But while the president can undoubtedly order the killing of enemy leaders, he cannot snap his fingers and end a long-running conflict. Indeed, he is not seriously trying to do so. What was unveiled on Tuesday was a PR campaign, not a peace plan.
Normally when you make peace, you have to do so with your enemies. But the only people present at the White House lectern Tuesday were Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not a Palestinian representative in sight — and none was apparently consulted in the creation of this plan. The Palestinians have not been talking to the United States since Trump announced in December 2017 that he was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing that contested city as Israel’s capital. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, was reported recently to have called Trump a “son of a dog” and a “filthy man.” Netanyahu, by contrast, just called Trump the “greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House.”
He is certainly the best friend Netanyahu has ever had. The indicted prime minister and the impeached president stood at the lectern pretending that all they care about is peace. In fact, all they care about is politics. This “peace plan” is so heavily tilted toward Israel that it should help both Netanyahu and Trump with conservative voters in their respective countries as they face reelection. Maybe that’s what Trump meant by calling it “win-win.”
The losers are Palestinians and all those who think that the only way to safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state is to create a real Palestinian state with sovereignty over most of the Arab population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The peace plan was billed as a “vision” for a “realistic two-state solution,” but this was mere window-dressing for an Israeli power grab and land grab.
You have to read the fine print — specifically page 34 — to see that Trump’s commitment to a Palestinian state is contingent on conditions that will never be met. The “criteria” for “the formation of a Palestinian State” include the complete demilitarization of the entire Palestinian population, which includes the disarmament of Hamas, the terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip, over which the Palestinian Authority has no control. Hamas must go from advocating Israel’s eradication to renouncing the Palestinian “right to return” and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
This isn’t even the most far-fetched part of the plan. Another condition for statehood is the creation of a “a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, protections for religious freedom and for religious minorities to observe their faith, uniform and fair enforcement of law and contractual rights, due process under law, and an independent judiciary.”
In other words, to become recognized as a sovereign state, the Palestinians will have to achieve levels of governance achieved by no country in the Middle East other than Israel itself. None of America’s Arab allies — from Egypt to Saudi Arabia — meet these criteria.
But while the promise of Palestinian statehood is contingent on fantastic conditions, the plan sets no conditions for allowing Israel to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu can do that tomorrow — and very well may. Any serious peace plan would make Israel dismantle outlying settlements now totaling roughly 80,000 people. But the plan specifically eschews such compromise, saying “Peace should not demand the uprooting of people — Arab or Jew — from their homes.” The plan includes a “conceptual map” for a future state of Palestine that looks like a gerrymandered congressional district — not a self-sustaining state.
In return for sacrificing statehood, Palestinians are offered promise of riches: “With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” the plan states, “Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date.” Fifty billion dollars is the imaginary sum that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried and failed to drum up at a “workshop” in Bahrain last summer. Neither the United States nor any of its allies have any intention of giving the Palestinians that money — and they know it.
“If Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done,” Trump said. Turns out — no surprise — that it can’t be done, if by “it” he meant resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. If, however, by “it” he meant helping Trump and Netanyahu politically while damaging the long-term prospects for a two-state solution — well, that has been done.