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February 3, 2020 7:52 am

Will Trump’s Peace Plan Lead to Major Violence? Unlikely.

avatar by Yaakov Lappin


Palestinian rioters hurl stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Hebron during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Jan. 30, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma / File.

As the region absorbs the details of the Trump administration’s peace plan to tackle the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the IDF took the preemptive step of moving an infantry battalion to the Jordan Valley, giving the military an added layer of flexibility to deal with a range of possible scenarios.

The IDF’s preparations also include stepped-up intelligence gathering in the West Bank and dialogue with a variety of influential figures in the area. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi completed a tour of the West Bank last week, together with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of the security coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority (PA), said he doubted any significant level of popular violence was about to be ignited, and that sporadic demonstrations are more likely.

“I believe the Palestinian public of 2020 is not the same as it was during the first intifada in 1987, and certainly not like it was in subsequent escalations,” said Elad, a lecturer at Western Galilee College. “The Palestinians are still angry at the State of Israel, but they’re also looking at Gaza; they see the conditions there, and they do not want to reach that. The conditions for them are good, and they fear closures and disorder disrupting their lives.”

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As a result, Elad said, the most likely scenario is demonstrations and localized disruptions that do not develop into massive eruptions of violence.

Palestinian anger at the proposal will nevertheless stretch across the board. “They will never agree to this,” Elad said. “They perceive it as a very pro-Israeli proposal.”

The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank had assumed future talks would resume where past talks — such as the Abbas-Olmert negotiations or the 2000 Barak-Clinton proposals — left off. They expected, in other words, that talks would be based on the idea of establishing a state roughly on the 1967 Green Line borders with eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, with a symbolic return of refugees and Israel receiving three main settlement blocs.

The far more limited vision of a Palestinian state contained in the Trump proposal contains none of the basic components envisioned by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian public. “None of that is here,” Elad said. “They will say that this is not a state, that they have no space, and that there is nothing to talk about.”

Elad noted that from 1994 onward, the Palestinians have nurtured a dream of a state on the 1967 borders with no settlements within it. That vision no longer has any proponents in the Israeli mainstream, he said, adding, “the Palestinians are not prepared for the new proposal.”

From a practical perspective, the gap between Israel and the Palestinians is so wide that “Trump had no choice but to make an unequivocal decision to launch this proposal.” But despite the anger the proposal has provoked, Elad believes “there won’t be a third intifada.”

In the longer-term assessment, the Palestinian population lacks the energy to engage in a major confrontation with Israel, according to Elad. “They will probably go along with what their leaders decide.”

One possible scenario is this: if PA head Mahmoud Abbas concludes that Trump will remain in office for a second term, he can order Fatah to disband the PA “and return the keys to Israel.” A second possibility, Elad said, is that they will remain, but will cut off all contact and coordination with Israel (something Abbas has threatened).

Much of what the Palestinian leadership does depends on the response at the street level in the West Bank, he added. “If they receive public backing, the Palestinian leadership will go all the way [i.e., disbanding the PA]. If the public does not respond fiercely, Abbas could also resign. The main thing he wants to avoid is being seen as a traitor. What Yasser Arafat rejected — recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — he too will reject.”

From a strictly security perspective, the unveiling of the plan will not have a significant effect on the ground, argued Elad, though he did caution that Hamas could take advantage of the situation to strengthen its position.

Yaakov Lappin is a Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks and is the military correspondent for JNSA version of this article was originally published by JNS and The BESA Center.

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