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

May 13, 2019 | Robert Satloff
About the author: Robert Satloff is the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of several books on the Middle East, including Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands.

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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