have a lot of isolated and gerrymandered areas so that Israel can maintain access to its West Bank settlements — and Palestinians won’t have direct access to the Jordanian border either.
The new Green Lines of the #DealOfTheCenturypic.twitter.com/wvIV9Mjftw— LTC (R) Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) January 28, 2020
Israel has promised not to build new settlements in the areas that would be the future Palestinian state for the next four years. In return, Netanyahu said, Israel would be willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, but with several preconditions. (Ironically, Netanyahu in 2016 repeatedly emphasized that unlike Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, he had “no preconditions” to meeting and negotiating.)
“If they agree to abide by all the conditions in the plan, Israel will be prepared to negotiate right away,” Netanyahu said at the White House. In other words, the Palestinian Authority has to abide by the terms of a plan they never agreed to in order to negotiate a peace deal that will be based on that same plan they never agreed to.
Those conditions include recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and ending its practice of paying pensions to convicted terrorists or their families. Abbas has said that both of those issues are non-starters.
How are Palestinians reacting to this?
Abbas’s party, Fatah, has been fighting Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist group, for influence in Palestinian society for more than a decade, often with deadly results. Now, it seems, the peace proposal has united them. Haaretz reported that members of Hamas and another terrorist group, are traveling to Abbas’s planned rally against the proposal. It’s the first time those three groups have gathered together in years, Haaretz reported.
Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, explained