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Trump’s peace plan didn’t kill the two-state solution. It was already dead.

After years of waiting, numerous delays, endless speculation and a lot of hype, the Trump administration’s much-anticipated peace plan for Israel and Palestinewas finally unveiled Tuesday.

Predictably, it was greeted with very mixed reactions. Prime Minister Netanyahu, desperate to distract domestic attention from his multiple criminal indictments for corruption, effusively praised the plan, while President Abbas, beset with his own domestic difficulties, angrily denounced it.

So, is this so-called peace plan the “historic breakthrough” that Trump claims it is, or is it the final nail in the coffin of a two-state solution, as many critics of the plan are warning?

In fact, Trump’s “peace plan” is not nearly as consequential as both its proponents and detractors are proclaiming it to be. Like so many of President Trump’s proposals and plans that have been announced with much fanfare, his peace plan will ultimately amount to nothing.

It will certainly not bring Israelis and Palestinians peace, since the latter will overwhelmingly reject a plan that is so heavily skewed in Israel’s favor. However desperate and demoralized they are, Palestinians will not abandon their core national demands regarding statehood, borders, Jerusalem, and refugees in exchange for a shrunken, pseudo-state and the promise of economic benefits, which may never materialize.

Nor will the plan unleash a new wave of Palestinian violence, as some of its critics fear. Despite repeatedly threatening to terminate its security cooperation with Israel, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority is likely to continue to help the Israeli army maintain order in the West Bank simply because a third Intifada could well be directed against the PA itself and not only against Israel.

Hamas also has an interest in avoiding a major escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence because it wants to maintain its rule over the Gaza Strip and it needs Israel’s tacit cooperation to do that.

Israel’s Arab neighbors are also unlikely to do anything that could destabilize the situation. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are all preoccupied with their own domestic problems, and their solidarity with the Palestinians has always been more rhetorical than real.

Although Trump’s plan won’t bring peace or result in another war, many fear that it could kill a future two-state solution to the conflict by effectively giving Israel permission to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, starting with the Jordan Valley, amounting to about 30% of the territory.

Formally applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and over every settlement in the West Bank — as Netanyahu promises to do — would undoubtedly be very significant for Israel legally, diplomatically, and demographically. After five decades of debate and indecision regarding the fate of the West Bank, such a move would signal a victory for Israeli hawks and territorial maximalists.

For Palestinians, however, Israel’s annexation of much of the West Bank would only confirm and entrench the reality under which they already live. Israel’s de-facto annexation of large parts of the West Bank has been underway for many years, even while a peace process was officially taking place.

Anyone who has visited the West Bank and seen Israel’s sprawling settlements there — some of which have become cities and towns — could see with their own eyes this process of “creeping annexation” taking place. The notion that many of these settlements would one day be dismantled and evacuated became fanciful long ago.

President Trump’s “peace plan,” therefore, won’t kill the two-state solution because, sadly, it’s already dead. It quietly expired some time ago, when the prospect of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, became an empty slogan, rather than a realistic prospect.

Perhaps the only good thing that might come about from the release of the Trump administration’s peace plan is the belated recognition on all sides that the two-state solution is, as Trump likes to put it, “off the table.” By recognizing this fact, we can start to seriously consider other approaches to resolving, or at least reducing, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dov Waxman is the director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where he holds the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies. His latest book is, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2019).


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