How Joe Biden Rejected Trump’s Peace Plan by Hugh Fitzgerald

The Trump Administration’s remarkably detailed peace plan, set out in 179 pages of text and two pages of maps, is the fruit of 2½ years of intensive labor by Jared Kushner and a half-dozen others. For the first time, according to this plan, Israel would recognize a State of Palestine, with its capital in what, arguably, can be considered part of East Jerusalem – concessions that are vehemently opposed by the Yesha Council representing many Jews living in the West Bank. The significance of the Israeli concessions has been ignored by much of the media, because it gets in the way of the agreed-upon narrative, which is that the Trump Administration has been grossly unfair to the Palestinians in its determination to “give Israel everything it wants.” This phrase, endlessly repeated, mischaracterizes the detailed and comprehensive handiwork of those who crafted the Administration’s peace initiative. Only those who have read the plan in its entirety (at have a right to comment on it; media summaries have hardly done justice to what it promises the Palestinians. Four-fifths of the plan is devoted to the many economic benefits that the Palestinians will reap from agreeing to make peace, with a contemplated $50 billion investment in the health, education, vocational and professional training, infrastructure (schools, roads, bridges, tunnels), housing, utilities (electricity, water, Internet), expanded employment, new businesses — all for the Palestinians in their new state of Palestine.

Cynics – and a great many in our media and political elites have decided cynicism is the only permissible reaction when it comes to the “Deal of the Century” – treat this plan not as a genuine effort at forging a sustainable peace, but merely a case of Trump trying to curry favor with Jewish and evangelical Christian voters and, at the same time, to deflect attention from the impeachment proceedings. And, these cynics add, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who faces charges in Israel of corruption (because in the past he accepted gifts of cigars and champagne), must also have wanted the plan to be released when it was in order to help him in his own effort to deflect attention from his legal difficulties at home. But the impeachment proceedings have been going on for four months; had the Trump Plan been introduced at any time, before, during, or after the impeachment business, Trump would still have been accused of attempting to exploit the Deal of the Century to deflect the public’s attention. Similarly, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s legal troubles have been going on for many months and will continue to do so; there was no way to predict when release of the peace plan would do him the most good. The plan was a complicated affair, and when it was finally ready, with every rhetorical wrinkle in those 181 pages ironed out, it was released. There is no evidence that its release was either delayed, or rushed, in order to help out either Trump or Netanyahu in their domestic politics.

None of the four Democratic front-runners – Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttegieg, had anything good to say about the Trump Plan. They were far harsher on the plan than were many of the Arabs themselves in their initial responses. Those from Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman were fairly mild, even praising Trump for his effort and calling for renewed dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the plan as a starting point, and under the auspices of the United States. Those early responses were the result of three things: First, the Arab calculation that they need President Trump’s support in any conflict with Iran and wish not to displease him; second, the recognition by several Arab states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt — that Israel is their most valuable regional ally against the Iranian threat and they don’t want Israel weakened by being pushed to make too many concessions to the Palestinians; third, after seven decades, the Arab states are becoming increasingly fatigued with the whole “Palestinian cause,” weary of the Palestinian demands, and no longer interested in sacrificing their national interests for the Palestinians and their tiresome, prevaricating, grasping, and demanding leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

Those initial responses of mild approval gave way, at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on February 1, to a unanimous rejection of the Trump Plan, and then, a few days later, to its rejection again, this time by the O.I.C. (the Organization of the Islamic Conference). Those Arab states that had originally supported the plan as a “praiseworthy effort” did not want to stand out from the other Arabs at a meeting of the full 22-member League; they preferred to keep their heads down, and vote with the rest of the group, for fear of being tarred as “collaborators and sellouts to Netanyahu and Trump.” In such circumstances, they didn’t want to take a risk of antagonizing the Arab street, whipped up by the Palestinian propagandists against the regimes of those who did not denounce the plan. And Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco – all of which had originally lent their cautious support to the plan – had to worry not just about other Arab states attacking their position, but especially about Iran, with its vast propaganda apparatus, ready to pounce on those Arab states it could depict as in Trump’s – and Netanyahu’s — pocket. Given such potential threats, it was prudent of those countries to reverse their initial responses, and vote along with the other Arabs at the Arab League Meeting in Cairo on February 1 to reject the Trump proposal, and to do it again, this time joining 56 other Muslim states at the meeting of the O.I.C. in Riyadh a few days later, in rejecting the Trump peace initiative.

The responses of the Democratic candidates, which can be found here, are worth examining, for they were not even as positive as were, initially, those of a half-dozen Arab states. Let’s start with Joe Biden, whose campaign slogan is “No Malarkey”:

Former vice president Joe Biden called the outline counterproductive and warned against settlement annexations.

Biden refers to the “outline,” which raises the obvious question: did he not read the whole plan, in all of its impressive detail, set out in 181 pages, before commenting on it? If he did not, he has no business commenting on it. “Whereof we do not know, thereof we should not speak” – Wittgenstein, too, believed in “no malarkey.” Study the plan, look carefully at the two maps, and only then, Joe Biden, based on your newly-acquired detailed knowledge, of Trump’s Deal of the Century, will you have earned the right to comment on it.

When Biden claims that the plan is “counterproductive” he means this: the Palestinians are furious with the plan, and because it’s so “unfair” they won’t enter into negotiations. Instead of creating the conditions for peace, the Trump Plan has thus pushed the parties farther apart. But there is nothing new about the Palestinians throwing temper tantrums and refusing to negotiate. It’s not this plan alone that they object to; it’s any plan that doesn’t give them everything they want. The Palestinians haven’t been willing to enter into negotiations with Israel for many years now. Even when the Arafat was offered 97% of the West Bank by Ehud Barak, at the Taba Summit in January 2001, during Carter’s presidency, the Palestinians refused to accept it. Arafat repeatedly refused to take anything less than a complete return by Israel to the 1949 Armistice Lines. Mahmoud Abbas similarly refused an offer from then-Prime Minister Olmert to give the Palestinians 95% of the West Bank. Abbas has continued to repeat the maximalist claim: the creation of a Palestinian state, including the entire West Bank; the withdrawal of Israel to the 1949 Armistice Lines; Jerusalem, including the Old City, with the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, to become the undivided capital of a Palestinian state, and finally, the “return of the refugees,” meaning — uniquely for this very special group of refugees — that children and grandchildren of the Arab refugees, more than 5 million of them, can return to what is now Israel, and demographically overwhelm the Jewish people in their one small state.

What is truly “counterproductive” is to continue to allow Abbas and his fellow Palestinians to labor under the delusion that they can continue to reject negotiations with Israel unless they receive, in advance, assurances that their maximalist demands will be met, and to do so while – still more infuriating – claiming they have no intention of negotiating either with Trump or with the Israelis. The plan includes an important timetable: Israel has agreed, in still another concession, not to build any new settlements in the West Bank during the next four years, as long as negotiations with the Palestinians are going on. There is now time pressure put on the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith. For if no final agreement is reached in that time, then the Israelis can, in the American view, resume settlement-building. That is not a “counterproductive” condition, but one more likely to lead to an agreement, if the Palestinians finally understand the consequences either of not negotiating, or of not doing so in good faith by continuing to make demands that have no prospect of being accepted by Israel. Meanwhile the clock is running on the moratorium agreed to by Israel on new settlement building.

Of course, this need for the Palestinians to grasp the nettle of negotiation before the four-year moratorium on settlement building runs out assumes that the Palestinian leaders will behave rationally. They tend to let their rages get the better of them. Let us remember that in February 2019, Mahmoud Abbas refused to take the tax money Israel collected for it, because Israel insisted on deducting from the amount it transferred to the P.A. the same amount that the P.A. provided to terrorists and their families. This meant that the PA was forfeiting about $170 million a year, because it would not accept any money collected for it by the Jewish State as long as Israel deducted from the amount it transferred the $14 million a month that the PA diverted to its Pay-For-Slay program. After having declared he would never take the reduced tax payments, Mahmoud Abbas quietly capitulated. And now he accepts what Israel gives him — the taxes collected minus a sum equal to what the PA provides to the terrorists and their families in their “Pay-For-Slay” program.



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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.

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