Is Trump Right About Middle-East Peace?
Kushner’s plan is now ready. It is 50 pages long, he told me a few months ago. Although the plan’s contents are a well-kept secret, they are likely to be close to Israel’s position. The US proposal might therefore offer the Palestinians a large degree of autonomy rather than a full-fledged state, and maintain most of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Is the Kushner plan therefore doomed to fail? That is arguably the safest bet, given the inability of previous US presidents to bring peace to the region over the last 20 years.
But we must not rule anything out. In June, the Trump administration put forward a separate proposal for massive economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza, including some $50 billion in investments over ten years. Such a package may well appeal to people in dire economic need. Moreover, it is “five to midnight” in the West Bank: the continued expansion of Israeli settlements will soon render impossible the territorial compromise necessary to establish a viable Palestinian state.
The Palestinians therefore face a choice between an unsatisfactory compromise and a continuous (and soon irreversible) deterioration of their situation. Perhaps they will conclude that taking a deal will be a good first step. That, at least, is the calculation of Kushner, who repeatedly says that his plan will be “better for the Palestinians than they think.”
At the same time, both sides would be relieved not to have to answer to US pressure. The Palestinians fear having a quasi-Israeli diktat imposed on them. And Israel knows that Trump, who has a purely transactional view of diplomacy, expects it to repay his generosity by making concessions toward a peace deal.
Above all, the status quo favors Israel, which can keep the West Bank without having to decide whether to make Palestinians Israeli citizens or foreigners on their own land. Moreover, Israel may conclude that its overwhelming regional military superiority ensures its security at least as well as any peace agreement would – if not better.
Everything now depends on Trump, who has publicly promised to transmit his son-in-law’s peace plan to both parties. But whatever Trump decides, and whoever wins the 2020 US presidential election, one thing is clear: Israel and the Palestinians are unable to reach a peace agreement by themselves, as even Israel’s most ardent US supporters now acknowledge. Any subsequent attempt to mediate the conflict will have to be based on recognition of that reality.
Like US presidents before him, Trump may well fail to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. But by proposing an agreement instead of merely trying to broker one between the two sides, he could yet establish a model for his successors to follow.: source Project Syndicate, 2019.