Trump admin seeks peace plan rollout in April: Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that the Trump administration would roll out their anticipated peace plan after the Israeli Knesset elections on April 9th. “We’ve begun to share elements of this across the region,” Pompeo said in remarks via satellite to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. “It won’t be a U.S.-driven process. Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement. But we think that the foundations that we have laid and the work that we’ll do immediately following the Israeli elections will set conditions where we can have a constructive conversation.” [Video]

— Three senior White House aides tell the Jerusalem Post’s Michael Wilner that Trump’s peace team is gaming out a timetable for the release of their plan possibly even before a governing coalition is formed in Israel. According to Israeli law, the candidate nominated by the president for prime minister has 42 days to form a coalition.

Dov Zakheim tells JI: “It depends very much on what the Israeli elections are going to look like. And the question is even if the next prime minister is not Netanyahu, will it be a right-wing government, which all the opinion polls seem to indicate it will be? So the Palestinians have to really wait and see how that government settles out. And then they can see whether they’ve got a kind of de Gaulle, or even a Sharon, who’s prepared to make a deal from the right, or whether it’s just more of the same. So the combination of a right-wing Israeli government and Trump in the White House doesn’t exactly reassure them.”

But Zakheim cautioned, “While there’s basically a year and a half to make a deal if the administration can pull it off, there are a few other things that right now are bothering the White House, I suspect, a lot more than an Israel-Palestinian peace deal. There’s the Mueller report. Trump wants to talk to the North Koreans again. And, right now, you’ve even got the government shutdown. Nobody knows how long that’ll go on. The president said he could tolerate it for months. So there are quite a bit of things that are a higher priority. The incentives just don’t seem to be there for a major push until some of these other issues get resolves. ”

Addressing Jason Greenblatt’s recent Twitter exchange with Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi, Zakheim recalled: “Ashrawi is a professional pessimist. I haven’t spoken to her in years. But years ago, I saw her reasonably often, and when Yitzhak Rabin was elected (in 1992), I bet her a case of wine that he would make peace. And she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And course, they then had Oslo, and I never heard back from her. She still owes me the case. I’d want it to be kosher, but she never paid up.”

Dan Arbell, a 25 year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Service and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, told JI in a recent interview: “Summer of 2019 is the last moment that the plan could be introduced because it’s just a little over a year before the 2020 presidential elections. Obviously, if the administration wants it to succeed, the timing should be earlier than summer 2019.”

Tom Friedman writes… “More Schools and Fewer Tanks for the Mideast: I’d keep our special forces in Syria, though, but not because we’ve yet to defeat ISIS. ISIS is a direct byproduct of the wider regional struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran. ISIS arose as an extreme Sunni response to the extreme efforts by Iran and pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria to ethnically cleanse and strip power from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. As long as Iran pursues that strategy, there will be an ISIS in some form or other. That’s why the only peace process that could have a stabilizing effect across the Middle East today is not between Israelis and Palestinians — but between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” [NYTimes]

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