So the Trump Administration rolled out the much-expected "Peace and Prosperity - A vision to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people". It is already making tall waves in social media; both from those who support it and from those who oppose it. The plan became so controversial that some of what happened surrounding the release appears to have been lost in the shuffle... here are some of the highlights I rescue:
- Both main Israeli parties (Likkud and Kahol V'Laban) oppenly hailed the plan as they approach the March 3 elections (the THIRD in one year). There are subtle differences in their support for the plan - but the fact that they both supported it is telling. The Israeli electorate is not really worried about the conflict with the Palestinians because they no longer see them as a threat, but they do care greatly about the relationship with the US. That means that since the plan has been a personal project of the US President, no Israeli politician can oppose it without paying a political price in the ballot box.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu withdrew his request for immunity from the Knesset agenda and was indicted by the Court. What this means in practical terms is that it can hurt him in the elections. The presentation of the plan, in the way it was done, is perceived by some as a quid-pro-quo from Trump to counterbalance whatever damage the situation in court might do to Netanyahu's prospects. Another possibility is that Netanyahu, who holds the top post on the Likkud list, will be asked by his party to step aside, thus paving the way for a Unity government with Kahol V'Laban and excluding both extremes, right and left, opening the possibility of using Trump's plan as the basis for ongoing negotiations. This would represent a significant change (favorable to Israel) of the basic conditions for a future agreement.
- Three Arabs States (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) publicly urged the Palestinians to engage with the Plan and negotiate. Another State (Jordan) reacted with a very loud silence. This reflects the shifting sands of Arab support for the Palestinians. The shift has an origin in the looming Iranian threat and the Arab exhaustion with Palestinian leadership. Jordan, with a majority of its population of Palestinian origin, remained mostly silent - warning only of the catastrophic potential consequences of Israeli annexations. The message to the Palestinians is clear: sit at the table, because we need you to. Palestinian leaders no longer can take for granted political support from their Arab brothers. Only the Houti leadership (Yemeni Shiites), Hezbollah and Syria (All part of Teheran's Arab allied group) spoke forcefully on behalf of the Palestinians. The rest of the Arab world seems to be ignoring the issue altogether.
What becomes obvious is that the MIddle East has changed, and even if Israel is not openly welcome in the region, it is undeniable that it has now a place in it as a Jewish State.
The plan itself, destined to be stillborn, does however reset the table by making explicitly some points:
- The 1967 lines are no longer a sacred cow
- Jerusalem is better off in Israeli hands
- Any Future Palestinian State will be demilitarized
- Palestinian economy will still be linked to Israel
- Creative solutions need to be found to connect the Palestinian areas without affecting Israel's security
What the final result of this initiative will be is something we need to wait and see. It will not really become clear until after the Israeli elections on March 3. The Trump Administration has already hedged the bets by presenting the plan to Benny Gantz (Kahol V'Laban) as well. As in prior Israeli elections, however, the political key will be which parties are brought into a governing coalition.