1. Let’s make a deal: After what feels like a century of waiting, it’s finally deal day, when the US will unveil its peace proposal to the world, like a debutante making her entrance to “oohs,” “ahhs” and maybe “huhs.”
- In Israel, anticipation over the expected announcement is becoming palpable, even among those who think the plan won’t go anywhere, though it ranges from unbridled excitement to curmudgeonly grumbling and everywhere in between.
- Pictures of US President Donald Trump grinning while meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (separately) adorn the front pages of all of Israel’s major dailies and news websites.
- While tabloids Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom give equal front page real estate to both Israeli leaders, Haaretz only features a picture of Gantz and Trump on its A1.
- “Doing a deal,” reads the headline of Yedioth.
- “One-time chance,” blasts Israel Hayom, toeing Likud’s line of presenting the deal as a unique opportunity presented by the confluence of Netanyahu in power in Jerusalem and Trump in the White House.
- Haaretz, meanwhile, highlights Trump’s assumption that the Palestinians will eventually come around to the deal, which he described as “overly good” to them.
2. Tell me more, tell me more: There are only hours to go before the actual proposal goes public, but leaks about what the deal may or may not contain have continue to spring forth in the meantime.
- Axios reports that “Some key allies who have been asked to provide statements of support have yet to see details of the plan.”
- “The peace plan has been the most secretive effort inside an extraordinarily leaky administration. Not a single detail has leaked for three years about how the Trump administration will propose to divide territory between Israel and the Palestinians,” the news site says.
- Nonetheless, there have been some leaks. Channel 12 news reports that the administration’s peace plan would let Israel retain two holy sites deep inside the West Bank — the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the southern West Bank and Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus in the northern West Bank.
- While Israeli news sites have indeed been leading the way in terms of publishing leaks from the plan, likely based on Israeli sources who may be pushing a particular agenda, on Tuesday, the US press corps leads the way.
- The Washington Post reports that the plan “is expected to offer limited autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that would increase over about a three-year timeline if Palestinian leadership undertook new political measures, renounced violence and took other steps in negotiation with Israel.”
- “There are a lot of goodies in there for the Palestinians — a lot — but by no means all of what they have long sought,” a source is quoted telling the paper. “They have within their grasp a state.”
- The Post notes that “conditional sovereignty appears to fall far short of the long-standing international goal of a separate, fully independent Palestinian state.”
3. Hard no or hardly know? But Saudi-based al-Arabiya reports that the “plan will include a two-state solution, creating a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.”
- The report, which may be part of the White House’s plan to sell the proposal to Gulf states, also notes that the Temple Mount mosque will remain in Jordanian custody.
- Channel 13 reports, citing a senior source in an unspecified Arab state, that Gulf states and others are expected to issue a statement offering support for the plan. But “if the plan allows Israel to immediately annex parts of the West Bank, they will be forced to distance themselves from it.”
- Palestinian official Elias Zanaziri tells Army Radio that “the official stances of the Arab states support the Palestinian position, which calls for two states for two peoples.”
- But in the Christian Science Monitor, Taylor Luck reports that the Arab states actually don’t give much of a hoot about the plan at all.
- “A change in calculations and priorities by Arab leaders, coupled with the wariness with which young Arabs view their own governments, has muddled the message on Palestinian statehood.
- Just as startling as the suddenness of announcing Trump’s long-promised peace plan, the details of which he is expected to release Tuesday, is the collective shoulder shrug in the Arab world,” he writes.
- In Israel Hayom, Jason Greenblatt, who helped shepherd the plan’s composition, and US-based wealth manager Bishara Bahbah, who is Palestinian, try to sell the plan to Palestinians via a mix of promises and threats.
- “If the Palestinian leadership is hoping that this year will be President Trump’s last year in office, they probably will be sorely disappointed. The likelihood of another presidential term for President Trump is extremely high,” they write in a piece also published in English in the Jerusalem Post. “For Palestinians, this means that if they fail to deal with the Trump administration, they are potentially signing up for five more years of little to no progress for Palestinians. Is that what they want for their children?”
4. Settlers won’t settle: But while Trump said the plan will need Palestinian support, he is widely seen as actually courting evangelical support with its Israel-friendly terms, just as Netanyahu is seen as using the plan to push for settler support.
- Haaretz’s Noa Landau, who ballyhoos the release of the plan as the end of leaks or rumors “cloaked in vested interests,” writes that those groups are the “real bosses.”
- “The settlers and evangelicals are the only ones who are leading rather than being led.”
- The settlers, though, may have already made up their minds. Kan reports that the Yesha settler umbrella group has decided to officially oppose the plan because it allows for Palestinian self-rule, “even if that means giving up on Israeli annexation in the Jordan Valley or parts of the West Bank.”
- “We’ve worked hard to erase the idea of a Palestinian state from being on the table on the right. We aren’t prepared to recognize a reality of 70-30 [percent], but rather it is all ours,” hard-line minister Bezalel Smotrich tells Army Radio.
Settler leaders coming out against the Trump plan. Next on the list evangelicals. This might end up being a political headache for Bibi & Trump even if it still is a terrible non-starter of a plan https://t.co/7IdLXPKbOf
— Ilan Goldenberg (@ilangoldenberg) January 28, 2020
- In Israel Hayom, Ariel Kahane writes that settlers and anyone else is crazy not to love the deal, which he describes as a “blank check from the US for Israel to go shopping without limits.”
- (The almost same exact quote was used by Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi to explain why her side is opposed. “This is a partnership to destroy the chances for peace and hand over to Israel a shopping list of everything it wanted,” she tells Foreign Policy.)
- Despite an INSS survey that found a plurality of Israelis are against unilateral annexation, Kahane claims that “the Israeli public overwhelmingly supports annexation. The Arabs don’t really mind it. The EU is weak, and anyway, Netanyahu has courted enough support to head off European sanctions. The PLO is on the ropes as it has not been before, even before Oslo.”
5. Not much hope: Many in Israel in fact are less than gung ho about the prospects of the plan to actually bring about a lasting peace, let alone a deal or arrangement of any kind.
- “Every diplomat negotiation managed by Trump as president has started off with bombast, but developments have been modest and spasmodic, like the China trade deal,” writes Sever Plotzker in Yedioth. “Despite his past proclamations, Trump has no real desire to ‘solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The point is just to give it a feeling of movement and running. Running nowhere? From his perspective, as from the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, running nowhere is better actually moving forward toward diplomatic and national targets in which they are still deeply at odds.”
- Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that any hopes for the plan’s success, as Trump displayed Monday, are “false.”
- “He may be enough of a self-absorbed simpleton to believe himself, but it’s doubtful any of his advisers share his optimism.”
6. Putting on the Gantz: Peace may not come out of this meeting, but Benny Gantz’s future might, after he came away from talks with Trump looking just as prime ministerial as Netanyahu, according to pundits.
- “He may not have been brought out to speak to the journalists, and was only given 50 minutes, but those details are not important,” writes Yedioth’s Orly Azulay. “What’s important is the fact that, from Gantz’s perspective, he showed that he can step onto Netanyahu’s home court and be received with all the recognition deserving the head of the largest party in Israel.”
- Not only that, but Gantz may have one-upped Netanyahu, writes Channel 12’s Yaron Avraham. “Netanyahu, who tried to ‘sabotage’ Gantz’s campaign and portray him as an doormat being dragged to the White House against his will, ended up giving him many pictures that Gantz can use to adorn his campaign, including a warm welcome from the US president. Netanyahu came to curse and ended up praising.”
- Or as a popular and horrifying meme puts it:
— Raz Tsipris (@RTsipris) January 27, 2020
7. Indictment rules all: Netanyahu is still seemingly trying to one-up Gantz, making a surprise trip to Moscow on his way home, which some see as him attempting to rescue jailed backpacker Naama Issachar, whom Israeli pundits estimate will soon be pardoned.
- But he’ll need a lot more than credit for saving damsel potheads in distress, with the Attorney General officially indicting the prime minister Tuesday afternoon.
- The story dominates the Israeli media landscape Tuesday afternoon, overtaking peace plan talk, a troop call up in the West Bank and Issachar’s pending release.
- Two of the indictments involve Netanyahu’s suspected attempts to sway media coverage of him, and those same news outlets implicated point fingers while covering up themselves.
- Walla news only notes its role in one the cases at the bottom of its article, while putting an indictment against Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes up high
- Ynet, meanwhile, mentions that Mozes was indicted in its lede, but only connects him as the editor in chief of Yedioth much lower down.
8. Now of all times? The indictments came while Netanyahu is in Washington, and hours after he himself pulled his immunity request.
- But Channel 13 reports that Netanyahu is trying to use the rain on his peace plan parade as a talking point, with his people releasing a statement calling the timing of the indictment, “proof … of the obsessive witch-hunt.”
- Right-wing journalist Eral Segal, meanwhile, pens a piece run by Channel 12 news in which he says that the indictment is only a side show and the real news is the peace plan: The case “is nothing compared to this historic moment we are witnessing today. … The plan is more dramatic and important than anything, and it was brought to fruition by Netanyahu.”