Outlook for Trump Peace Plan Uncertain

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region

May 28, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump has been vocal about his desire to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. Only weeks from the unveiling of what the White House and its supporters are calling the “Deal of the Century,” there remains much skepticism about the likelihood of a major breakthrough. In fact, the Palestinian leadership has refused to engage with the U.S. government on the details of the deal, fearing that by doing so it may legitimize the proposed plan, which has so far overwhelmingly favored Israeli over Palestinian demands. The Palestinian government’s refusal to participate in next month’s economic summit in Bahrain, where various countries are expected to discuss the economic aspects of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, should therefore be seen in that light. That has not, however, stopped some editorials from criticizing the Palestinian Authority for their lack of participation.


According to the Palestinian daily Ma’an News, Mr. Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, explained his government’s position by reminding the public that “The intensification of settler colonialism and creating occupation facts on the ground, especially with regard to Jerusalem, extrajudicial executions, collective punishment, blockade, closures, land seizures, house demolitions and war crimes against our Palestinian people will not create a right and will not create an obligation. The entire world, even if it does not want to be the official tool for conflict resolution, must defend international law and international legality with all that it has.”

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah takes a similarly dim view of Mr. Trump’s plan, especially since as this Times of Israel staff report points out, “Trump plan could end hope for Palestinian ‘right of return’…. The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group cautioned Saturday that a long-delayed U.S. peace plan could see Palestinian refugees and their descendants permanently settled in host countries across the region. Speaking days after the US announced a June conference in Bahrain to lay out economic aspects of its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned of an ‘ominous deal aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause’…. Many Palestinians cling tightly to hopes, enshrined in a key UN Security Council resolution, of “returning” to lands their families once owned but which are now inside Israel.”

Yet, the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to attend the economic conference in Bahrain seems to have ruffled some feathers. For example, the Jordan Times editorial is particularly biting in its criticism of the Palestinian leadership, for “pouring cold water on the U.S. plan to convene a conference in Bahrain on June 25-26 to promote investment and business opportunities for the West Bank and Gaza…. This premature negativism is unwarranted and has become a familiar pattern in the Palestinian thought that made things worse for the Palestinian people…. Welcoming the conference in Bahrain, or at least not impeding it, would provide the Palestinians with an opportunity to test the full implications of the initiative. Breathing life into the lifeless Palestinian economy cannot in itself be so bad after all. The Palestinian leadership cannot go on saying “no” to everything offered to them before examining the full implications.”

Not surprisingly, the Palestinian decision was also criticized by the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post, which put the blame for the current impasse on the Palestinians, who, according to the editorial “once again, seem like they are on the verge of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Last week, the US and Bahrain jointly issued a communique announcing an “economic workshop” in Manama in June, calling it the first phase in the Trump administration’s rollout of its long-awaited peace plan and as expected, the Palestinians rejected it…. This is unfortunate. While we, too, are skeptical that the Trump administration’s so-called “Deal of the Century” will in fact succeed in bringing peace to the Middle East, the Palestinian Authority should not simply reject it outright. Doing so is a disappointment to the Palestinian people and a failure in the test of real leadership.”

What makes the current political climate surrounding the soon-to-be-announced “Deal of the Century” so unique is the level of pessimism shared by all actors, even by some of the deal’s most ardent supporters, as the previous editorial by the Jerusalem Post demonstrates. And it seems that everyone has identified the real reason for why the plan will fail. Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Jordan Fox is of the opinion that “given the current geopolitics in the region, it is doomed to fail. On Israel’s side, there are two significant obstacles to making any real progress. The first of these, of course, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment…. The second obstacle… is Netanyahu’s expected coalition partners, that include far-right religious parties such as the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP), which AIPAC referred to as racist and reprehensible…. If this wasn’t complicating things enough, the Palestinian side is also far from being in a place to make any progress in a peace deal…. Lastly, and no less important, is the fact that at present, there are no significant local grassroots movements [led] by the citizens of either side.”

Daily Sabah’s Ali Abo Rezeg picks up on one of those themes and zooms in on the current state of disunity between the various Palestinian factions, which, according to Rezeg gives “Israel a pretext to shirk its responsibilities regarding Gaza…. Arab regimes, as well, deny allowing Palestinians to attain a political achievement via popular resistance. Hence, any political achievement being gained through popular resistance poses a threat to the fragile Arab regimes. Political achievement means that this way of resistance works…. The Arab regimes fear the Palestinian resistance, as it may inspire their own people and eventually threaten their thrones.”

Despite the criticism levied against them, the Palestinian leaders seem determined to play a “wait-and-see” game, hoping that the presidential elections in November 2020 may bring a different occupant in the White House. That possibility has not escaped Israeli observers either, as this op-ed for the Yedioth Ahronoth by Lior Weintraub shows: “The Trump rule gave Israel an unprecedented advantage over the Palestinians. In order to prevent the tables from turning in the foreseeable future, Israel must deal with the damage its close ties to Trump [have] done to its relations with the Democrats. If we don’t get our act together, we too will find ourselves trying to survive the reign of a U.S. president, except in our case he or she will be a Democrat who would undeniably want to erase the legacy of the Trump administration. We would find ourselves facing an American public that empathizes with the Palestinians, who were badly bruised by the Trump era.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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