Trump’s peace plan: ‘Ultimate Deal’ or deal, ultimately?

The Trump administration is reportedly in its final stages of formalizing the ‘ultimate deal’ that will be presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority early next year. According to a report by Israel’s Chadashot 2, the peace plan would include U.S. recognition of Palestinian statehood with land swaps, but “not necessarily” based on the pre-1967 lines. The U.S. would recognize most of Israel’s stated security needs, including for the ongoing presence of Israeli forces along the Jordan border, no settlements would be evacuated, and the issue of Jerusalem is not mentioned, according to the proposal reported by Israeli media outlets.

The White House dismissed the reports as mere speculation. “It is not an accurate representation, rather it is a mix of possibilities and ideas that have existed for decades,” a senior White House official said. “What we can say is we are engaged in a productive dialogue with all relevant parties and are taking a different approach than the past to create an enduring peace deal. We are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything and we have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the rumored peace plan on Sunday. “My position on this plan will be determined according to Israel’s security and national interests,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “And these were made clear to our American friends.”

“This is the first purportedly comprehensive initiative to be put on the table by an American administration in an advance of a direct bilateral negotiation between the two sides. It’s somewhat unusual for any administration to do this,” Aaron David Miller, former Middle East peace negotiator during the Clinton and Bush administrations, observed. “This is really quite unprecedented.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, who took part in the Obama administration’s peace efforts, welcomed the reported proposal with caution. “I would certainly welcome a declaration by the administration that the goal is a two state solution,” Shapiro told Jewish Insider. “But from my experience, I don’t think the Palestinian leadership will accept as principles for negotiations that the IDF will remain in the Jordan Valley, that there will be no evacuation of any settlements, or remain silent on Jerusalem as even a subject of negotiations.”

“I take all with a grain of salt,” said Elliott Abrams, Deputy National Security Advisor during the George W. Bush administration. “Until something is announced, it can change many times. The plans described in the press seem to me to favor Israel (adopting many of its demands on security measures), which will make that unattractive to the Palestinians.”

Miller, Vice President for New Initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was slightly more optimistic. “I have to say that 10 months in, given the absence of substance with respect to the Trump administration’s public views on this issue and the fact that they haven’t even endorsed a two-state solution, I’m actually quite struck by the fact that they managed to keep this exercise afloat over the course of the last 10 months,” he asserted. ”What that tells me, of course, is nobody — the Arabs, the Israelis, and the Palestinians, each for their own reasons — wants to hang a closed for the season sign on this.”

According to Shapiro, it would be a waste of time if the goal of the administration is to resume negotiations based on these parameters. “I don’t think trying to renew negotiations immediately is the right strategy,” he explained. “I think the immediate goal should be practical steps that all parties can take to stop the progress in the direction of one binational state, and preserving the two state solution as a realistic option for the future. But the negotiation itself should not take place until there are changes in the leadership of the two sides.”

However, “if the goal is the blame game, or something else, there might be a logic to it,” the former U.S. diplomat added.

Citing previous times where the Palestinians rejected U.S. proposals, Abrams said, “I wish they would conclude from this that time is not on their side and they should be trying hard for a peace agreement, but they never have reached that conclusion. So I remain pessimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement.”

“To borrow a phrase from Jim Baker, nobody wants Trump to put the dead cat on their doorstep,” Miller concluded. “You can get a fair amount of mileage out of that tactic. You can’t close a deal but you can keep the process going. It’s not an ‘ultimate deal,’ it’s a deal, ultimately.”

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