The White House plan includes these five problematic assumptions:
1. The Israeli right’s positions are emphasized
The document promotes familiar positions held by the Israeli right, rather than any fresh U.S. ideas. The subtitle — “A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People” — echoes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous insistence on an “economic peace.” This strategy downplayed political talks to focus negotiating efforts only on development — at the expense of Palestinian independence.
The White House plan also repeats the insistence of right-wing Jewish-Israelis that the territory over which Israelis and Palestinians are fighting belongs to the Jewish people only, due to their religious and historical rights to the land. The text says an appropriate resolution “takes into account the State of Israel’s valid legal and historical claims” to the “ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.” The text does mention Palestinians’ “legitimate national aspirations” but does not acknowledge Palestinian ties to the territory or their historical experience of living there.
That’s a huge problem: This long-standing conflict over territory is also fundamentally about how Jews and Palestinians see themselves and their future. These beliefs cannot be traded for financial investment or economic development. My research on how to evacuate Jewish settlers, for example, suggests that simply providing economic resources to move out of the West Bank cannot compensate for an emotional attachment to the land. Their identity will need to reorient around a new set of symbols, historical and religious sites, and public spaces.
2. Palestinian sovereignty takes a back seat
The document emphasizes security and independence for Israel and economic development for Palestinians. Palestinian sovereignty is not, the plan insists, necessarily a goal in negotiations — nor necessary for resolving the conflict.
Statements in the document seem to open the door for Israel to expand its borders. Here’s an example: “The State of Israel and the United States do not believe the State of Israel is legally bound to provide the Palestinians with 100 percent of pre-1967 territory.” At the same time, the plan blocks Palestinian claims to equal self-determination, instead prioritizing “Pragmatic and operational concerns that [affect] security and prosperity.”
Israel has promoted Palestinian autonomy as an option since at least the Egyptian-Israeli peace talks in the late 1970s. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin designed the concept in the 1970s to maintain or expand its own sovereignty over the West Bank. Palestinians rejected this concept then because it did not meet their demands for equal self-determination, and continue to reject similar ideas for the same reason.
3. Jerusalem is Israel’s “eternal, undivided capital”
The plan endorses this long-held Israeli position — and Netanyahu’s demand — that “Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel.” This is a step back from the willingness of other Israeli leaders to divide the city as part of a peace deal.
The Trump administration had already recognized Israel’s claim over Palestine’s claim by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so this isn’t a surprise. But now the best that the Palestinians can hope for as a capital is an area encompassing parts of east Jerusalem and neighborhoods “east and north of the existing security barrier” — areas that the Israeli government established outside of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries after it seized the entire city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
The White House plan also contends that Israel has been the best custodian of Jerusalem’s Old City holy sites, setting the stage for continued and complete Israeli control over the area. This means that Palestinian secular and religious authority is likely to remain limited, despite the importance of the holy sites to Palestinian identity.
4. Israeli security matters more than Palestinian concerns
“The Primacy of Security” section references physical attacks — the existential threat that many Israeli Jews perceive — as conditioning Israeli security fears. This section focuses almost solely on threats to Israel — not the Palestinian territories — from conventional military attack and from terrorism.
Where it does mention Palestinian security, it casts the issue in the same terms as freedom from attack. Yet even this ties into Israel’s security: “The protection of Palestinians also protects Israelis, and similarly the protection of Israelis also protects Palestinians.”
There’s no mention of how Palestinians understand security in different ways — freedom of independence, freedom from occupation and achieving statehood. It is noteworthy that early proto-Zionist thinkers laid out similar arguments: The Jews of Europe would never truly be secure until they had their own homeland, like other peoples of the world.
5. Israel’s territorial claims supersede Palestinian views
The document both implicitly and explicitly facilitates Israeli annexation of significant portions of the West Bank, shrinking the territory available for a Palestinian state. This echoes recent insistence by Netanyahu and the right in Israel, along with Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White, that Israel must annex the Jordan Valley.
Netanyahu responded Tuesday to this note of U.S. support, vowing to annex not only the Jordan Valley, but “all settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
Where does this leave the U.S.?
Washington had previously avoided issuing such a plan, maintaining that the two sides have to negotiate among themselves, and seeking to avoid identifying closely with one side over the other. This document undermines both of those positions.
The one-sided approach in this document makes it more difficult for the Palestinians to negotiate. Israel will pocket the text’s many concessions to its positions and negotiate from there, rather than from previous direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And U.S. negotiators will be unable to respond to Israeli and Palestinian amendment to the peace plan, or to the trade-offs each side will demand as part of the negotiating process.
By promoting Israel’s positions at the expense of Palestinian positions, the United States also appears to be cutting off its influence with the Palestinians, as well as its ability to bring the two sides together in a lasting peace agreement.