A Palestinian state in Israel’s backyard, international control over Jerusalem’s Old City and the mass expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria: Is this the “price” that President Donald Trump recently hinted Israel would have to pay?
According to Arab diplomats cited by the London newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, the Trump plan for the Middle East, soon to be unveiled, includes “U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital”; the imposition of “international protection” over Jerusalem’s Old City; and the expulsion of many Jews from the territories. Plus, the Palestinian Authority would be given another $40 billion in aid.
The Palestinian state would not be precisely along the 1967 lines, but it would be close enough—much too close for comfort. Palestinian terrorists would be within easy striking range of Ben-Gurion Airport and downtown Jerusalem. Israel would be dangerously narrow at its midsection.
Jewish residents of the territories near the old 1967 lines would be allowed to stay, according to the plan. But tens of thousands of others would be forcibly expelled. Apparently, it’s a given that the “State of Palestine” could not bear to have any Jews on its soil.
There would be no “Palestinian right of return” under Trump’s plan. But that’s not some big concession to Israel; obviously, the Israelis never would have accepted the idea of millions of Arabs flooding into the Jewish state. Giving up on something you never would have gotten anyway is not giving up on anything.
The Trump administration has not yet publicly confirmed that the Asharq al-Awsat report is accurate. But the reported details of the plan do seem to dovetail with recent statements by the president and his spokespeople.
First, there was Trump’s statement at his Feb. 15, 2017 press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying “I would like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit”—as if Jews living in their historical homeland are somehow an obstacle to peace.
Then came the president’s statement in his Feb. 9, 2017 interview with Israel Hayom: “The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”
Another troubling sign was the president’s Jan. 2, 2018 tweet: “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.” Similarly, he told reporters in Davos on Jan. 25: “I helped it because by taking it off the table—that was the toughest issue—and Israel will pay for that. You won one point, and you’ll give up some points later on in negotiations, if it ever takes place.”
The Trump administration has also started using the kind of reprehensible “both sides” rhetoric that was typical of the Obama administration. In his Israel Hayom interview, President Trump said: “I think that both sides will have to make significant compromises in order for achieving a peace deal to be possible. … Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace; they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace.”
Then The Jerusalem Post reported, on Feb. 20, that Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt said of the forthcoming Trump plan that “both sides are going to love some of it and hate some of it.” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, used almost identical language at a Feb. 22 speech in Chicago: “The plan won’t be loved by either side. And it won’t be hated by either side.”
The United States should not be treating Israel and the Palestinian Authority as if they are morally equivalent. Israel is America’s democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, America-hating totalitarian regime.
Israel has spent 70 years surrendering territory, tearing down Jewish communities, releasing dangerous terrorists and stopping military operations prematurely. It should not be expected to make any more concessions.
And what ever happened to all those statements by President Trump and other administration spokesmen that the United States will support whatever solution the Israelis and the P.A. both want? Why should America now present a plan of its own? The only conceivable purpose of such a plan would be to embarrass Israel into accepting it. That’s no way to treat an ally.
It’s remarkable that the administration would consider proposing a plan that even remotely resembles what has been reported since the Palestinians have consistently rejected much more generous offers many times in the past. Whether it was the 1947 plan that would have internationalized Jerusalem and given the Arabs large parts of what is Israel today (including much of the Negev and the Galilee), to the reported offers by prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak to give them a Palestinian state close to the 1967 lines, the Palestinians have always responded with “no.”
Be that as it may, there is good reason to fear that the Trump administration intends to forge ahead. Friends of Israel need to act now, before the plan is publicly announced and set in stone.
American Jewish leaders need to make it clear to the Trump administration that any international control over any part of Jerusalem is unacceptable; that the mass expulsion of Jews from their homes is immoral; and that the creation of a Palestinian state in Israel’s backyard would pose a mortal threat to the Jewish state.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.