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The Trump Peace Plan – Aiming Not to Make a Deal, but to Make a Deal Possible
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Trump Peace Plan – Aiming Not to Make a Deal, but to Make a Deal Possible

Lewis Libby & Douglas J. Feith

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Trump peace plan tells the Palestinians that the sensible question is not whether a deal provides everything you think you are entitled to, but whether it is the best deal available. If their demands for “justice” include Israel’s destruction, it says, the United States will not support them and will not fight to preserve the status quo for their benefit. A notable feature of the plan is the warning that, if the Palestinians continue to reject peace unreasonably, the US will not block Israel from advancing its own claims to areas that, in the administration’s view, realistic peace talks would leave to Israel.

The plan’s strong language reflects acquaintance with the long, exasperating history of US diplomacy undone by Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism. Knowledge of that history is crucial for assessing the plan.

In the past, US diplomacy aimed directly at a Palestinian-Israeli deal and repeatedly failed. This plan stresses that fundamental Palestinian reforms are required first. It assumes that current Palestinian leaders won’t reform, so it appeals over their heads to the public they are misgoverning and around them to the Arab states.

The plan has some creative elements and some that may not prove realistic, but critics who say that Trump’s plan won’t win acceptance by Mahmoud Abbas are missing its main point, which is that the Palestinians need new leaders. The plan does not hold out the promise of a quick deal. Rather, it has a more limited aim: to improve chances that peace will one day be possible. Meanwhile, it takes the current and future security concerns of Israel seriously and bolsters US support.

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