Trump’s Mideast ‘Deal of the Century’ May Be a Raw One for Israel

President Trump has spoken repeatedly about his desire to find the “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the president’s specific plan remains a tightly held secret, he and several aides occasionally drop hints about it. From what one can tell, it doesn’t sound good.

The first theme of Mr. Trump’s comments is neutrality toward Israel and the Palestinians. He had already expressed that in December 2015, when he insisted both sides “are going to have to make sacrifices” to achieve peace, and he has made many similar comments since. Mr. Trump seems not to recall that Israel has repeatedly made concessions since 1993, including turning over land and permitting a Palestinian police corps, only to be met with heightened Palestinian intransigence and violence.

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Jan. 24, 2019 addenda: (1) For a collection of leaks about the Trump plan, click here.

(2) For reasons of space, I excluded a number of other references to the Trump plan from the above article; I add these here so that all the evidence is available. To start with, comments by American officials (all dates are 2018):

Aug. 29: U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman sought to soften Trump’s Aug. 22“higher price” comment by portraying it as a friendly gesture where Trump asks the Israelis, “Look, can you do a little bit more? Look what we did for you. Is there’s something more that you could do?” Friedman insisted that “It’s not that he has something specific in mind,” but the Israelis could help “by leaning in a little bit as well. … There is not and there never was any demand made of Israel that they do anything in exchange for the embassy move.”

Sep. 26: Trump raised another theme: that the embassy move requires that “Israel will have to do something that will be good for the other side.” This was notable in that he expects Jerusalem to join the U.S. government “to do something” for the PA; in other words, the Jewish state must not just “pay a higher price” but take positive steps of its own to win Palestinian good will. With a burst of moral equivalence, Trump optimistically added, “I think that Israel wants to do something, and I think that the Palestinians actually want to do something” to reach “a fair deal … good for both parties.”

Sep. 13: Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt alluded to moral equivalence: “We’re going to have to defend the plan to Israelis and Palestinians. We are ready for criticism from all sides.”

Oct. 8: Israeli media quoted an anonymous American official: Trump’s plan “will not require Israeli security concessions, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to demonstrate leadership and make difficult decisions.”

Nov. 10: Greenblatt returned to the theme of neutrality at a closed-door meeting in November 2018. Israeli media quoted him saying that neither side will like what’s in Trump’s plan, both will have to compromise.

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Israeli officials have been wary of discussing the deal but have made occasional statements, all negative:

May 6: Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman noted, “There is no free lunch. … There will be a price for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.”

Oct. 1: Yossi Beilin, a former minister of justice and leftist, is positive toward the plan, noting that Trump’s ideas are “apparently much closer to the one promoted by Abbas than to Netanyahu’s” and sees the latter as the odd man out in the triangular relationship with Trump.

Oct. 23: In response to Trump’s comments on possibly sharing Jerusalem as a capital, Israel’s Minister of Education Naftali Bennett said no: “As long as we’re in the Israeli government, we won’t agree to a divided Jerusalem, or to a shared capital. It took us years to extricate ourselves from the hole created by Barak and Olmert with their hallucinatory suggestions, granting to the Palestinians the Temple Mount. As long as we’re in Jerusalem, we won’t permit any concession of Israeli sovereignty. … There won’t be a joint capital in Jerusalem even in 1,000 years.”

Oct. 25: Israelis at large may be oblivious to the looming tensions but, according to Amnon Lord in Israel HaYom, “sources close to Netanyahu expect a moment of intense debate with the Trump administration, if not a political confrontation.”

Nov. 21: Minister of Justice Ayalet Shaked was the most negative of Israeli officials: “I think that the gap between the Israelis and Palestinians is much too big to be bridged. Personally, I think [the Trump peace plan] is a waste of time. I want peace like anyone else, but right now it’s a waste of time.”

Reprinted with author’s permission from Daniel Pipes