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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Trump Plan: The Failure of the Old Paradigm

Filed under: Israel, U.S. Policy


Before I get to my actual text of what I wanted to say, I just wanted to make a comment. There’s a lot of statements and assessments made about what used to be called the “Deal of the Century,” now it has a different name but President Trump’s peace plan. Sometimes I even check these things. Now this is an American plan. You have to remember that the whole time. It’s not an Israeli plan, it’s an American plan. Some of us followed it extremely closely for a variety of reasons, but I start with an assumption, looking at this plan and looking at the whole history of U.S. policy in the Middle East that basically all the previous plans that were put on the table, didn’t work. If they did work, we’d be having peace right now. But they didn’t work and people actually forget that. There is a mythology that has persisted for many years about peace plans, assigning them far more effectiveness and utility than they ultimately demonstrated. Just one or two examples, we have with us Yoni Ben Menachem. And back during the Taba negotiations, you remember those the Taba negotiations after Camp David, I was in my car going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and I hear the voice of Yoni Ben Menachem on the radio. Yoni was the Arab affairs correspondent of Kol Israel and we had just heard on the radio, the Foreign Minister of Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami making a statement which was very typical for the period. He said, “We have never been so close at reaching an agreement. Never ever so close.” And you could have heard this from a dozen different speakers, but he said it and it was during the Taba negotiations, so I just asked Yoni about. Yoni was sitting next to Mohammed Dahlan and he asked Dahlan said Mr. Dahlan,”Is it true what the Foreign Minister of Israel said – that you’ve never been so close to a breakthrough?” and Dahlan used the term that Israelis understand. He said חרטה ברטה, which basically I don’t feel comfortable translating it properly, but it basically means bull. There’s this gap between what people thought about the peace process, working, not working and what was being stated in the public domain. One other example about things working and not working. What was the last major effort to come up with a peace initiative prior to the Trump plan? And what happened in the Kerry plan? And we actually have Kerry’s memoirs and what you find is something that was well known. In the month of March of 2014 Secretary Kerry accompanied Mahmoud Abbas into the Oval Office and Kerry been working for the previous year tirelessly on a peace plan and they were going to now present the peace plan. They had actually done it the night before and the hope for the peace team at the time was that Mahmoud Abbas would accept the plan and what happened was rather edifying in terms of how negotiations work or don’t work. Here you have Mahmoud Abbas sitting in the Oval Office with the President of the United States Barack Obama and Abbas is asked, “Do you accept the plan?” Now there were rules of how those peace negotiations worked. You could actually accept a plan and say yes, but I have reservations about clauses 3, 7, and 11. That was actually rather creative. It got people to accept, to buy-in, but leave them a little wiggle room to express their differences. So again Abbas was asked, “Do you accept the plan that you worked on with Secretary Kerry?” And the basic answer that Abbas gave was, “I’ll get back to you.” And you know what happened? He never did! He never got back to him. So what lessons are supposed to be drawn from an experience of that sort? I think it’s pretty clear that we did not have a working peace process with the Palestinians that was on the verge of success. We didn’t discover what was the you know key to making this whole thing work and it just defied the efforts of the most hard-working diplomats. And therefore something new was needed. Something different was needed. And that brings us to the Trump plan, which the Ambassador will speak about in a few minutes. But you can’t understand the significance of the Trump plan unless you understand the failures of the past, and there are a whole bunch of others that make good stories.