The U.S. Peace Plan Is Likely to Do More Harm Than Good

During an interview with Robert Satloff at the beginning of the month, the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner revealed much about the administration’s yet-to-be-unveiled proposal for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. On the basis of what he learned in the interview, Satloff concludes that the plan is unlikely to succeed and, moreover, that the costs of yet another failed peace initiative are much greater than the costs of inaction:

[Kushner’s apparent] indifference to the potential implications of failure is why I believe not only that his plan poses a danger to U.S. interests but that it is reckless for the administration even to give it a try. While the United States should certainly be prepared to offer its own ideas to help the parties close the final gap in negotiations—as Jimmy Carter did at Camp David in 1979, after Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, and their teams had already spent seventeen months in intensive bargaining—the chasm between Israelis and Palestinians today is so wide that no conceivable bridging formula exists.

Viewed this way, the specific details of what Kushner and co. are preparing to put on the table don’t really matter because, in the current political environment, there is no possible overlap between the most Israel will offer and the least the Palestinians will accept (and vice-versa). Giving it the old college try—which is essentially what President Trump has empowered Kushner to do—is not admirable; it is irresponsible. . . .

Indeed, Kushner may think that his plan will survive as the new reference point for future negotiations even if it fails to achieve a peace breakthrough, but it is at least as likely that those ideas—even if they are solid, worthy, valuable ideas—get tossed in the diplomatic dung-heap by Trump’s successors. Given America’s deeply tribal political partisanship, it is not difficult to imagine a future administration—especially a Democratic one—refusing to reconsider proposals on such issues as security arrangements, refugee resettlement, Palestinian political reform, and regional economic development if they bear the Trumpian stamp. And because the Kushner team approaches these issues with a deep affinity for Israel, this is likely to harm ideas that seem especially friendly to the Jewish state. This is why I hope that Benjamin Netanyahu comes to his senses and does what he can to scuttle the “deal of the century” before it becomes formal U.S. policy.

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More about: Camp David Accords, Jared Kushner, Peace Process


What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy