Diana Buttu | Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team
Indeed, the Trump plan will not bring peace. This plan, in its essence, was devised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing extremists. It is a plan that seeks Palestinian submission and subjugation, not one that is based on equality or international law. Alarmingly, whereas in the past there was never a discussion of taking away citizenship from Palestinians in Israel, this is now a component of the plan, which would strip some 300,000 Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship, leaving the remaining Palestinians in Israel with an uncertain status.
There are two main reasons for this plan: First, like the various “gifts” that President Donald Trump gave to Israel—moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ending assistance to the Palestinian Authority, ending funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, closing the Palestine Liberation Organization representative office in Washington, D.C., and declaring that Israeli settlements are not illegal—the plan aimed to make “facts on the ground” virtually impossible for any future U.S. president to reverse. Who, for example, will move the embassy back to Tel Aviv?
Second, the timing was designed to help Netanyahu secure an election victory in order to avoid serving prison time. The Israeli prime minister has faced difficulty in the past two, indecisive, elections and is hoping this plan will secure him some votes or seats from Israel’s extreme right. Netanyahu will use the plan to begin annexing the West Bank as soon as possible. It gives him the U.S. backing he needs to move ahead, before or after the Israeli elections.
The plan, it should be noted, is not only colonial in its approach—with Trump, his son in law Jared Kushner, the U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Netanyahu deciding what is best for us—but also telling: Of the 13 million Palestinians worldwide, they could not find a single Palestinian to sign onto the plan as no Palestinian could endorse our collective subjugation.
Mkhaimar Abusada | Political analyst and chairman of the Political Science Department at Al-Azhar University in Gaza
The Trump administration’s plan for Palestinians and Israelis has unilaterally terminated negotiations over final-status issues—Jerusalem, refugees, Israeli settlements, and final borders. It would leave Palestinians with a political entity that is not viable, without sovereignty or control over its borders, and above all having no control over Al-Aqsa Mosque. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot come out of a unilateral and biased plan like this one.
I believe the main purpose of this plan was to divert U.S. public attention from the impeachment process against President Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate and garner more support from evangelicals and conservative voters to help reelect Trump this year. I also think the timing of the release of the plan five weeks before Israeli parliamentary elections was aimed at boosting the chances of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to win as he faces corruption and bribery charges and remains unable to form a coalition government.
The Trump plan will not bring peace to the region. Rather, it will destabilize an already troubled and fractured Middle East, and might lead to further deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli Jordanian relations.
Aaron David Miller | Senior fellow in the Geoeconomic and Strategy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Why release the most detailed U.S. peace plan in the history of America’s peace process diplomacy five weeks before the third Israeli election in a year, without any real discussion and without consulting the Palestinians, against the backdrop of a U.S. presidential impeachment trial, on the eve of the Democratic primaries, knowing full well that the gaps between Israelis and Palestinian are galactic in scale and the mistrust as wide as the Grand Canyon?
Why indeed? First there is the mundane. Whether a U.S. peace plan so preternaturally oriented toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will help him in the March 2 elections isn’t at all clear. But as my grandmother said about her chicken soup, it can’t hurt, particularly if the administration greenlights Israeli annexation before Israel’s elections. The Trump administration deems it useful if possible to keep Netanyahu around through the U.S. elections to help shore up its pro-Israel base. Waiting for the results of the Israeli elections and the formation of a new Israeli government would have meant pushing the plan’s announcement too deep into 2020. This would have interfered with the U.S. political clock, all the more so as the results of the last two elections in Israel do not suggest that a quick resolution of the political deadlock in the country is likely.
Then there’s the grandiose. The plan’s announcement was never about starting negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, let alone reaching an agreement. From its inception the Trump administration’s intensely pro-Israel peace team sought to abandon the approach of the previous three U.S. administrations and reframe Washington’s policy toward a two-state solution so that it closely aligned with Netanyahu’s vision of Israel’s borders. This means a truncated Palestinian state without sovereignty, maintenance of Israeli control over virtually all of Jerusalem, incorporation into Israel of Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley, and dismissal of the problem of Palestinian refugees. Trump inherited a nearly dead two-state solution. He may well end up burying it on his watch.
Hussein Ibish | Senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C.
The timing was entirely political. President Donald Trump does not do policy at all, only politics. The primary aim was to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get reelected and stay out of prison. The wish list for the Israeli right embodied in the U.S. plan was intended to ensure that he stayed in power, and the plan will probably do so. It also served Trump’s own political condition, which also helps him stay out of jail, allowing him to pose as a peacemaker and visionary while Senate minnows squabbled about impeachment and solidified his alliance with the fanatical and apocalyptic Christian right.
A secondary consideration was pushing the envelope on what is politically acceptable in terms of U.S. policy toward Israel, creating ever-greater space for supporting annexation and thwarting any prospect of a two-state solution. The ultimate goal is to deny Palestinians statehood and lay an irreversible foundation for the United States to embrace a separate, unequal and apartheid-like Greater Israel encircling a pathetic Palestinian Bantustan.
Zaha Hassan | Visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focusing on Palestine-Israel peace
The timing of the unveiling of the Trump plan for Israel-Palestine was unquestioningly determined by political expediency: President Donald Trump was in the midst of an impeachment trial for seeking foreign help in undermining the presidential campaign of a political rival and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to stand trial on corruption and bribery charges. Timing aside, the plan should be understood as a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel over just how much Palestinian land Israel can annex with U.S. blessing and—most importantly—with U.S. political recognition of Israeli sovereignty.
Fortunately for Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim world came through by issuing strong statements reaffirming international law and a consensus around a resolution of the 52-year-old Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Most important, the Arab League states meeting in Cairo called on Arab states to not cooperate with any attempt to implement the plan. The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, meeting in Saudi Arabia in executive session, stated that the plan did not meet minimal requirements and would “destroy the foundations of peace.” It rejected the plan outright.
Jared Kushner and his Mideast peace team appear to have miscalculated on the Arab Gulf states’ support for the plan, believing that they could secure these states’ financial and political commitment in executing a plan that would liquidate Palestinian national aspirations. The Trump administration went too far too fast, ensuring that the plan would find little backing.