President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan – which took three years to craft – was released this week. Trump made the announcement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side.
Netanyahu was elated with the plan, but it was swiftly rejected by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas who called it “nonsense” and added “we say 1,000 no’s to the Deal of the Century.”
The proposal, which comes a month before Israelis go to the polls for the third time in less than a year, gives Netanyahu some momentum as he fights legal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The plan calls for an undivided Jerusalem, allowing the Palestinians to create a capital in the city beyond the current separation wall. While it calls for the Palestinians to control 70 percent of the West Bank, and for a settlement freeze in parts of the territory, it allows Israel to annex almost all of its settlements – where around 400,000 Israelis reside.
Other positives for Netanyahu: On security, the West Bank would be “fully demilitarized,” with Israel controlling the borders at all crossings. Also, the plan eliminates the Palestinian “right of return” demand – which Palestinians have insisted must be part of any peace plan. Palestinians have long called for the “right of return” option for over five million Palestinians who are related to an Arab refugee from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Palestinians envision them returning to villages and cities that no longer exist in current-day Israel.
For Palestinians, this represents a fraction of what former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000. Arafat rejected that deal, which reportedly offered the Palestinians 95 percent of the West Bank, the uprooting of isolated settlements, Palestinian control over part of Jerusalem and “religious sovereignty over the Temple Mount.”
After Arafat walked away from Camp David, he gave the green light for the Second Intifada, and this week, Abbas appears to have given the same green light to initiate a new round of fighting. That would be a costly mistake for Abbas if he sincerely wants a two-state solution, and would set peace talks back decades.
More bloodshed would only further the interests of hardliners on both sides. Abbas knows this, and also knows that you don’t make peace with your friends. He should build on this plan by returning to the negotiating table, where words and concepts are exchanged and trust