|I’m still reviewing and reflecting on President Trump’s Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People which he shared earlier this week. Given that the Senate is engaged in an impeachment trial and our country is terribly divided over this and the performance and character of our President, it’s extremely difficult to evaluate this plan objectively. While I’m attempting to separate my response to the current political situation from evaluation, I appreciate that for some this is just not possible.|
Some important points included in the plan:
-The call for an independent, sovereign State of Palestine with a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem. This call is supported by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Benny Gantz who is Netanyahu’s primary rival in the upcoming Israeli election. This support, in addition to the fact that President Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and officially recognized the Golan Heights as being part of Israel, is a very important step forward.
-In addition to the United States and Israel, the UK, Italy, Australia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, India, Brazil, Austria, Poland, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have expressed support for the plan. The fact that this list includes many Muslim nations, historically enemies of the State of Israel, is another very important step forward.
-The plan addresses Israel’s security needs and ensures that the Jewish State can continue to defend itself from threats. In doing so, the plan calls for a demilitarized Palestine. Israel will be responsible for security issues in the West Bank until, in partnership with the US and Israel, Palestinian officials are able to guarantee true security in the region.
-Jordan, in conjunction with Israeli security, will be integrally involved in preserving the sanctity of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. There is some discussion about non-Muslims being able to openly visit the al-Aqsa Mosque.
-The plan calls for land swaps in the Negev and West Bank that will create a region comparable in size to the West Bank and Gaza for the establishment of the State of Palestine. Approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will become part of contiguous Israeli territory; approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will become part of contiguous Palestinian territory. High-speed transportation links, including a tunnel connecting Gaza to the West Bank region that will connect the Palestinian State’s territories. Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the possibility of a two-state solution.
-Jerusalem will remain the united capital of Israel. The capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include areas of East Jerusalem that are currently east and north of the existing security barrier. The plan explains that Arab residents of Jerusalem that live beyond the 1949 armistice lines but inside the existing security barrier can choose to become citizens of the State of Israel, become citizens of the State of Palestine or keep their status as permanent residents in Israel.
-The plan calls for $50 billion to be spent developing the State of Palestine’s economy.
-The plan will require that both parties recognize the State of Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people and the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. A ceasefire must be established and held to. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all other terror organizations in Palestinian territories must be disarmed. If Hamas remains in power, it must commit to peace with Israel.
Here’s my problem with the plan: Palestinian authorities have rejected it. President Abbas has called it “slap of the century” promising to “send it to the dustbins of history.” True peace can only be achieved when both Israelis and Palestinians come to the table and have challenging, contentious, emotional dialogue. And this is not happening.
President Trump’s plan explains that the plan is just the first step:
It will be up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take courageous and bold actions to end the political stalemate, resume negotiations on the basis of this Vision, and make lasting peace and economic prosperity a reality. If the Palestinians have concerns with this Vision, they should bring them forth in the context of good-faith negotiations with the Israelis and help make progress for the region. Mere opposition to this Vision is simply a declaration of support for the hopeless status quo that is the product of decades of stale thinking.
Right now, we’re still stuck in the hopeless status quo. There are lots of things in the plan that I believe are good for both sides. But, let’s remember, I’m a Zionist. I’m a strong supporter of Israel.
Anyone who has gone through mediation knows that it is quite common that a just settlement requires both sides to give more than they want to – to feel somewhat uncomfortable with the end result. This some say is when a true resolution has come about. Do I want to feel this way about a final peace plan between Israel and a Palestinian State? Of course not! But, I am realistic. I know that true peace might require some discomfort. And in order to get to this discomfort, we need to talk.
Unfortunately, right now, there is no talking. There is no mediation, no negotiation.
It is my hope that some of the Muslim nations that are supporting this plan work behind the scenes to encourage the Palestinians to come to the table. Then and only then can we see if President Trump’s plan is actually a first step. Right now, it’s just ideas.
There’s an ancient Jewish teaching that says: “Benedictions are of no avail if peace is not included in them.” (Numbers Rabbah 11) Right now, the Trump plan is filled with benedictions, words that express a framework for peace, but real peace can only be built when both sides comes together to discuss, debate, edit and, hopefully, embrace this framework and turn it into what will become a true benediction of peace.