When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the word “peace” has largely lost its meaning.
Nonetheless, we hope that the Peace to Prosperity Plan that President Donald Trump unveiled on Jan. 28 with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side will move the parties toward a mutually beneficial negotiated resolution, and that the prosperity component succeeds as well.
But the path ahead will be difficult, starting with the challenge of getting both sides to the same negotiating table. And even if that can be accomplished, there are many reasons for concern — with blame shared by all of the players. Here are a few issues:The Palestinians have shown no interest in meaningful engagement. Indeed, since the unsurprising failure of the Kerry initiative in 2014, the Palestinians have essentially done nothing to pursue resolution.
Thus, instead of working to find potential compromises and agreement, they have supported the ineffective and uninspired leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president expired a decade ago. With outdated leadership and what appears to be complacent victimhood, it is hard to get excited about the likelihood of meaningful Palestinian efforts toward peace.
And then there is the United States which, under the Trump administration, has tilted significantly in Israel’s favor, emboldening the aggressive Israeli right and frustrating more centrist Palestinians. While there may be clear justifications for recent U.S. actions, the United States is not seen as a neutral, honest broker in the process. Instead, it is seen as an advocate with an agenda, and little sympathy for Palestinian concerns. That negativity was brought into sharp focus by the recent degrading public pronouncement of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner who, while touting the plan, opined that “Palestinians have never done anything right in their sad, pathetic lives.”
Finally, Israel has contributed to the current stalemate, with leadership moving increasingly to the right, in an effort to follow or stay ahead of the country’s overall rightward shift. Thus, Netanyahu’s government took the two-state solution off the table, continued building settlements and branded Israel’s Arab citizens and Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights a fifth column.
But even with these challenges, and the many complaints critics have about the plan, it has at least two objectives that offer hope: the call for a two-state solution (albeit much different than the structure traditionally discussed) and the promise of $50 billion to benefit the Palestinians over 10 years, if they embrace and follow the plan.
We don’t think that anyone sees the Trump plan as a program that can be implemented as written. More realistically, it is a newly defined proposal for the restart of a process that has been silent for too long. There are potentially significant upsides for all participants in a successful pursuit of the plan’s objectives. And nothing to be gained from failure.
We encourage the Palestinians to join the dialogue, and we encourage Israel to engage meaningfully and to exercise restraint. The world is watching.