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February 3, 2020 7:15 am
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The US Peace Plan Is a Boon for Israel

avatar by Martin Oliner

Opinion

President Trump delivers remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in the East Room of the White House to unveil details of the Trump administration’s Middle East Peace Plan. Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House.

President Donald Trump had already proven that he was an unprecedented friend of Israel when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the US embassy there, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and broke the world’s bad deal with Iran. But the step he took on Tuesday when he unveiled the “Deal of the Century” not only trumps everything the president did for Israel before, it surpasses any step taken by any international leader for the Jewish people over the past 100 years.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917, the San Remo Conference of 1920, the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and recognition of the new State of Israel in 1948 were all extremely important historic steps that must not be taken for granted. But following all those steps and the initiation of all prior peace processes, Israel still relied on the good graces of the international community, and in some cases also on its neighbors who wanted to push the Jews into the sea.

This time it is different. President Trump’s plan depends on Israel and only Israel taking action to implement it. Israel can immediately start applying Israeli law to the lands where the Jews of Judea and Samaria live. After decades of uncertainty about where Jews can build in an unprovoked and uncensured manner, Israel will be able to expand from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv eastward without any problems, and build contiguously.

The world is largely unaware, but the main complaint of the average Israeli for decades has been a housing crisis in the center of pre-1967 Israel that has raised the cost of living to a level that has made it hard for young families to make ends meet. This plan would resolve that problem very quickly, because construction to expand Israel’s population centers could begin right away, unhindered by the world’s pretensions of morality and incorrect definitions of international law.

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Existing communities and blocs in Judea and Samaria would finally be recognized and legitimized. New large blocs will be created. No Jews or Arabs will be uprooted from their homes.

Maintaining Israeli security, which was a challenge in previous plans proposed by the United States, is no longer an issue here, because the IDF would maintain security control and protect both Israel and the entrances to where the Palestinians would continue to live.

The plan gives the Palestinians four years to come to the table but no longer relies on them. They are being asked to renounce and stop funding terrorism, demilitarize Gaza, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and stop trying to get Israel prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague before receiving any benefit or recognition.

The refugee issue that led Palestinian leaders to reject past peace plans will no longer be regarded as a responsibility for Israel in any way. There would be no right of return for Arabs abroad, except to the Palestinian entity that could potentially be created in the unlikely scenario that all aforementioned conditions are met.

Like in any plan that is American and not Israeli, there are drawbacks for the Jewish state. The majority of the land in Judea and Samaria could theoretically not end up part of Israel.

This would give the Arabs living in those areas a contiguous area of land in which to live and vote. However, the international community will no longer be able to accuse Israel of occupying Palestinian land or compare the Jewish state to regimes maligned in recent history.

If the conditions are met, the Palestinians may receive what is called a state. But it would not be a state as a nation-state has been perceived before. All security would remain with Israel.

Only in the unlikely scenario of every condition being met by the Palestinians, there could be land that was promised to the Jewish people by God in the Torah that we would not keep, and that is of course very painful. It is understandable why some leaders of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria decided to reject the plan for those reasons at first. Clearly, further analysis is required in regard to this Torah issue.

However, there is no gainsaying that the world has come a very long way, and the differences between this and all previous plans are inescapable.

The political circumstances of the timing of the plan’s release are also undeniable but must not get in the way of implementing it immediately. The Knesset needs to act now and not wait for elections. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz endorsed the plan. He should not push to wait for its implementation until Israel finally has a long-awaited government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought about this plan after withstanding unprecedented pressure from Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and many other detractors. He understands that there is a narrow opportunity to act now as the American election approaches and other world issues overtake the news cycle. In the final analysis, there is no reason to wait when the best deal ever imaginable is there on the table, ready for immediate implementation.

To wait would be an insult to President Trump, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Ambassador David Friedman, envoys Jason Greenblatt, Avi Berkowitz, and Brian Hook, and the rest of President Trump’s spectacular staff who worked so hard on this plan. Israel must show immediate gratitude to them for it.

Martin Oliner is the co-president of the Religious Zionists of America and chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and serves as a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He can be reached at [email protected]

A version of this article was published in The Jerusalem Post.

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