Proceeding with the U.S. Peace Plan Can Breathe New Life into the Two-State Solution while Respecting the Will of the Israeli People

May 8, 2020 | Eran Lerman
About the author: Eran Lerman is vice-president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and teaches Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Shalem College.

Israel’s most recent election seemed inconclusive in that neither the left nor the right won a clear majority, leading to the just-formed unity government. But Eran Lerman argues that in fact the election delivered a wholly unambiguous decision about the approach to peacemaking that has prevailed since the Oslo Accords. This approach, endorsed by European diplomats, most policy experts, and, until recently, the U.S. government, has had no success while bringing about much violence—something the Israeli people understand:

[Labor and Meretz], the two political parties that advocated a left-wing Zionist variation on this theme of the [Oslo] paradigm—as distinct from the Arab [parties’] outright support for Palestinian demands—did very poorly in the March 2020 elections. Labor—now a mere shadow of its former self—is joining the Benjamin Netanyahu-Benny Gantz coalition. At the time of Oslo, Labor and Meretz had 56 out of 120 seats in the Knesset. The combined representation of the Zionist left is now down to four seats. This may well be called the mother-of-all-democratic verdicts on the underlying propositions which led—back in the 1990s—to the Oslo agreements, that came to be perceived by most Israelis as a tragic and very costly misadventure.

In between these two ideological camps there is now—and indeed, there always has been—a broad range of centrist sentiments, from elements within Labor on the left to well within Likud on the right, and with Gantz at the very center. This camp [favors the] Trump plan, [but] sees a Palestinian state, albeit not on Palestinian terms, as a viable proposition.

If the new government follows popular sentiment, and annexes some parts of the West Bank, in keeping with the U.S. peace plan, Lerman believes—contrary to the conventional wisdom—it will not imperil or render impossible Palestinian statehood, so long as it is done right:

[I]t will be important for Israel and the U.S. to coordinate actions on a range of issues that would serve to allay Palestinian and Arab fears that [these moves] are just a prelude to a full annexation of the territories and the foreclosure of the prospect for Palestinian statehood. Firm language needs to be heard on the Trump plan in all its aspects.

[W]hile extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and settlement blocs, Jerusalem can cede some areas now under its direct control to the control of the Palestinian Authority. Funds should be allocated early on for roads and other infrastructure that would make a future Palestinian state “contiguous in terms of transportation,” i.e., with its citizens able to travel in comfort, not on dirt roads, free of the need to go through Israeli checkpoints. Cooperation over security and over the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic should be intensified. The rewards envisioned in the economic chapters of the Trump plan should begin to flow to Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians alike.

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