Peace proposals: As long as there will be no Israel

Trump's long awaited plan for Middle East peace will be missing the essential ingredient that would allow the PA to accept it.

Baruch Stein

OpEds Trump and Netanyahu meet at UN General Assembly in New York
Trump and Netanyahu meet at UN General Assembly in New York
INN: Stein

One of the most significant events to come out of the Trump administration’s dallies in the Middle East took place this past month without much more than notation in passing by the press. In one of the most substantive reports about the contents and direction of the Trump administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace media reports indicated that the administration, although sometimes talking about the two-state solution, has suggested to the Palestinian Arabs that they join a confederation arrangement with Jordan, presumably in lieu of full Palestinian independence. 

What is more remarkable than the apparent leak of the confederation idea from the Trump team’s playbook was the reported response from Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, who slipped a significant but sparsely noticed bit of information. 

This is not the first time that peace proposals have been directed toward the Palestinian Arabs. While the most commonly cited offer might still be the one made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David talks in 2000, there was also the 2008 offer made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; the 1947 offer by the UN; the proposals made over the course of the Obama/Kerry initiatives which have remained less publicized, such as the proposal Barack Obama presented to Abbas at the White House on March 17, 2014; and others.

Time after time, when the Palestinians received peace proposals they responded by simply walking out, leaving the world to speculate about what had happened. 

Failed peace initiatives are always followed by press commentaries about topics like refugees, territorial contiguity, the division of Jerusalem, land swaps and divergence from the Green Line that had been the Israeli-Jordanian border prior to the 1967 Six Day War, and other areas of contention. 

There are always those who say that a given proposal was simply not good enough, or that the way it was presented was insulting to the Palestinians, that Israel and its American allies had pressured the Palestinians in ways that were disrespectful, or that the offers were just diversions devised to distract attention from the domestic troubles of outgoing and scandal-ridden Israeli or American leaders who would not be able to follow through once they were out of office, which always seemed to be an imminently looming eventuality.

After a peace push collapses, commentators inevitably question whether one side or the other ever really wanted it to succeed, or whether mutual recognition and acceptance remains the real stumbling block to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

This time, though, there is no need to speculate. The Palestinian Arabs received a proposal and gave a clear reply. Though a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation is a significant step removed from the concept of full Palestinian statehood that has dominated the Israeli-Palestinian discourse, Mahmoud Abbas indicated that he is fully prepared to bring the Palestinian Arabs into such a confederacy and to accept that as a final status arrangement so long as only one other condition is met. 

The condition is not the fate of refugees, the division of Jerusalem, the return to the Green Line, or any of the other oft-cited areas of contention. They can in fact accept something less than full independence and they can agree to any other compromise that may come with the Trump administration proposal, on condition that their close friends, the Israelis, will also be coming along and joining the confederation party. In short, there does not need to be an independent Palestinian state, a capital in East Jerusalem or an arrangement for Palestinian refugees, as long as there will no longer be an independent entity called the State of Israel.   

Baruch Stein is a writer living in Jerusalem. Previous columns of his have appeared in media outlets in both the US and Israel.