Nimrod Novik on the timing of Trump’s peace plan rollout

Nimrod Novik, a fellow at Israel Policy Forum and former advisor to Shimon Peres, discussed the expected rollout of Trump’s peace plan in April and how it might influence the formation of the next Israeli government in an interview with Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh.

“There is a certain reason to expect that if the administration presents the plan by mid-April that they provide the parties with enough time for a response so that the Israeli reply will be of the newly-formed government,” Novik explained the rationale behind the timing of a rollout reported to be right after the April 9th election.

But Novik, a veteran Israeli peace negotiator, cautioned that if President Trump has the final word on the plan, it might not even see the light of day: “Even though all White House officials project confidence that the plan is forthcoming, I wonder if at the moment that they walk into the Oval Office and present the president with the plan and the rollout structure, and he asks them, ‘What are the chances of this succeeding and what are the chances of this being my failure if I associate myself with it?’ if their reading of the region is that this is a no go, will they be candid enough to tell him so? And when he hears the complexities and the potential for failure, will he still go for it? I’m not sure that the answer is yes. I’m not sure.”

“At the moment, from everybody I talk, who speaks to the White House, they get the impression that the team is convinced that it’s a go,” he continued. “But having been in these processes from the days of Reagan on, there is that moment when the president is presented with it and he poses the question about the prospects and the percentages of success, and that’s the moment where he will have to make a judgment whether he goes for it or not.”

Novik also suggested that Netanyahu has a hand in the timing of the rollout and the various delays, waiting for a possible opportunity to use the plan as a card to play in case he decides to centralize himself and regain legitimacy in the media, the same way Sharon saved himself with the Gaza disengagement plan. “Assuming Netanyahu is in a position to form a coalition, there’s no better shortcut to becoming king of the center than embracing an American peace plan,” he opined. “And in Israel, it will fly. You know, Trump is more popular in Israel than he is in the United States.”

“Nonetheless,” Novik noted, “when I look at the different scenarios, which government is likely to be formed — a right-wing government, a national unity government between Likud and the center-left, and a center-left government headed by Benny Gantz or Yair Lapid — I don’t see any that has what it takes for an ultimate deal. I don’t see the numbers and public support for the plan on year one. It will take time to build it. The first option of Netanyahu forming a coalition with his natural partners rules it out altogether.”

In the interview, Novik also expressed concern that the administration has no plan B: “In all my inquiries, I have heard of no safety net, of no plan B, so that if it is not embraced, we are not left with a dead end. I have heard nothing that suggests that the morning after, if it turns out that one of the parties is vehemently opposed and will not engage, that there will be a mini plan, or a partial plan with elements of the ultimate deal that will start kicking in until more work is done in order to usher that party in by all kinds of European and Arab contributions of sorts. There are indications that they are at least considering to indicate to the parties that there are consequences for saying no. But again, I don’t know to what extent it has really developed on the drawing board. But the evidence thus far suggests that the absence of plan B is not because they are hiding it in order not to reduce the pressure of plan one, but that it doesn’t exist.”

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