U.S. President Donald Trump meets Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on January 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Kobi Gideon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
President Trump is rolling out his long-awaited peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians today, entitled “Deal of the Century,” which has been simultaneously praised and sarcastically derided.
But the deal is no joke.
Here are three things all Americans should know about the plan and the circumstances surrounding it:
With Israel’s politicians failing to form a new government after the September elections, consensus was that the Trump administration would wait until after the 2020 U.S. elections to release the peace plan. The idea was that it would be too risky to meddle in Israel’s upcoming “do over” election this March.
But then two things changed. The biggest development was the decision by Israel’s top opposition party to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to annex or extend official Israeli sovereignty over areas in the West Bank with established Jewish populations.
Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz not only promised to pursue that policy, but he promised to do it more effectively than Netanyahu and his Likud Party.
Gantz and his party have long been trying to pick off some of the right-wing voters who traditionally support Likud. Announcing that policy is seen as a way to do it.
Gantz probably didn’t intend for this campaign move to affect the peace plan, but it did. It removed a key partisan barrier the Trump team did not want to cross.
If only one major party in Israel supported the annexation idea the Trump plan has long been reported to include, the White House risked being accused of interfering in Israel’s election process.
But with the main opposition party also in favor of the West Bank plan, this can now be pushed as a bipartisan idea. As a result, Gantz was also invited to the White House this week where he not only strongly praised the Trump peace plan but also heaped praise on Trump himself.
Another change in recent weeks is the Trump re-election campaign’s new focus on getting decent voter turnout in the early Republican caucuses and primaries.
No, Trump is not facing any serious GOP challenger for the nomination. But the campaign believes a good turnout, especially in the Iowa caucuses next week, is an important way to show the president’s strength among his base.
That base includes Zionist evangelical Christian voters, who will likely show strong support for the peace plan that Israel sees as extremely favorable to the Jewish state. In Iowa, evangelical voters make up the most important block of GOP support.
The Palestinians won’t take the deal… but they should
The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have said for more than a year that they reject the Trump peace plan sight unseen. That’s even though this plan includes a path to Palestinian statehood and requires Israel to recognize that state.
The Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas have called for “days of rage” to protest the plan, raising fears of more violence and terrorism.
This foolhardy rejectionism is par for the course, as the Palestinians have rejected every statehood and path-to-statehood offer from Britain, the United Nations, and the U.S. for more than 80 years. Perhaps the best offer came from then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, when he and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to turning over Gaza, 94 percent of the West Bank, and key areas of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. But Arafat rejected the offer, and he too called for violent uprisings instead. It was a sad turn of events President Clinton bemoans to this day.
The fact is that no matter what parts of this deal the Palestinians find objectionable, history shows us that every time the Palestinians reject statehood things usually end up getting worse for them. On top of that, the subsequent offers turn out to be not as favorable to Palestinians on borders and sovereignty. Of course, the Palestinians don’t have to forget whatever aspects of this deal they don’t like. But they should follow the examples of India, Pakistan, and Israel itself as nations that all accepted far less than perfect statehood offers instead of risking losing their chance at independence forever.
Don’t call it a “Middle East” peace plan
No one should be fooled into accepting the long-held myth that achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians holds some kind of key to peace in the entire region. The real conflict in the Middle East is between the Shia powers in Iran and the Sunni powers in Saudi Arabia.
In fact, Saudi Arabia’s cozying up to Israel in recent years is all about strengthening the kingdom’s hand against Tehran. If we want to see peace in the Middle East, the Iranian-Saudi conflict is the one to resolve. The bad news is the Sunni-Shia fight is an older and tougher rift to fix than even the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
The good news is the plan is likely to get at least tacit support from Saudi Arabia and its aligned Sunni nations, despite its more favorable terms for Israel. This is a sign that Israel and more of its neighbors are coexisting peacefully without using the Palestinian issue as an excuse to continue hostilities.
So while the plan is supposedly intended to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it’s more likely to succeed in bringing peace between Israel and Arabs living far beyond its borders.
That’s the win-win Israel is seeking while the Trump administration uses the plan to prove it truly is Israel’s best friend.
Jake Novak is a political and economic analyst at Jake Novak News and former CNBC TV producer. You can follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.