The Trump administration’s “deal of the century” carries with it a vital recognition of new realities on the ground, and as such should be welcomed. At the same time, the document is not a plan of action and should not be seen as a roadmap to an “end state.”
In the dynamic reality of political and security affairs, nothing is final, and emerging phenomena and surprises are the norm, not the exception. As a result, agreeing to one type of partition of the land does not mean that tomorrow will not produce a different map. Israel’s border with the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria is not, and should not, be set in stone. It should instead be amorphous.
By acknowledging the reality of half a million Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, U.S. President Donald Trump joins the legacy of outstanding Zionist supporters of Israel—a legacy that began with Britain’s Lord Balfour, who came to Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus in 1925 to inaugurate the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and who stated at the time: “It is the consciousness that this occasion marks—a great epoch in the history of a people who have made this little land of Palestine a seed-ground of great religion, and whose intellectual and normal destiny is again, from a national point of view, reviving … .”
Such leaders, along with Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, always believed that the main purpose of the Zionist movement is redemption. Security, and the creation of a safe sanctuary for the Jewish people, is a byproduct of this vision, not its top goal.
The people of Israel returned to Israel not for individual security or prosperity, which they could also seek in the United States, for example, but in order to join the struggle to build a nation and a homeland. That struggle has no end point, and requires constant adaptations. As a result, viewing clearly defined borders with the Palestinians as an attainable or even a desirable goal is an error.
Although the European-Christian rationalist outlook to which many Israelis subscribe strives for stability, and views statecraft as an industrial production line that can be planned and fully controlled, the nature of human affairs indicates that this view is far from being grounded in reality.
Unexpected events and endless struggles are not accidents, but rather, the defining feature of nations and states. This is clearly understood by Hamas, whose leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, when asked in a Yediot Achronot interview in October 2018 whether he was a believer, replied that he believes in change.
Biblical outlooks contain the same core truth: Nothing is fixed, and every situation is transient. This truth also guides the free market in the capitalist world, though the Western states that uphold the free market do not extend their recognition of constant change—the underlying foundation of free-market competition—into political affairs.
The Zionist movement under the leadership of Ben-Gurion was aligned with this truth and developed the doctrine of pioneering as its answer to it. Pioneers are the more radical elements of society; those who pull the rest along, like a train engine.
President Trump recognized this dynamic in his nod to the fact that Israelis have established permanent communities in Judea and Samaria—a fact that his plan fully comes to terms with.
Hence, Israel should welcome Trump’s plan. However, the plan cannot fulfill the function of a working program, and the map that it contains is little more than an illustration.
It is not a working action plan.
Past American peace plans spelled disaster for some 150,000 Jews who would have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Judea and Samaria; and for Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, which would have been divided under those plans. The Trump administration’s plan has delivered Israel from such disastrous outcomes.
At the same time, the plan has its imperfections, such as the deeply problematic call to allocate portions of southern Israel, near the Egyptian border, to a future Palestinian state. This “solution” comes from a rigid perspective that dates back to the 1937 Peel Commission, a perspective based on the dogma that all plans to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be limited to the former British Mandate area of the Land of Israel.
The idea that partition must be limited to the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is far too narrow and ignores the real potential that lies in the empty, barren lands of the Sinai Peninsula, portions of which can be used to extend the Palestinian political entity.
Still, Israel should say “yes” to the Trump plan, just like Ben-Gurion accepted the 1947 U.N. Partition plan and then rode on the waves of emerging phenomena to shape the future State of Israel.
The Palestinians, guided by 19th-century concepts of what a state must look like, have already rejected the plan. Their rejection will create a new, unknown dynamic with its own new opportunities. If Israel seizes on those opportunities to carry out more positive action, then it can shape the next stage of history in its favor.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.