Sunday, May 20th | 6 Sivan 5778


Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

January 16, 2018 1:26 pm

The Trump Peace Plan for Israel Won’t Work

avatar by Gershon Hacohen

Email a copy of "The Trump Peace Plan for Israel Won’t Work" to a friend

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Donald Trump in New York City, Sept. 18, 2017. Photo: Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel occurred against the backdrop of his ambition to devise a comprehensive peace proposal for Israel and the Palestinians. The pressures and threats emanating from leaders of the Arab world, as well as from EU countries, ought to raise questions about the basic assumptions that are guiding the president as he seeks what he has called “the ultimate deal.”

When he took office a year ago, Trump declared that as an experienced businessman, he would lead the sides to a deal that would be advantageous to both of them. Yet it must be asked: How is it possible to speak of this issue in terms of a deal?

In the business world, the aim is to lay a legal groundwork that ensures that a signed deal will not have to be reopened for negotiation. The negotiating period is subject to challenges and surprises, but from the moment the matter is signed, it is final.

Agreements between states and peoples, however, are likely to be revisited as national interests change. Even if negotiations and agreements between states show a behavioral pattern similar to what transpires in the business world, a crucial difference remains: peoples have national aspirations that are stronger than any agreement. Those aspirations are not under the control of leaders and cannot be conceded in negotiations. They continue to arouse passions — even when their fulfillment has been deferred. A redemptive deal simply cannot be made in a conflict that is as complex and fraught with conflicting national-religious dreams as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How far, after all, can any people be expected to go in giving up its dreams?

Related coverage

May 18, 2018 7:08 pm

Gaza Gunfire Sends David Brooks Into New Embrace of New York Times’ Israel-Bashers

It’s one thing for Prime Minister Netanyahu to take a beating from the news columns of the New York Times,...

What is involved here is a basic issue regarding the motives behind human behavior. It is reflected in a recent debate among Western intellectuals about the place and role of nationalism in the emergent global order. Alexander Yakobson (Haaretz, October 31, 2017) put the question well: “Can an ideological movement forgo a sacrosanct principle it has sworn never to forgo? Yes — if the constraints of reality are sufficiently difficult and ongoing.”

My conception of human behavior is different: the constraints of reality can indeed bring even ideological leaders to a compromise, but the resulting agreement is always temporary, and awaits a strategic shift in which everything will be reconsidered.

National passions can be repressed and deferred, but they do not dissipate. A hundred years after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish passion for lands that were under Turkish control before WWI continues to burn, and to drive President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regional policy and activity. Much the same is true for the Iranians: the golden age of the kingdom of Darius impels their current logic. Even an agreed national border does not obstruct national longings that await their hour.

This is not only true in the Middle East. For millions of Germans, the cities of Breslau and Danzig — which, after WWII, became the Polish cities of Wroclaw and Gdansk — are still part of the German homeland.

The dispute here extends far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a controversy between political realism and humanist idealism, rooted in different premises about the essential logic that drives the behavior of human society. In the basic enlightened, liberal outlook, the world can and should be in a positive moral equilibrium.

This ideal situation will be achieved, so it is argued, if we just manage to remove obstacles, to work out a good deal and a satisfactory arrangement, to put reality on a course of prosperity and development. Because human beings are basically reasonable creatures, they will be able to stabilize their behavior patterns within the existing framework, under the conditions of peace. When humanity emerges from darkness into light, it will never want to return to the darkness. That, in brief, is the premise of the Enlightenment. In recent decades, has it met the test of reality?

Therein lies the conceptual failure of the liberal Western intellectual. It is doubtful whether the president’s deal-making emissaries — Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — can be saved from the failures of their predecessors.

If one regards national agreements as temporary by nature, one is not surprised by what Yasser Arafat, before entering Gaza in the summer of 1994, said in response to a skeptic who was critical of the Oslo Agreement: “The day will come when you will see thousands of Jews fleeing Palestine. It will not happen in my lifetime, but you will see it in your lifetime. The Oslo Agreement will help fulfill that vision.”

It was with similar logic that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal explained his support for the two-state solution: “Some fear that it may be an opening to a path that others have taken, with the great dream growing smaller in the end, and I say no. I believe that the liberation of Palestine on the 1967 borders is a goal that can be achieved, and from a practical standpoint I believe that whoever liberates Palestine on the 1967 borders will liberate the rest of Palestine.” That is the “Phased Plan” in a nutshell.

A good deal is supposed to benefit both sides. Even if they did not get all they wanted, each side is fortunate to have attained what it did. At least, that is what is supposed to happen.

Efraim Karsh, in his 2016 study “The Oslo Disaster” (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies), notes that when the IDF completed its withdrawal from the populated parts of the West Bank in January 1996, Israel thought that it would no longer be accused of being an “illegitimate occupation.” The withdrawal from all the population centers in Gaza had already been fully implemented earlier, in May 1994. And indeed, once the retreat from the West Bank had been carried out as well, elections were held for the Palestinian National Council, and the Israeli Civil Administration’s rule over most of the Palestinians came to an end. Ahmed Tibi, Arafat’s adviser at the time, declared: “From now on there is a Palestinian state.” Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin made similar assertions, and expressed relief that the occupation had ended.

Yet Israel continues, in 2018, to be accused of being an “illegitimate occupation.” How has the world managed to miss that for a large majority — about 90% — of Palestinians, the occupation actually came to a halt in January 1996? All the more so, how can it be that even after the complete withdrawal from Gush Katif in 2005, the Gaza Strip is still viewed internationally as a territory under Israeli occupation?

What, then, can the Trump initiative promise if this time, too, after Israel gives the Palestinians what they demand, the recompense is still lacking? It may be that, notwithstanding enlightened expectations, another agreement not only would not constitute a “good deal,” with both sides forgoing national aspirations, but would intensify them interminably. From an Israeli standpoint, it needs to be understood that in a business dynamic, today’s concession is viewed as a starting point for tomorrow’s talks. In such a reality, what is needed are skills other than those that succeed in the business world.

This article was first published on Israel Hayom (Hebrew) on January 7, 2018.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for forty-two years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • herbcaen

    Only the favor of G-d and military strength keeps Israel alive. Agreements are worth less than toilet paper, because toilet paper has a use

  • Truth1953

    Not sure the point of the article. It’s concluding sentence is “. . . what is needed are skills other than those that succeed in the business world.” Been there, done that. Multiple times. It didn’t work. Why not try something a bit radical that at least recognizes both a geographical and philosophical truth.

  • Yitzhakhazak

    Comprehensive + Peace plan + In the Middle East!? You don´t know what you´re talking about. In that part of the world one survives by the sword or disappears by it.

  • ricardo

    The author says the plan is not going to work but doesn’t even bother to say what the plan is.

    Oh well, I guess he is right, any plan in which Israel occupies more than land than a square millimeter (about a spec of sand) is never going to be accepted by the Palestinians anyways…

  • The Consequences of Appeasements and concessions r1
    The decisions made by the government of Israel since The six day war of 1967 leading up to today’s various Gaza wars with Hamas since 2005, as well as those of the first ten months or so after the turnover of Gaza in 2004 began, have dumbfounded historians ever since. The appeasement of Israel to the Arab-Palestinians, in particular, has been so often held up as an example of how not to deal with a rising violence and terrorism that it has become a stereotype.
    Had Israel stood its ground and responded to terrorism or any violence with utmost force. Israel would not be facing today’s crisis.
    As many have said – appeasement, concessions and lack of proper response to terrorism is detrimental to Israel and its people and the Jewish people worldwide.
    What the Arabs could not win in four wars they won in playing their deceptive peace game, all the while building up arsenals and educating their children to hate and to destroy Israel. While the Arab-Palestinians leaders are enriching their own pockets with the billions contributed by the world to help the impoverished Arab-Palestinians.
    What a scheme – and the gullible world is buying it hook line and sinker.
    When will the World learn that the Arabs cannot be trusted, I hope before the Arabs finish the take over Europe and than the United States and Canada.
    YJ Draiman

  • LindaRivera

    The ONLY occupation is the Arab Muslim occupation of Judea-Samaria and Gaza. Because Muslims declare that Israel belongs to Islam does not make it so. Muslims believe the entire world belongs to Islam. Arabs first started calling themselves “Palestinians” in 1967. Global terrorist, Egyptian Arafat was the first leader of this new people. Partner with Arafat for over 40 years; immorally respected by the UN, US, EU-Holocaust denier, TERRORIST Abbas, financed the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. Before 1948, Jews were known as the Palestinians. The Jewish newspaper, the Jerusalem Post was called the Palestine Post. The Jewish-founded electric company was Palestine Electric. The Palestinian Symphony Orchestra was all Jewish.

    During World War II, the British army had a Palestinian Brigade made up entirely of Jewish volunteers.

    After Jews migrated to Palestine in significant numbers in the late
    1800s and miraculously transformed desert and swamps into rich,
    agricultural land, Arabs came in large numbers from Arab countries for jobs from the Jews.

    The fact that the overwhelming majority of Arabs resided only briefly
    in Palestine is attested to by a one-time special UN decree:

    That any Arab who had resided in Palestine for only two years before 1948, and then left, would be considered a refugee and so would his descendants!

    Throughout history, people were never regarded as refugees if they
    had resided in a country for only two years because they were clearly citizens of other countries!

  • kushintuchis

    ”what is needed are skills other than those that succeed in the business world” — as if any other skills have worked over the last 70 or so years. The Palestinians don’t want a compromise. They want the entire middle east to be Yuden rein. And so Trump’s solution, it seems, is to walk away from the deal when that becomes clear.

  • Keith James

    Trump’s only plan is for the colonization to expand….see Settlements…..

  • brenrod

    excellent article…. even though it did not go to the next step, this first step must be internalized for Israel.

  • zvi gross

    good analysis, I agree with the author.

  • Reb_Yaakov

    There are aspirations on both sides, and, indeed, the aspirations of those in Israel who strive toward a “greater Israel” also constitute a factor that lessens the likelihood of a peace deal.

    What is necessary in negotiations with the Palestinians is to pay heed and appeal to their national aspirations in a holistic way and not reduce the negotiations to mere legalistic wrangling with the drawing of borders on the map and the assignment of control over certain contested sites. There will always be those who want it all for themselves; indeed, that’s how we got into the mess we’re now in, but there are many others who will be satisfied with a fair shake, and the goal is not to alienate this latter group. As a starting point, how about talking about compensating those Arabs who were legitimate land owners but lost their property when they fled during Israel’s war for independence?