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The one thing missing from Trump’s peace plan

The U.S. administration has so far remained silent on how it will overcome the central cause of collapse for every past peace deal: Palestinian unwillingness to accept Israel’s right to exist.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump with senior White House adviser Jared Kushner at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump with senior White House adviser Jared Kushner at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
David Grantham
David Grantham, a senior fellow at the Center for a Secure Free Society, holds a Ph.D. in history from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science degree in International Relations from Troy University. Grantham is a veteran, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Said legendary English novelist Samuel Butler, “Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

Piecing together what little information the Trump administration has released on its first-ever Middle East peace proposal shows it is focused more on economic incentives than physical borders. Despite insufficient information about the plan, however, many have already predicted the deal’s failure.

Perhaps few can envision this plan succeeding because the administration has remained silent on how they will overcome the central cause of collapse for every past peace deal–Palestinian unwillingness to accept Israel’s right to exist.

What has been said about the deal is worth noting.

Senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump Jared Kushner has publicly and repeatedly brushed off the “two-state” approach as “old traditional talking points.” The administration reportedly aims to distance itself from failed ideas of statehood—a major shift in policy.

Drafters of the agreement have also made known that economic incentives await agreeable Palestinians, and that the deal’s so-called “bottom up” approach to peace through improved infrastructure, government reform and human investment will leverage private-public cooperation.

Kushner has made clear that cross-sector partnership will be at the center of the plan, and it’s good to see free-market participation breaking governments’ stranglehold over economic reform. Bureaucratic monopolies have cost billions, with little change in Palestinian circumstances to show for it.

Lastly, the actions of drafters have made clear that the United States wants definite pledges of investment or pledges of non-interference from the Arab World. The administration rightly predicts that success will come only when there is Arab commitment to and a financial stake in a permanent solution.

The most telling part of all, however, is what’s not said.

Outside of comments made by U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt that “core political issues [still] have to be resolved,” the administration has kept quiet about how it will persuade Palestinians to accept Israel’s right to exist. It is hard to believe the ideas revealed so far can overcome the very issue that has undermined past peace plans.

Of course, we can expect that the plan will likely benefit Israel based on the administration’s past behavior. Though pulling funding from UNRWA, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory were not unconventional ideas. They were long-sought policies that took incredible political stamina to achieve. Willpower is not the same as ingenuity.

That leaves us with a serious gap. We simply do not know how this peace plan will change the minds of those unwilling to accept Israel’s right to exist.

Kushner has already hedged his bets, saying that “good money” is on the proposal failing. The Trump administration’s post-solution strategy should then be to solidify its pro-Israel stance. The U.S. government must make every effort to persuade Palestinians that the war is over. That they lost. The Jewish state will endure regardless of their war of attrition—a war that has only served to erode their own lives.

As the old adage goes, bitterness is drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Palestinians continue to drink the poison supplied by radical leadership and manipulative Arab governments. We have sufficient information to conclude that peace will endure when Palestinians are persuaded to stop drinking the poison.

David Grantham, a senior fellow at the Center for a Secure Free Society, holds a Ph.D. in history from Texas Christian University and a master’s degree in International Relations from Troy University. Grantham is a U.S. veteran, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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