Credible Peace Plan, at Last
By Caroline Glick
December 4, 2017
Monday, The New York Times published the
Palestinian response to an alleged Saudi peace plan. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman reportedly presented it to PLO chief and Palestinian Authority
chairman Mahmoud Abbas last month.
According to the Times’ report, Mohammed told Abbas
he has two months to either accept the Saudi proposal or leave office to make
way for a new Palestinian leader who will accept it.
The Palestinians and their European supporters are up in
arms about the content of Mohammed’s plan. It reportedly proposes the
establishment of limited Palestinian sovereignty over small portions of Judea
and Samaria. The Gaza Strip, over which the Palestinians have had full
sovereignty since Israel pulled its military forces and civilians out in 2005,
would be expanded into the northern Sinai, thus providing economic and
territorial viability to the envisioned Palestinian state. While the
Palestinians would not receive sovereignty over Jerusalem, they would be able to
establish their capital in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis.
There are several aspects of the alleged Saudi peace plan
that are notable. First, the Palestinians and their many allies insist that it
is a nonstarter. No Palestinian leader could ever accept the offer and survive
in power, they told the Times. The same Palestinian leaders from Hamas and
Fatah, and their allies, also noted that the Saudi plan as reported strongly
resembles past Israeli proposals.
Another aspect of the report that is notable is that the
Saudis did not acknowledge that Mohammed presented the plan to Abbas. Unlike
the situation in 2002 when Times columnist Thomas Friedman presented
what he claimed was then Saudi king Abdullah’s peace plan, the Saudi regime
has not admitted that the characterization of their peace plan by the Times
reflects their thinking.
It makes sense that the Palestinians and their Lebanese and
European allies are upset at the alleged contents of the new Saudi plan. It is
also reasonable that the Saudis are not willing today to publicly present the
plan laid out in the Times.
The fact is that the alleged Saudi peace plan represents a
radical break with the all the peace plans presented by the Arabs, the Europeans
and the US for the past 40 years.
Unlike all of the previous plans, the contours of the plan
reported by the Times guarantee that Israel will remain a strong,
viable state in an era of peace with the Palestinians. All the previous plans
required Israel to accept indefensible borders that would have invited
aggression both from the Palestinians and from its Arab neighbors east of the
The purported Saudi plan is the first peace plan that
foresees two viable states living in peace. All the other plans were based on
transforming Israel into a non-viable state with a non-viable Palestinian state
in its heartland.
While the Times report cites Western sources claiming that
Egypt has rejected the prospect of merging Gaza with the northern Sinai under
Palestinian sovereignty, there is no reason to assume that the option is dead.
To the contrary, in the aftermath of last week’s massacre of 305 Muslim
worshipers in a mosque in the northern Sinai, it is arguably more relevant now
than at any previous time.
The mosque massacre makes clear that the Egyptian regime is
incapable of defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency in Sinai on its own.
Egypt’s incapacity is as much a function of economic priorities as military
capabilities. With Egypt constantly on the brink of economic collapse and in
need of constant support from the World Bank, the US and the Gulf States, it is
hard to make the argument for preferring economic investment in Sinai to
economic investment west of the Suez Canal. And in the absence of significant
economic support for developing the Sinai, it is hard to see an end to the ISIS
If the Europeans, Americans and Arab League member states
chose to develop the northern Sinai for a Palestinian state with half the
enthusiasm they have devoted to building a non-viable Palestinian state in
Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria that would render Israel indefensible and
enfeebled, the Palestinians would have a viable, developed state in short order.
And the Egyptians in turn would have the international
support they need both economically and militarily to defeat ISIS completely and
to rebuild their national economy. Indeed, as advocates of the plan note, by
yielding control over the northern Sinai to the Palestinians, and so enabling a
viable Palestinian state to form, Egypt would become again the indisputable
leader of the Arab world. With the good will of the Europeans and Americans,
Sisi would secure Egypt’s position indefinitely.
This then brings us to the third notable aspect of the
purported Saudi plan. The backlash against the plan, like the backlash against
Mohammed, has been furious. Abbas has reportedly been calling every
international leader he can think of to oppose the deal. The Europeans
reportedly also oppose it. French President Emmanuel Macron’s adviser
reportedly contacted the Americans to make clear that the French are not on
board with the proposal.
And whereas the opposition to Mohammed’s purported
proposal has been largely behind the scenes, since Mohammed did not make it
public, the Palestinians and their international supporters have been grabbing
every available microphone to condemn US President Donald Trump’s reported
plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and perhaps begin taking
concrete steps to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
With or without a public announcement of his alleged peace
plan, Mohammed has become a hated figure in wide circles of the foreign policy
establishment in the West due to his trenchant opposition to Iran’s rise as a
hegemonic power in the region. The Times portrayed him as a serial bungler in
its article about his alleged peace plan.
As Lee Smith revealed in a recent article in Tablet
magazine, the voices leading the charge against Mohammed are the same ones that
developed the media echo chamber in pursuit of then president Barack Obama’s
nuclear deal with Iran.
As Smith explained, the onslaught against Mohammed is “an
information campaign designed to protect the pro-Iran policies of the Obama
As these operatives see it, Smith argues, Obama’s nuclear
deal with Iran is the foundation of Obama’s foreign policy legacy in the
Middle East. “If Trump pulls the plug, then Obama’s ‘legacy’ in the
Middle East collapses.”
Trump’s visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia in May made
clear that renewing US alliances with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and using them as
a means to scale back Iranian power in the region, is in fact the central plank
of his Middle East policy. Trump’s subsequent moves in support of Mohammed and
Israel have reinforced this conclusion.
And so the backlash against Mohammed by the likes of former
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Robert Malley, Obama’s former adviser
for the Middle East on his national security council makes sense. If they can
discredit him, and pretend that an Iranian-controlled Lebanon and Syria are
better than the alternatives, then they can force Trump to maintain faith with
It’s a hard sell though. Mohammed’s peace plan is the
first peace plan that has ever offered the Palestinians a chance at a real
state. It’s the first plan that ever envisioned a situation where the
Palestinians have a state that doesn’t imperil Israel. People who actually
care about the Palestinians and Israel should welcome and support his position.
People who oppose it have to explain why they insist on
remaining faithful to a peace paradigm that has brought only war and
instability. Why do they prefer to retain Abbas’s authoritarian regime over a
non-sovereign kleptocracy in Judea and Samaria with a Hamas terrorist state in
Gaza to an alternative without either? Why doesn’t Abbas support it if his
chief aspiration is the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and actually
wants peace with Israel?
The New York Times article may or may not be an
accurate portrayal of a real plan presented by the actual crown prince of Saudi
Arabia. But if it isn’t his plan, it should be. Or it should be Trump’s
Because it is the first peace plan anyone has ever put
forward that makes sense. Not only does it secure the future of both Israel and
the Palestinians, it enables Arab states like Saudi Arabia to work openly with
Israel to defeat their joint Iranian enemy, while ensuring that Israel can
survive and remain a credible ally to its Arab neighbors for decades to come.