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March 12, 2018 4:21 pm

Ex-State Department Official Skeptical of Trump’s Pending Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan

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Interview

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 23, 2017. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

A former US State Department Middle East negotiator expressed heavy skepticism on Monday that President Donald Trump’s reportedly soon-to-be unveiled Israeli-Palestinian peace plan will accomplish anything.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence [in it],” Aaron David Miller — currently a vice president at the Washington, DC-based Woodrow Wilson think tank who worked in the past for the State Department in both Republican and Democratic administrations — told The Algemeiner.

On Monday, the The New York Times revealed what it said were leaked details of Trump’s plan, reporting that it “will not call for a two-state solution as one of its goals. … Nor will it call for a ‘fair and just solution’ for Palestinian refugees.”

Miller downplayed the report, saying, “I worked on the peace process negotiations for 20 years. I’ve never seen a degree of radio silence imposed on any effort Republican or Democrat at any level like the degree of radio silence that’s imposed on this one.”

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In Miller’s view, only Trump advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt — along with the president — know the precise details of the plan.

“It is futile to the point of distraction to try to speculate on what’s in it or what should be in it or what won’t be in it,” he said. “We’ll find out soon enough. But I think it’s pointless to speculate.”

However, Miller insisted that any push toward peace at the moment would be largely pointless.

“There is no way,” he stated, “under these circumstances, with the gaps on the six core issues that define the Israeli-Palestinian problem — borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, and end of conflict and claims — that the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority can reach an agreement. Unless one or both are prepared to scale back their demands and their needs and requirements. And I don’t see either of these two things happening.”

The real question, Miller said, is whether the plan will present “what a normal human being would describe as a basis for a serious negotiation? … I would argue that it won’t.”

Over a decades-long peace process, Miller added, Israel has generally responded to initiatives by saying “yes but” and the Palestinians by saying “no.”

“I would say the Kushner-Greenblatt-Trump plan will afford the Israelis the opportunity to say ‘yes but,’ but that it is certain to produce a ‘no’ from the Palestinians,” he continued. “That’s about the best you could do in terms of what’s actually in this thing and what it’s designed to achieve.”

Asked by The Algemeiner whether the Palestinians would be willing to negotiate on the basis of any peace plan given their rejection of the US as an honest broker following Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Miller replied, “Yes I do. If the current administration made a legitimate and honest effort to balance these requirements and produce what I just suggested, which would be a credible basis for Palestinians and Israelis to reengage in a serious negotiation.”

Miller noted that the presentation of a peace plan prior to negotiations is almost unprecedented in the history of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Given this, he said, “the question is, will it be a dud, DOA? Or offer something that can entice the parties to reengage? I don’t have a lot of confidence.”

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