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Fiasco in the East Room: The trainwreck unveiling of the Trump peace plan

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An earlier version of this Editor’s Note was sent out Wednesday in ToI’s weekly update email to members of the Times of Israel Community. To receive these Editor’s Notes as they’re released, join the ToI Community here.

A very strange thing happened in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020: US President Donald Trump unveiled a painstakingly constructed “Vision to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people,” much of which was music to the ears of the average Israeli. But then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing alongside him, immediately subverted it.

Overseen by the US president’s top aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the plan broke ground in taking seriously many Israeli concerns that had been marginalized, if not ignored, in previous peace efforts. “Critically,” as I wrote at the time, “it was predicated on the imperative that the rise of a Palestinian state in no way undermine or threaten Israel’s security, and that the US would only ask Israel to consider compromises that would make the country and its people ‘more secure in the short and long term.’” It also included numerous elements guaranteed to infuriate the Palestinians — radically constraining their future sovereign rights, denying them significant status in Jerusalem, and refusing their demand for a “right of return” for refugees.

It was not, however, good enough for Netanyahu. While warmly extolling the virtues of the plan, the prime minister instantly smashed headlong through its carefully delineated parameters and informed Trump that Israel would henceforth begin to “apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel and which the United States has agreed to recognize as part of Israel.”

The Trump plan had indeed designated areas of the West Bank that would come under Israeli sovereignty — but as part of a hoped-for negotiated process with the Palestinians that would give them their constrained state. Unilateral Israeli annexation was the fallback option, to apply only if that process failed. By moving to assert sovereignty right away, Netanyahu was pulling the rug out from under the entire “vision.”

What was unfolding before the very eyes of a watching world was absolutely incomprehensible. Again, as I wrote at the time, “Nowhere in the painstakingly compiled document is a promise made or even implied of any such immediate Israeli annexation. Why would there be? It makes no sense. Why would you unveil a plan, worked on for three years, designed to lead to an agreed-upon deal, carefully calibrated to both reassure Israel and avoid alienating key Arab allies, and then brutally........

© The Times of Israel

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