Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has never fully accepted the reality of a Jewish state. So his harangue last week at the Palestinian Central Council was not a big surprise. But the vitriolic character of his statements was striking. Now we may know why. According to reports, Abbas was reacting to details of the not-yet-released U.S. peace plan, which unceremoniously cements the status quo. Abbas called it “the slap in the face of the century,” but you don’t have to be a rabid Palestinian supporter to react with alarm at what seems to be under consideration.
If there is new thinking in the reported plan, being written by Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast adviser Jared Kushner, it is that Palestinian demands for a state and for dignity should be brushed aside. They would be offered, instead, something akin to a “state lite.” Israel would retain control over security and maintain a permanent presence in the Jordan Valley. There would be land swaps, but not based on the 1967 lines, and no Israeli settlements would be evacuated. On Jerusalem, Israel would have a veto on the city’s final status, which would be negotiated later. The Palestinian refugee issue would not be addressed.
Hardly the deal of the century. A senior White House official countered the reports, telling reporters that Abbas had not seen the plan. “It is unfortunate that the Palestinian leadership is seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which they have not seen,” the senior official said. “We will present proposals directly to the Israelis and the Palestinians at the appropriate time and under the right conditions.”
It’s hard to know what the Trump administration believes to be the right conditions. With its recent announcement regarding Jerusalem, the United States has lost some of its claim to be functioning as an honest broker. To compound things, the administration announced it was withholding $65 million out of a $125 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. While each of these moves can be justified individually, taken together the administration seems to be moving away from creating an environment conducive to peacemaking.
Accurate or not, the plan’s details are being taken seriously. Many Israel supporters recoiled when President Obama called for borders based on the 1967 lines, but he was just restating longtime U.S. and U.N. positions. But blessing settlement growth, not only along the Green Line in the settlement blocs, but also in the heart of the West Bank, is not a continuation of current U.S. policy. Indeed, that free-wheeling approach threatens to render Israel as a binational state with a large, restive minority that has its own ideas about self-determination — ideas that are not even acknowledged in the leaked plan details.
We hope this is not the outline of a Trump peace plan. If it is, we are all in for a very rough ride.