Unveiling of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian plan may be imminent. Here’s what to expect.

J Street
on January 23, 2020

With reports that the White House is likely to release a statement on President Trump’s long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” as early as tomorrow, here is what we know already about the Kushner-led proposal:

The White House laying the groundwork for an imminent release

There is mounting evidence suggesting the Trump administration may take the unprecedented step of unveiling its “peace plan’’ before Israel’s March 2 election, and perhaps as early as next week. 

  • Vice President Mike Pence has announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Leader Benny Gantz have been invited to visit the White House next Tuesday — in the middle of their bitterly contested election campaign and a Knesset immunity vote — to discuss the plan and the timing of its release.
  • The Israeli Defense Force is reportedly boosting its preparedness in the West Bank, in anticipation of a plan with unprecedented concessions for the Israeli right. 
  • The White House previously ruled out a release during an Israeli election campaign, which would be a norm-shattering domestic political intervention, but high profile Trump officials have recently briefed reporters that Israel’s election timeline is no longer a concern. 
  • While Gantz initially warned against releasing the plan — describing it as a gift to Netanyahu amounting to an “outright intervention” — he has this week abruptly changed his tone, telling reporters “I hope that President Trump will hurry and release his plan.”

A ‘peace plan’ in name only

It’s important to understand that the Trump administration’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ is not a ‘peace’ plan in any conventional sense. The administration has made no attempt to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and or to reach any good-faith agreement. 

Instead, the plan is expected to be the culmination of a series of steps taken by Trump and his team to advance the annexationist agenda of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the far-right settlement movement in Israel. The known contours of the plan appear designed to formalize, entrench and legitimize permanent Israeli control of the occupied West Bank and to undercut any prospect of Palestinian statehood via a two-state solution.

  • Palestinian representatives have not been consulted in the plan’s development.
  • Key officials in charge of developing the plan — former envoy Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador David Friedman and Jared Kushner — have records of active personal support for the settlement movement prior to appointment.
  • Kushner has urged observers to banish “two-state solution” from their vocabulary.
  • A one-time aide to former Israeli Prime Minister Begin described the plan as a “document of surrender” for Palestinians.
  • US Ambassador David Friedman has said the plan would grant Israel perpetual “overriding security control” of the West Bank, which he does not believe to be occupied.
  • The plan is likely to attempt to ‘buy’ support from Palestinians through promises of investment from Gulf states. It’s important to know that previous Gulf investment pledges have failed to come through, and that West Bank business leaders have said without a political and diplomatic plan to end the occupation, a sustainable investment environment for Palestinians is not possible. 
  • Previous actions which have ignored Palestinian concerns and aspirations, discarded previous peace frameworks and promoted the Israeli far-right’s agenda include: 
    • Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem
    • Slashing all funding for humanitarian aid to Palestinians, including through UNRWA
    • Closing the Palestinian mission to Washington
    • Recognizing Israel’s unilateral annexation of the Golan Heights
U.S. President Donald Trump's special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and senior aide Jared Kushner meeting Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and senior aide Jared Kushner meeting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

An expected green light for annexation

The centerpiece of the ‘plan’ is expected to be an endorsement of Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, an area comprising approximately 30% of the West Bank. This may be shrouded in the language of ‘perpetual security control’, ‘recognizing sovereignty’ or ‘extending Israeli law’. 

Whatever the terminology, any annexation in the West Bank would violate international law, trample on the rights of Palestinians and endanger Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. Such a plan would exacerbate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, undermine pro-peace moderates and empower the most dangerous extremists on both sides.

  • Unilateral annexation is illegal under international law.
  • As noted by UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk in September 2019, annexation would relegate millions of Palestinians to permanent military occupation, living in isolated enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory with no civil or political rights. 
  • In August 2019, 25 former high-ranking Israeli security officials warned Congress: “any unilateral annexation of territory or extension of sovereignty to the West Bank will put Israel’s security and safety along with the well-being of its citizens at risk.”
  • In May 2019, 290 former security officials wrote to PM Netanyahu to warn of “[the dangers to Israel] embodied in the unilateral steps towards the application of sovereignty in the West Bank,” calling on him to “stop these unilateral moves immediately.”
  • Annexation represents a fundamental threat to Israel’s status as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. 

Congress opposes any proposal which denies statehood and supports annexation

On December 6, the House of Representatives anticipated the danger of Trump’s actions by passing H.Res.326, which opposed unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank, asserted longstanding US opposition to settlement expansion and reaffirmed that any viable US peace plan must include support for a two-state solution.

The resolution was supported by virtually the entirety of the Democratic caucus, including every Jewish Democrat in the House. It was endorsed by a wide range of pro-Israel groups including J Street, the Union of Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the Israel Policy Forum and the Progressive Israel Network. 

It was followed by a letter from 106 Members of Congress to Secretary of State Pompeo, warning that his announcement that the US would no longer regard Israeli settlement expansion as illegal “severely damaged prospects for peace” and “blatantly disregards” international law.

Presidential candidates and Congress must make clear that Trump’s plan doesn’t represent US interests, long-term policy 

Should a plan be unveiled in line with the provisions above, both Congress and 2020 presidential candidates must make clear that it does not represent American interests or long-term, bipartisan US foreign policy. They should signal that serious steps will be taken in the next Democratic administration to reverse course, reach a two-state solution and impose real consequences for any unilateral Israeli annexations. 

For the latest on the Trump plan and how pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans can take action, join J Street’s mailing list.

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