The Trump Administration’s “vision” for Mideast peace

US President Donald Trump, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump's Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Update from AIJAC

01/20 #04

This Update features analysis of the US Trump Administration’s “vision” for Israeli-Palestinian peace – also known facetiously as the “Deal of the Century” – which was released on Tuesday, Washington time,  by US President Donald Trump alongside Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

(The full political plan, a 50-page document to accompany an economic plan released last year, can be read here. The media conference at which the plan was released can be viewed here, while the texts of the statements by Trump and Netanyahu are here and here, respectively.)

We lead with a thorough summary of all the key points of the plan from Jacob Magid of the Times of Israel.  This includes the territorial aspects, such as Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and the settlements in exchange for land in Israel’s south for the Palestinian state, Jerusalem, security arrangments, refugees, and Israel’s obligations. For this quick summary of what the plan actually says, CLICK HERE.

Next, we offer analysis from Dr. Eran Lerman, a top Israeli strategic analyst, and former deputy National Security Advisor to the Israeli government. He says the key feature of the Trump deal is that it breaks the “Everybody Knows” Paradigm – the belief that the contours of any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal must run along the lines of what has been proposed before, especially on issues like territory and Jerusalem. He says that while many Israelis will reject some aspects of the plan, it is the Palestinians that need to make the biggest adjustment of their expectations, because, despite their predictable rejection of the current deal, the experience of the last 20 years has made it clear that many elements of the “Everybody Knows” Paradigm are not deliverable. For Lerman’s detailed analysis of where this new model leaves the two sides, CLICK HERE.

Finally, American columnist John Podhoretz casts the new model for conflict resolution in this plan as the result of changes in the region over recent years, as well as past experience in trying to bring Israeli-Palestinian peace. He argues that the plan takes account of Israel “taking risks for peace” with three major proposals since 2000, and the Palestinians acting as if they think the world will sooner or later deliver them statehood – not alongside Israel, but in place of it. But, Podhoretz says, the real change agent behind this proposal is the belligerent behaviour of Iran, which made the Arab states value the Palestinian cause less, and relations with Israel more. For his discussion in full,  CLICK HERE.

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Borders, security, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees: Key elements of Trump plan

How is the territory to be divided? How could two capitals function in an ‘undivided’ city? What are the conditions for Palestinian statehood?


Times of Israel, 29 January 2020

The “conceptual map” provided as part of the Trump Administration’s long-awaited “Vision for Peace”, released on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump released his administration’s long-awaited peace plan on Wednesday, describing it as a “realistic two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following a festive announcement from the East Room of the White House, the administration released a 50-page document which details the previous unseen political facet of the plan along with the economic portion that was introduced in Bahrain last year.

Below are key excerpts from the “Peace to Prosperity” plan:

  • The plan says that Israel is not legally bound to provide the Palestinians with 100 percent of pre-1967 territory, a departure from previous plans with called for near 1-to-1 land swaps.
  • The plan envisions a high-speed transportation link that will enable efficient movement between the West Bank and Gaza, crossing over or under Israel’s sovereign territory.
  • Israel will benefit from having secure and recognized borders. It will not have to uproot any settlements, and will incorporate the vast majority of Israeli settlements into contiguous Israeli territory.
  • Approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory, and approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory.
  • Land swaps will provide the State of Palestine with land reasonably comparable in size to the territory of pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza.
  • Fifteen Israeli enclaves  — currently isolated settlements deep in the West Bank — located inside contiguous Palestinian territory will become part of the State of Israel and be connected to it through an effective transportation system.
  • The Jordan Valley, which is critical for Israel’s national security, will be under Israeli sovereignty.

The Arvot Hayarden settlement where the Jordan Valley Regional Council municipality is located in the West Bank (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP)

  • Subject to agreement by the parties, the deal proposes redrawing the border to allow for the ten Arab Israeli villages in the so-called Triangle just west of the Green Line to be included inside the State of Palestine.
  • The security barrier between Israel and the West Bank will be realigned to match the new borders.
  • The borders drawn in the plan’s map shall be without prejudice to individual claims of title or rights of possession traditionally litigated within the Israeli judicial system.


  • The plan praises Israel for safeguarding religious sites and calls for maintaining the status quo at them, particularly at the Temple Mount.
  • However, in the next paragraph, the plan says that people of all faiths should be able to worship at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Under the current conditions of the status quo, Jews are not allowed to pray at the compound.
  • The plan says that a division of Jerusalem would be inconsistent with the policy statements of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 of the United States.
  • “While a physical division of the city must be avoided, a security barrier currently exists that does not follow the municipal boundary and that already separates Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem from the rest of the neighborhoods in the city. This physical barrier should remain in place and should serve as a border between the capitals of the two parties.”
  • “Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel, and it should remain an undivided city. The sovereign capital of the State of Palestine should be in the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier, including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine.
  • The plan would allow the Arab residents of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, beyond the 1949 armistice lines but inside the existing security barrier to choose one of three options: Become citizens of the State of Israel, become citizens of the State of Palestine or retain their status as permanent residents in Israel.
  • The embassy of the United States to the State of Israel will remain in Jerusalem. Following the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, the embassy of the United States to the State of Palestine will be in Al Quds at a location to be chosen by the United States, in agreement with the State of Palestine.


  • The plan aims to achieve mutual recognition of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and the State of Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, in each case with equal civil rights for all citizens within each state. The United States would only ask Israel to make compromises that it believes will make Israel and its people more secure in the short and long term.
  • Although each party will be in charge of setting zoning rules and issuing building permits in their own countries, zoning and planning of the State of Palestine in the areas adjacent to the border between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, including without limitation, the border between Jerusalem and Al Quds, will be subject to the State of Israel’s overriding security responsibility.
  • Palestinians take part in a training session at a youth camp with Palestinian security forces, in the West Bank city of Jericho, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
  • The State of Palestine shall be fully demilitarized and remain so.
  • The State of Palestine will have security forces capable of maintaining internal security and preventing terror attacks within the State of Palestine and against the State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt.
  • As a complementary measure to the bilateral security coordination, a security review committee will be established that will consist of security representatives appointed by the State of Israel, the State of Palestine and the United States.


This plan envisions three options for Palestinian refugees seeking a permanent place of residence:
1: Absorption into the State of Palestine (subject to the limitations provided below);
2: Local integration in current host countries (subject to those countries’ consent)
3: The acceptance of 5,000 refugees each year, for up to ten years (50,000 total refugees), in individual Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries who agree to participate in Palestinian refugee resettlement (subject to those individual countries’ agreement).

Pupils gather in front of a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA in Gaza City on August 29, 2018, on the first day of classes after the summer holidays. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Conditions for Palestinian statehood

  • The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement will provide that the parties recognize the State of Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
  • The State of Palestine shall be fully demilitarized and remain so.
  • The Palestinian Authority or another national or international body acceptable to the State of Israel is in full control of Gaza; Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all other militias and terror organizations in Gaza are disarmed; and Gaza is fully demilitarized.
  • If efforts to return all Israeli captives and the remains of Israeli soldiers have not previously been successful, then upon the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, all Israeli captives and remains must be returned.
  • If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must commit to the path of peace with the State of Israel.
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement will provide for the release of Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons, except (i) those convicted of murder or attempted murder, (ii) those convicted of conspiracy to commit murder (in each case murder includes murder by terrorism) and (iii) Israeli citizens.
  • Significant improvements for the people in Gaza will not occur until there is a ceasefire with Israel, the full demilitarization of Gaza, and a governance structure that allows the international community to safely and comfortably put new money into investments that will not be destroyed by predictable future conflicts.
  • The Palestinians shall have ended all programs, including school curricula and textbooks, that serve to incite or promote hatred or antagonism towards its neighbors, or which compensate or incentivize criminal or violent activity.
  • The PA shall refrain from any attempt to join any international organization without the consent of the State of Israel
  • The PA shall take no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court and all other tribunals
  • The PA shall take all necessary actions to immediately terminate the paying of salaries to terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons

Israel will in the interim:

In areas of the West Bank that are not contemplated by this Vision to be part of the State of Israel, Israel will not:
1) Build any new settlement towns, expand existing settlements or advance plans to build in those areas
2) Expand any of the Israeli enclaves referred to in Section 4 or advance plans to expand those enclaves in those areas beyond their current footprint;
3) Demolish any structure existing as of the date of this Vision and secure the necessary legislative and/or legal decisions to ensure such an outcome.
(This moratorium does not preclude demolition of any illegal construction, where such construction was initiated following the release of this Vision. This moratorium does not apply to the demolition of any structure that poses a safety risk, as determined by the State of Israel, or punitive demolitions following acts of terrorism.)

Breaking the ‘everybody knows paradigm’

Dr. Eran Lerman

Even if the Palestinians reject Trump’s peace plan, it still serves their long-term interests. False, undeliverable expectations – based on the assumption that “everybody knows” what Israel will be forced to concede – eventually need to give way to a more realistic paradigm, which in turn may lead to a better life for both sides.

Israel Hayom, Published on 30-01-2020

Both Fatah and Hamas predictably reject the Trump Administration proposal: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and then Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

In the immediate and intermediate future, the detailed plan and map put forward by President Trump will be rejected out of hand by the Palestinian leadership. For them it is indeed “dead on arrival.” Both Fatah and Hamas joined the choir of condemnation. Some violence may ensue, although Mahmud ‘Abbas speaks of “popular” rather than terrorist pressure. And yet the plan is of great importance, for the future of the Palestinians as well as for Israel: it is an experiment in breaking the bonds of past perceptions and offering both sides from the opportunity to shake off the effects of their illusions.

Israelis who thought that there was a “free trump lunch” are being disabused of the expectation that he will herald a messianic era, in which all will be given to us and none to the Palestinians. There is nothing to validate the claim, made by some, that a firm Israeli stand would have secured American consent for a total annexation. Trump sees himself as a deal maker – not as an Israeli enforcer.

On the Palestinian side, the problem runs deeper. For years, specifically since the Annapolis process and even more so since the days of the Obama Administration, they have built up expectations based on what may be called the “EKP” – “Everybody Knows” Paradigm. The latter is focused mainly on the territorial dimension: A full return to the 1967 Armistice lines with minor swaps and a partition of Jerusalem, alongside some (symbolic?) concessions on the Right of Return, etc.

“Everybody” – except the broad range of Israelis who find the EKP objectionable and impractical. Well beyond the settler communities and the vocal minority who reject any concessions to the Palestinians, many Israelis find fault with the ideas enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2334 for several good reasons:

  1. To begin with, the great majority of Israelis feel strongly that Jerusalem must remain Israel’s undivided capital – give or take some of the outlying neighborhoods beyond the security barrier.
  2. Moreover, the idea of another round of violent displacement of tens of thousands of Jews, from their homes in their homeland, raises traumatic memories of the sad summer of 2005 and the disengagement from Gaza.
  3. The notion that Israel will be safe, even without a permanent military presence on the Jordan river and firm control of our eastern approaches, became less and less persuasive as chaotic events engulfed the entire region and the danger of destabilization became more acute.
  4. Moreover, the experience in Lebanon since 2006 provided proof positive that it would be a deadly mistake to rely on some UN-mandated foreign military forces in the Jordan Valley (or elsewhere): UNIFIL’s record in apprehending Hizbullah weapons or curbing Hizbullah’s huge arsenal is outright dismal.

Thus, those in Europe, in American progressive circles, and among the Israeli Left who still advocate acceptance of the EKP (rather than the Trump baseline) are actually doing the Palestinians no favor. They help lock the leadership in Ramallah, and the Palestinian political class, into a set of specific expectations that cannot be delivered upon: and thus perpetuate a deadlock they may be of use to ‘Abbas or to Hamas but does little to ameliorate the conditions of people in the West Bank or in Gaza.

The Trump team, on the other hand, offers a novel approach – putting forward a very detailed plan, map included, not as a bridging proposal but as a new paradigm. It certainly falls well short of Palestinian demands – but requires significant modifications of the Israeli position as well, including significant swaps of land from sovereign Israeli territory.

Perhaps it’s most problematic aspect would be the creation of enclaves on both sides: True, there are such geographic anomalies in France (a Spanish enclave), Switzerland (Italian and German), The Netherlands (Belgian) and a few dozen more around the globe; but these do not carry with them the memories of recent violence and the practical problems which attend it. Still, a systemic effort has been made to generate a plan that answers basic needs on both sides – Israeli security, Palestinian sovereignty – without reverting to massive human dislocation.

Nothing about the plan, or the map, is sacrosanct: essentially, this is still an invitation to negotiations, once the Palestinians respond – or even begin to respond – to the attached code of conduct (which in harsher language can be described as a list of preconditions). Will they at some point realize that their interest lies in coming to the table – presumably, only after November 2020, or any point in time in which they may realize that the offer will not be reversed in their favor by the next American Administration?

A man holds the daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper fronted by a picture of President Donald Trump, at a coffee shop in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia on January 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil). Much will depend on the reaction in Arab states to the Trump proposal.

Much depends, in this respect, on two external factors:

  1. The response of the Arab world, which has so far been rather muted (except for the “usual suspects” associated with Iran). Beyond the participation of three Gulf Ambassadors in the roll-out event, the fact that Egypt called for serious consideration of the plan and for US-sponsored negotiations is highly significant, and is likely, as usual, to set the tone for the Arab League. Bereft, again, of the Arab “firestorm” and the “volcano of anger” – as was also the case when Trump moved the Embassy to Jerusalem – the Palestinians may eventually need to reconsider their options.
  2. Much the same may be true for Europe. Britain – alas, no longer a player in Brussels – has already given the plan a guarded nod. Others in Europe may be more critical: but given the attentive ear to Israeli political dynamics, and with significant countries in South-Eastern and Eastern Europe now closer to Israel than ever, the EU reaction (which needs to be adopted by consensus) is not likely to measure up to Abbas’ expectations.

Meanwhile, in Israel – although it is quite early to judge – a broad and cohesive base of support seems to be emerging, despite the complex internal situation and the lingering suspicion that the timing, if not the substance of the plan, constitutes an intervention in Israeli politics.

Instead of a left-right cleavage,  this response – and the fact that Netanyahu’s challenger was also invited to Washington, and has spoken in support of the plan – may generate a three-way division – those who reject a Palestinian state on any terms; those who support a Palestinian state on Palestinian terms; and in the middle, those who support conditional negotiations to create a Palestinian state based on the plan’s “ToR”, terms of reference. It is with this new fact of Israeli political life that the Palestinians would ultimately have to come to terms.

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

Palestinians must wake up to new reality in Mideast

By John Podhoretz

New York Post, January 28, 2020

On Tuesday, at the White House, President Trump formally enshrined his administration’s full-scale tilt toward Israel vis-à-vis the Palestinians with the release of his “vision to improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people.”

This document views the conflict through new eyes in a new century in a new millennium. It takes serious account of the efforts Israel has made, beginning in the early 1990s, to do what Bill Clinton once called “taking risks for peace.” It recognizes the rueful lessons those efforts have taught us and builds on them.

Former US President Clinton with former Israeli PM Barak – the new plan takes account of Israel’s “taking risks for peace”, in Clinton’s words, over the past two decades.

Three times — twice in 2000 and once in 2008 — Israel offered Palestinians a state in exchange for a declaration of peace. What’s more, in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Palestinian territory of Gaza and left it to the Gazans to rule themselves.

The Palestinians met both the offers and the withdrawal with multiple wars, thus giving the lie to the ­comforting Hollywood fantasy that all you need to achieve peace is an outstretched hand and a reasonable ­posture.

The Palestinians saw things differently. They had a feckless and fantastical conviction that the world beyond Israel would somehow intervene to give them what they really wanted: A state not alongside Israel but a state that took the place of ­Israel.

No country commits suicide. Israelis responded to these aggressions by reaffirming not only their nation’s right to exist but their right to live in peace the only way possible: By defeating their foes militarily. All its efforts to do so were condemned by the cognoscenti of the West.

Those fools. The bold and necessary moves the Israelis made done to contain Palestinian rage and blood ­furor have saved literally thousands of lives, including Palestinian lives that were not lost in direct martial ­conflict.

So now the United States proposes a full-scale plan, the first of its kind, that takes account of Israel’s security needs and Palestinian aspirations for sovereignty and statehood.

As the plan says, the land it reserves for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza pretty much equals the amount of land on which Palestinians lived before the armistice of 1949 brought the War of Independence to an end. The parts of the West Bank that would be Palestinian are contiguous, and a tunnel would connect the West Bank to Gaza.

What’s different here is that the United States is no longer demanding that Israel place itself in existential jeopardy by giving up vital security territory alongside the Jordan River — or that it redefine its own Zionist cause by unilaterally surrendering part of Jerusalem, you know, just to be nice and a good citizen of the world.

Nor does it make the preposterous demand, implicit in the elite understanding of what the Palestinians would require to accept a deal with Israel, that the Jewish state cede the towns and neighborhoods they have built over the past 53 years to help the Palestinians make the West Bank ­effectively Jew-free.

What it says is that no Palestinians and no Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.

That sentence is a defining truth. It is what peace would truly mean.

If the Palestinian radicals — the sort who have made peace with Israel impossible for more than seven decades — want to know whom to blame for a plan they deem an infamy, the actual answer is simple: Iran.

The Islamic Republic’s behavior in the 21st century is the key change agent that led to Trump’s ­announcement.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Iran’s belligerent behaviour is the key change agent in the region that made the Trump peace plan possible. 

Iran’s rising nuclear ambitions began to be a matter of regional concern in the first years of the new millennium, just as the Palestinians were conducting the terror war against Israel known as the Second Intifada. Iran was a major backer of the ­intifada.

Its hostility to Israel was one of the few things Iran had in common with other countries in the Middle East. But as Iran continued its march to ­enriched uranium, something extraordinary happened.

Implacable Arab foes of Israel (the ones that follow the Sunni tendency in Islam rather than Iran’s Shia denomination) grew terrified by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. That was especially true of Saudi Arabia —which has Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, within its borders, a city Iran would love to have under its ­control.

The Saudis, long thought to be Israel’s most dangerous geostrategic foe, suddenly discovered they had common ground with the Jewish state.

This new connection, navigated mostly in secret, meant that the importance of the Palestinian cause to Arab countries other than Iran began to recede rapidly.
A strong Israel was suddenly not such a terrible thing to them, and there was a reason for them to lose interest in weakening Israel.

The idea that the fate of the Palestinians is central to peace in the Middle East was axiomatic 25 years ago. It’s simply laughable today. That is the reality the Trump plan grasps, and grasping the same reality is the only hope the Palestinians have of getting past their wretched status quo.