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A disaster for diplomacy and the Zionist dream

Weeks after unveiling the Trump administration’s “peace” plan for the future of Israel and the Palestinian territories, it is clear that President Trump’s disdain for diplomacy and disregard of history threaten a future where peace could prevail. On the surface, he expresses a desire for peace, but his actions–and the reactions of the international community–show the danger in leaving diplomacy behind.

The plan was conceived without diplomacy; it does not lay the groundwork for future diplomacy; and it abandons three decades of American diplomacy—diplomacy that was aimed at self-determination for Palestinians and an Israel that is secure, democratic, and a homeland for the Jewish people—in favor of a wish-list of the Israeli right wing and settler movement. The Palestinians were never seriously consulted. The plan unilaterally alters sensitive final status issues on the ground without negotiations, and therefore could never be the basis for serious discussions. The Palestinians have already justifiably rejected it, as did the entire Arab League and many of our European allies. If the plan is implemented, the Palestinian leadership signaled its intention to cut security ties with both Israel and the United States.

There are times when third-party efforts such as the issuing of a peace proposal might offer a useful nudge to diplomacy; that is why many members of Congress urged the release of a “framework” late in the Obama administration. Even then, some objected that this might skew the necessary negotiations between the parties. Now we have the Trump administration plan, laid down after consultation with only one side and designed to provoke Palestinian rejection, foreclose negotiations, and legitimize Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Surely those same critical voices will be raised insisting that good faith negotiations between the parties are the only path to peace?

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The Trump plan envisions the annexation of any and all settlements plus the Jordan Valley. It would leave fragmented Palestinian areas, no longer viable as an independent state, under perpetual Israeli administration. It would likely spell the demise of security agreements with the Palestinian Authority. Israel would be left with the options of controlling these areas undemocratically or conferring citizenship on a large non-Jewish population and moving toward a binational state.

The Trump administration’s abandonment of serious Middle East diplomacy has come in stages — the movement of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem without any agreement on related issues, the summary closing of the Palestinian office in Washington, the closing of the consulate in Jerusalem that handled Palestinian affairs, the cut off of West Bank and Gaza aid, the recognition of Israel’s Golan Heights annexation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s rejection of the longstanding U.S. view that Israeli settlements were “inconsistent with international law” — and now this take-it-or-leave-it “peace” plan. This is about as certain a setup for failure as one could imagine.

The Trump plan abandons America’s decades-long bipartisan diplomatic posture and directly contradicts the resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 6, 2019, with overwhelming Democratic and some Republican support. The resolution expressed support for a strong U.S.-Israel partnership and, in that context, reaffirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution and opposed one-sided measures, including unilateral Israeli annexation, that could foreclose such an outcome. We do not intend to abandon that position, and we anticipate that it may be reflected in the diplomatic posture of the next U.S. administration.

There is plausible speculation that President Trump unveiled the plan when he did in hopes of fortifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing criminal indictment at home as well as a tough election campaign. The president no doubt also has his own political base in view. But the stakes are much higher than the political futures of these or any other leaders. They extend to the democratic and Jewish character of Israel for generations to come, the realization of legitimate and long-denied Palestinian aspirations, peace and security in the region, and America’s credibility on the world stage. All parties should take note and let the Trump plan mercifully expire.

David Price represents North Carolina’s 4th District, Andy Levin represents Michigan’s 9th District, Jan Schakowsky represents Illinois’ 9th District, Peter Welch represents Vermont at large, Alan Lowenthal represents California’s 47th District, and Debra Haaland represents New Mexico’s 1st District. 

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