Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, has reportedly been meeting with American security officials who in years past have looked at solutions for the day after an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty is signed, including those who worked on the issue during the presidency of Barack Obama.
One of the plans that Greenblatt has reportedly been studying is known as the Allen Plan, drawn up by retired US general John Allen, the Haaretz newspaper reported on Friday.
“You’ve probably heard that everything in the plan is based on technology,” one source who spoke to Greenblatt told him. “That’s not at all accurate.”
Dozens of US officers and experts worked for months on the Allen Plan, under the leadership of the four-star marine general and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan. The plan was drawn up on the basis of numerous discussions with top current and former Israeli officials, including IDF chiefs of staff, Mossad heads and Shin Bet directors.
The details of the plan remain secret, but it was an important component of the ultimately futile 2013-2014 peace talks spearheaded by then-secretary of state John Kerry. Its purpose was to address Israel’s security concerns once a Palestinian state is established.
However, the plan was reportedly dismissed by Israel’s defense minister at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, as “not worth the paper it is printed on” and something that would not provide security for Israel.
Greenblatt was advised by Obama-era officials to study the plan before trying to negotiate a peace treaty, to ensure that Israel’s security concerns are answered. One sign that Trump’s team was looking at ideas from the previous administration was the recent appointment of Kris Bauman, a veteran Obama administration negotiator, as the Israel adviser on the National Security Council. Bauman was involved in devising the Allen plan.
Haaretz spoke with several US and Israeli officials who worked on the Allen Plan, who described it as a joint Pentagon and IDF plan, the result of close cooperation between Jerusalem and Washington. The officials said that the plan was never finalized but was drawn up after many high-level and detailed discussions between the two teams.
According to officials, Israel presented the US with a 26-point list of security concerns in the event that Israel would withdraw from the West Bank. The plan attempted to address all of those points.
The head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate at that time, Maj. Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, who led the Israeli team in the discussions, felt that the plan could provide adequate security for Israel following a large withdrawal from the West Bank, which would have included arrangements with the US, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Then-IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Benny Gantz, also reportedly felt that the plan was adequate. US officials told Haaretz that “we greatly appreciated the contribution of Lt. Gen. Gantz, who supported the continued discussions and encouraged us to keep looking for solutions, even when we were stuck due to disagreement between the two sides.”
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ya’alon publicly opposed the plan, saying the Americans had not provided adequate solutions. “You’ve given us a plan based on advanced technologies — satellites, sensors, war rooms with TV screens — but with no presence in the field of our forces. How is that technology going to help when a Salafist or an Islamic Jihad terror cell tries to attack Israeli targets?” Ya’alon reportedly complained. “How are satellites going to quash the rocket-building industry that’s developing in Nablus and that will launch rockets at Tel Aviv and the center of the country?”
The plan provided for a massively upgraded fence along the border between the West Bank and Jordan, with the IDF maintaining sole responsibility for it for the first 10 years of a peace agreement. After that, border authority would be shared in some unspecified joint effort between Israel and the PA.
The discussions ended when the Kerry-proposed peace deal fell apart.
“Our feeling throughout the entire process was that the senior echelon in the IDF treated the issue in a purely professional matter, and examined each of our proposals solely from a security point of view,” a US official involved told Haaretz. “On the other hand, [we felt that] the Israeli political leaders — especially Netanyahu and Ya’alon — tried to thwart the talks.”
Allen told Haaretz this week, “We have always believed that the progress we achieved in security issues justifies the continuation of the negotiations on the other core issues, and that security has not been an obstacle to progress in the peace talks.”
Although the US administration has not offered details about any specific vision for a peace plan, Trump reiterated on his May 22-23 visit to Israel and the West Bank that he seeks to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord. While Netanyahu highlighted his skepticism about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s readiness for a deal, he did tell Trump that “for the first time in many years — and, Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime — I see a real hope for change.”
For his part, Trump was adamant in his final speech at the Israel Museum on Tuesday that Abbas and the Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.”
Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who along with Greenblatt has been tasked by Trump with relaunching the peace process, reportedly told Herzog on Tuesday: “We are planning to move fast in starting a diplomatic process in order to reach a deal.”
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.