“Deal of the Century”
By Daniel Pipes
April 9, 2019
President Trump's peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict
surfaced two years ago and to this day – remarkably – only he and a handful
of aides know its precise details. A stream of leaks,
however, contains enough internal consistency that their collation, supplemented
by conversations with administration officials, provides a plausible outline of
the plan's contents.
These suggest the plan boils down to a grand exchange: The Arab
states recognize Israel and Israel recognizes Palestine, both with capital
cities in Jerusalem. This approach builds on elements forwarded by Egypt's
President Sisi in
2016, the Obama administration
in 2009, the 2002 Arab
Peace Initiative, and even my 1990
These prior plans either had Israel go first or called for
simultaneous steps; in contrast, Trump's has the Arab states initiate, with
Israel responding. This change prompted Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian
Authority (PA) immediately to reject the "deal of the century" when he
met with Trump in May 2017; one report noted
that "Abbas has long feared such a plan" and "vehemently
Trump (L) was not happy with
Abbas after their meeting on May 23, 2017, in Bethlehem.
Despite that reaction, the purported deal contains many elements
favorable to the Palestinians:
No formal definition of the Holy
Basin exists. Here is one version, that of the Geneva Initiative's Shaul
In exchange, the Palestinians apparently will be asked to accept
Assuming this outline to be correct in the essentials, it raises
three main worries. First, the benefits to Israel are illusory. Its
peace treaties with Egypt (signed 40 years ago) and Jordan (25
years ago) led not to significant trade, friendly diplomatic relations, or an
increase in human contact. Rather, they intensified anti-Zionist sentiments
among Egyptians and Jordanians while improving their governments' arsenals. The
same pattern of heightened hostility also followed other Arab diplomatic
agreements with Israel – Lebanon in 1983, the PLO in 1993; why should Saudi or
Bahraini recognition be otherwise? In other words, Arab state recognition hardly
benefits Israel and could hurt it.
Ending the Palestinian claim to a "right of return" is
Israel's other illusory benefit. Just recall the farcical 1990s non-change
of the PLO charter to drop its call for Israel's destruction to
anticipate the hollow theatrics ahead.
Second, despite the Palestinians gaining real and irreversible
benefits (money, territory, legitimacy), they with certainty will continue their
century-old pattern of rejecting Israel through campaigns of delegitimization
and violence, as has been the case since the first Palestinian-Israeli agreement
in 1993. That's because Shimon Peres' discredited "New Middle East"
idea, that enriching and rewarding Palestinians makes them peaceable, underlies
the reported Trump plan. Long experience, however, shows that these benefits
makes them more inclined to eliminate the Jewish state. In brief, the PA will
pocket "Palestine" and intensify its anti-Zionism.
Third, should Israelis complain to Trump about that
delegitimization and violence, he will likely respond with annoyance: The
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is now "off
the table" and they should move on. Should they persist, his
predictable rage will damage not just Israel but also the anti-Tehran campaign
and anti-Islamist efforts in general.
In short, the reported plan repeats the great miscalculation of
traditional Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy by asking too little of Arabs and too
much of Israelis. I predict that it will fail, just as did those of Clinton,
George W. Bush, and Obama.
Therefore, Americans concerned about Israel, Iran, and Islamism
need to prepare for the imminent unveiling of what could be a problematic plan.
Yes, so far, Trump has been "the
most pro-Israel president ever" but, as the Bible reminds us,
"put not your trust in princes."