Israel media review

Plan be with you: 8 things to know for January 29

There’s no peace, but there is a proposal and a plan to push ahead with annexation, which is either the end of Zionism or the dawn of a new day; just don’t mentions indictments

An Israeli man watches the televised press conference of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an electronics shop in the Israeli city of Modiin on January 28, 2020. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
An Israeli man watches the televised press conference of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an electronics shop in the Israeli city of Modiin on January 28, 2020. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

1. A for effort: The US has released its long awaited peace plan, and while there is barely a hairbreadth of expectation that it will bring peace outside of anyone whose name rhymes with Mushner, there are high expectations in Israel nonetheless.

  • In fact, nearly everyone is agreement in what the plan will bear — Palestinian rejection and Israeli attempts at annexation, with the main disagreement being only whether it is good or bad.
  • “Peace according to Trump,” reads the front page headline on tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth, which goes broadsheet with its front page in honor of the momentous occasion, displaying a massive reprint of the map from the plan and a picture of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.
  • “The Trump plan is really neither a deal nor a peace blueprint,” writes Stephen Collinson in CNN.
  • “No settlements are being evacuated,” writes Channel 12’s Ofer Hadad. “This is the headline from the peace plan. This and this alone.”
  • In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer describes the plan as “destined to fail,” and “a nonstarter.”
  • But he says it was never really designed to succeed, or even to push annexation. Rather, it was created to garner a Palestinian rejection: “The Trump plan will never work – but it isn’t meant to, as far as Netanyahu is concerned. It is there to drive a stake through the heart of the Palestinian national movement and open the way to the transformation of the Palestinians to a people, like the Tibetans or the Kurds, without a realistic hope of ever having a state of their own.”
  • ToI’s Raphael Ahren writes that “at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what’s in the plan — because it won’t be implemented.… That is not to say that the plan’s publication won’t have major repercussions. As Netanyahu stressed in his briefing, he intends to begin applying Israeli sovereignty over the parts the deal views as part of Israel as soon as next Sunday.… A unilateral Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank, without a realistic prospect of a Palestinian state could lead, down the road, to a one-state solution.”

2. Extension of sovereignty in our time: Israel Hayom cuts right to the chase with its front page headline, “Sovereignty now,” leaving peace to the suckers and reflecting what appeared to be the prime minister’s major takeaways from the plan — that it okays him to start annexing parts of the West Bank right away and gives little leeway for the Palestinians to create a state or anything like it.

  • “Start building in the West Bank like in Tel Aviv,” editor Boaz Bismuth exhorts, calling on the sides (Netanyahu and Benny Gantz) to be this generation’s David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. “This is an amazing chance for them to enter the history books as statesmen,” he writes.
  • He also calls Trump “the hero of our time,” and admits to getting emotional while hearing the peace deal roll out.
  • The paper’s Ariel Kahana writes on Twitter that “there’s no [settlement] freeze, no choking off [of settlements] and the Palestinian state is on the moon,” claiming that there’s no impediment to annexing right away.
  • “We can’t miss this at the moment of truth. This is time to seize the historic opportunity,” he writes.

3. Fast train to annex nation: Speaking to reporters, US envoy to Israel David Freidman said Israel could start annexing right away, while Netanyahu was telling reporters that he plans to get the ball rolling Sunday.

  • “Israel does not have to wait at all,” Friedman said, when asked whether there was a “waiting period” over when the country could extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements, ToI’s Eric Cortelessa reports.
  • But on CNN, Jared Kushner, when asked about annexation happening right away, responds, “Yeah, I don’t believe that’s going to happen this weekend. At least, not as far as I know.”
  • Speaking to Army Radio, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who has been a point man in the deal-making, says he does not think annexation will start Sunday. “There is an attempt to start the sovereignty process as fast as possible, but there are some forms and permits that need to be submitted, I assume we won’t manage it by Sunday.”
  • As for whether Israel can make such a move with a caretaker government, it is not clear. But Kan reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, speaking before the plan’s release, said wide-ranging moves could be okayed in an emergency.
  • “I’m not ruling anything out,” he’s quoted as saying.

4. The end of the world as we know it: That’s just one issue. Another is whether whatever happening is a good thing, with many answering in the negative.

  • Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea writes that “This is not a peace plan, this is an annexation plan.” Calling it “the end of Zionism,” and a “poison pill,” he says it will create an “apartheid state.”
  • In Walla News, Amir Oren compares Israel’s annexation fever, which he says will only perpetuate the conflict, to the Wuhan coronavirus.
  • ToI editor David Horovitz writes that “While Trump’s plan will not achieve its stated goal of Israeli-Palestinian peace, it marks a resounding success for Netanyahu, at least in the short term. Among other achievements, he evidently shifted a president who, on taking office, told the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that he did not consider settlements “a good thing for peace.”
  • In Haaretz, ex-Palestinian negotiator Dianne Buttu writes that “the plan does away with the international legal system as we know it and replaces it with a system in which ‘might is right’ — where power, and not law, is supreme.”

5. Always look on the bright side: Despite the skepticism, there is still some hope and excitement, including in Yedioth, which runs a translation of Trump’s speech, under the headline “Giant step toward peace,” in place of where its main news story about the plan would normally go.

  • Ben Dror Yemini in the paper calls the plan “a chance to avoid a disaster,” which he says will be the result of doing nothing. “The plan only has potential if it turns into a scheme for a unilateral arrangement, which at its core will be separation from the Palestinians, not only in Areas A and B, but also part of C. This is not the plan any Zionist dreamed up, from left to right, it would have been better to reach a deal with the Palestinians, but there is no partner.”
  • Haaretz’s Noa Landau writes that the settlements are already pretty much annexed anyway, so what the plan actually achieves is a softening of the right.
  • “Large portions of the Israeli right effectively renounced the dream of retaining the entire Land of Israel. In principle, they accepted the idea of dividing it in exchange for 30 percent of the West Bank,” she says. “This in-principle recognition that it’s actually possible to accept a diplomatic deal that divides the land if it’s just good enough is important for the more distant future. Because now, it’s clear everyone understands that the argument isn’t about whether a Palestinian state should arise alongside Israel, but only at what price.”

6. Geography lessons: One thing the plan did that many in the past did not do was actually put out a mostly detailed map, allowing those involved to actually kind of visualize what the plan entails, and of course make fun of it.

  • The S. Abraham Center publishes a redrawing of the map that shows the land swaps and annexed parts in much starker detail than the original map, which did not clearly show some areas the plan proposes transferring to a Palestinian state.
  • Tweets by some people also place the Palestinian “state” in contexts that make it clearer how much of a bantustan-esque entity it would be.
  • And another map shows the outline to be essentially in line with what “traitor” Yitzhak Rabin gave up in the Oslo accords.

7. Whose plan? While much of the outline of the plan was known in advance via leaks, the introduction of potentially remarcating Israeli Arab towns into Palestinian territory was new.

  • Channel 13’s Barak Ravid notes that the idea was first championed by Avigdor Liberman, “turning the Netanyahu plan into the Liberman plan.”
  • Nonetheless, in Haaretz, editor Aluf Benn writes that the plan appears to have been ripped from the pages of Netanyahu’s 1993 book, “A place among the nations.” “Trump may have signed it, but Netanyahu wrote it.”
  • Also taking a stroll down memory lane is Channel 12’s Amnon Abarmovitch, who reports that in 2018 Netanyahu told an audience that he had told former prime minister Ehud Olmert that one cannot push a peace plan forward without a mandated government.

8. The other major story that time forgot: The deal drop absolutely buries the indictment of Netanyahu, a moment no less historic, in the press — either a fortunate stroke of luck for Netanyahu, or a master stroke of planning (despite his complaints about the timing to the contrary).

  • Haaretz is the only major daily to play the indictment larger than the peace plan, with the two stories convalescing into one toxic stew.
  • The paper’s Yossi Verter writes that the drama of the day was “unbelievable,” and says that the indictment is big because “This is the first time that Netanyahu has totally lost control over his destiny.”
  • In most places though, the indictment is second fiddle to the peace deal. Yedioth places it on page 14, surmising that he pulled his immunity bid because he did not want to give Blue and White the pleasure of beating him.
  • Netanyahu-backing Israel Hayom puts it even further back — page 16 — and includes two columns blasting the system for trying to take down a good man.
  • “This was an ambush planned ahead of time,” charges Haim Shine in one of them, though it was Netanyahu that determined the timing.
  • By Wednesday, the indictment is barely even mentioned on most news sites, with the conversation revolving around the peace deal, annexation and little else.

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