The Trump plan could indeed prove historic – for all the wrong reasons

The Trump plan could indeed prove historic – for all the wrong reasons

The ‘Deal of the Century’ has united the Palestinian in opposition, and if Israel annexes West Bank territory, it could be remembered as the trigger for a third intifada

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's peace plan proposal on January 28, 2020, at the entrance of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the settlement of Beit El. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)
Palestinian demonstrators burn tires during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's peace plan proposal on January 28, 2020, at the entrance of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the settlement of Beit El. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

The “Deal of the Century” is a fantastic plan — one that tackles all the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No stone was left unturned by the American-Israeli team that wrote it. The Palestinian refugees and their descendants can return to their homeland, Palestine, after the state is established. East Jerusalem (sorry, three Palestinian villages outside the security barrier) will be the Palestinian state’s capital, and Palestine will live happily ever after — demilitarized, democratic, and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state that rules about 70 percent of the West Bank. Even Hamas will give up its arms.

It is indeed a fantastic plan — or should we say, fantastical.

That’s because, unfortunately, the other side, with whom the State of Israel is meant to make peace, those “others” called the Palestinians, reject this plan outright. This isn’t just Hamas. Everyone is refusing to accept even a single clause.

And yet, the great right-wing pundits and politicians (including pundits striving to be politicians) are describing this plan as historic. They claim the Palestinians would never have accepted any other peace plan, so their position is irrelevant. Look, they say, the Palestinians rejected the UN Partition Plan in 1947, the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Camp David proposal in 2000, Olmert’s proposal in 2008.

US President Donald Trump, right, looks over to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 28, 2020. (AP/Susan Walsh)

But that argument has two tiny problems: First, it takes two to tango, and if the “peace” plan is irrelevant for one side, what exactly can we do with it, besides chucking it into the dustbin of history?

Second, even if we assume that they are right and the Palestinians indeed rejected all those offers, why was it so urgent to make another proposal, worse than the rest of them, from a Palestinian perspective, at this time?

This is where we get to the real answer regarding the Trump plan: it is meant to capture public attention in Israel, diverting it in any way possible from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption cases on the eve of the Israeli elections, and hand US President Donald Trump a few points during that country’s own election year.

One doesn’t need to be a genius to guess what will happen if a Democratic candidate wins the November election. And that is not an imaginary scenario.

Trump’s plan has created a kind of consensus among the Palestinians. A delegation from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party will suddenly come to meet senior members of its longtime rival, terror group Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh has spoken on the phone with Abbas, and again talk of unity is in the air.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, speak as they head the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government at Abbas’ office in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

For now, it looks like the Palestinian public has not mobilized en masse, despite warnings by the PA leadership. But a Trump-Netanyahu joint press conference (touted as a “summit”) was never expected to create drama in the Palestinian streets at this time. The big remaining question concerns the promised annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, and how exactly Israel will benefit from it.

A decision by Israel to annex territories some four weeks before the elections is not just theft, but also playing with fire. It could trigger extreme Palestinian steps, such as freezing the security coordination with Israel, dismantling the Palestinian Authority or renewing terror attacks.

The same “right-wing pundits” will claim this is hysterical alarmism by the left and the military. The problem is that those warnings are voiced not only by senior IDF officers, but also by Shin Bet members and everyone monitoring the situation on the Palestinian side.

The right-wing pundits are refusing to acknowledge the simple truth — that the same Palestinian Authority they wish to dismantle is currently responsible for thwarting a quarter or a third of all attempted terror attacks, including against settlers. They refuse to acknowledge that the PA played a key role in the fact that the West Bank has calmed down in recent years and hasn’t exploded into something resembling a third intifada.

If the PA were to halt the security coordination, to allow members of Fatah’s Tanzim terror group to take to the streets, or even to dismantle itself, the Trump plan could indeed become a historic event after all — one that will be remembered as one of the causes of a violent outburst resembling the first and second intifadas.

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