Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Is a Master Class in Negotiating Strategy

Posted: Feb 03, 2020 1:50 PM
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Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Is a Master Class in Negotiating Strategy

Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Trump has just laid out a visionary plan for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Rather than trying to reconcile the fundamentally conflicting priorities of the two sides, he came up with a practical solution that reflects realities on the ground in the fairest way possible.

Every American president since Lyndon Johnson has tried — and failed — to resolve the conflict, usually by sitting down with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to negotiate toothless agreements that have done nothing to ease tensions or prevent bloodshed. These well-intentioned efforts all made the same fatal mistake: they treated the Israeli and Palestinian people as equals.

President Trump took a very different approach, crafting an independent proposal informed by, but not determined by, consultation with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He recognizes that Israel is one of America’s most steadfast allies, with a historical claim to the land, whereas the leaders of Palestine have promoted terrorism and stoked anti-American sentiment for decades with no historical standing of their own. 

If the Palestinians are willing to abandon their terrorist tactics and accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, they have much to gain from the Trump peace plan — including an official Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

“Peace requires compromise, but we will never ask Israel to compromise its security,” the president asserted while unveiling the plan, noting that “terrorism and Islamic extremism are everyone’s common enemy.” For the first time, he’s making the Palestinian people take responsibility for their own future.

That sentiment is a crucial element of the proposal. President Trump has made his support for Israel abundantly clear over the past three years, moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem, affirming the legality of Israeli settlements, and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. These actions have inspired confidence among Israel’s leaders that they can count on the United States to protect their core interests, allowing them to accept, or perhaps even endorse — for the first time — specific boundaries for a Palestinian state.

The plan offers Palestine more than just territorial autonomy, though. Decades of corruption and mismanagement have left the Palestinian territories desperately impoverished, and this proposal offers them a genuine path to prosperity — if they so choose.

“If [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas chooses the path to peace, America and other countries will be there to help every step of the way,” the president vowed, predicting that Palestine’s poverty rate would be cut in half and that its GDP would quickly double or triple. “Our vision will end the cycle of Palestinian dependency on charity and foreign aid,” he added.

Previous presidents demanded that Israel sacrifice its security and made excuses for Palestinian aggression, essentially laying blame for the conflict at Israel’s feet. President Trump, on the other hand, saw that a durable peace can only be achieved with a settlement that ensures Israel can defend itself and asserts its bond to its historical homeland while giving Palestinians a real incentive to change their behavior.

Palestine’s leaders don’t really have any good alternatives to accepting the plan. They can’t maintain the status quo forever, given the destitution of their people and their isolation from the world community. The president’s plan doesn’t offer them everything they’ve sought, but it’s probably the best deal Palestine will ever get.

Donald Trump has given Israel and the Palestinian people a realistic path to peaceful coexistence. The question remains whether the Palestinians will seize the opportunity or fall to the wayside of the annals of history.