Donald Trump’s long-awaited “Deal of the Century” was finally revealed last week and has received mixed reception everywhere in the world. Prime Minister Netanyahu was ecstatic, but quickly backtracked from his initial promises of applying sovereignty after confusing signals emanated from the White House. The British government has shown support, the French government has announced that it was going to study it, and the German government has said that the plan raises questions it wishes to discuss with its European partners. The representative of the European Union for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell, accused the plan of undermining the “1967 borders” and hinted that it was not in accordance with international law. The Gulf countries, for the most part, welcomed a plan that will take the Palestinian burden off their shoulders. Finally, the Israelis back at home are as divided as always – and rightfully so, because the plan is, at its core, a lot of déjà vu.
While many perceive that this deal is all in favor of Israel, a careful reading of this 181-page plan demystifies the popular belief that it constitutes a humiliating diktat for the Palestinians, that it is at odds with international law, and that it stands out from the disastrous Oslo Accords.
What does the deal entail, and does it include any fresh and out-of-the-box ideas, that makes this deal so unique? The plan is actually a mirror image of the conditions that Yitzhak Rabin had stated, a month before his assassination in November 1995, for the conclusion of an agreement with the Palestinians: Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty, annexation by Israel of the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocks, and a demilitarized Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.
The “Deal of the Century” brings us right back to Rabin’s vision to solving the conflict, but is even more generous towards the Palestinians. While Rabin planned to annex between 20 and 30 percent of the West Bank (as Dennis Ross testifies in his book, The Missing Peace), the Deal of the Century plans to compensate the State of Palestine by a similarly sized annexation of territory from the state of Israel – an idea that Rabin would have never accepted. In return for the 30 percent of Judea and Samaria that would be annexed to Israel, the Palestinian State, as outlined in the deal, will annex pure Israeli territory of equivalent size (to the northwest and to the south from the West Bank and south of the Gaza Strip to the border with Egypt). The plan states that the purpose of these territorial exchanges is to “grant the Palestinian State a territory whose size will be similar to the West Bank and Gaza Strip before 1967” (page 12).
The deal therefore complies with the controversial Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted in December 2016, following the Obama administration’s decision not to veto it. This event was seen as a last-minute betrayal by the Obama administration and as a “goodbye gift” to Israel. This decision, in rejecting any change to the 1949 armistice lines without the agreement of the parties, constituted a setback for Israel, because it called into question the flexibility of Resolution 242, which demands from Israel (through a peace agreement) a withdrawal “of” territories (“from territories” in the authoritative English version, unlike the French version which speaks “of territories”). While Resolution 242 allows Israel to retain territorial gains within the framework of an agreement, Resolution 2334 excludes them de facto, since it requires the consent of the Palestinians.
Trump and his peace team heavily criticized the vote on Resolution 2334, but their plan conforms to the requirements of this resolution.
Moreover, the plan remains faithful to the failed two-state solution and specifies that its aim is to arrive “at a mutual recognition of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people and of Palestine as nation-state of the Palestinian people” (page 7). Since when were the Palestinians a nation? The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and limited in sovereignty, but it will be contiguous, thanks to the construction of a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and bridges and tunnels inside the West Bank. It is most naïve to believe that the Palestinians will remain satisfied over the long haul with a limited and demilitarized state. The past 20-plus years are the clearest proof of the continued Palestinians’ intransigence, and how conceded territory by Israel was transformed into lethal terror launch pads.
On the question of Jerusalem, the plan bases its proposal on an important fact that deserves being reiterated: Freedom of worship and the preservation of the holy places of the three monotheistic religions have been respected and preserved only under Israeli sovereignty (unlike the case under Jordanian sovereignty between 1949 and 1967). Unified Jerusalem will therefore remain the capital of Israel, but the parts of the city northeast of the security fence (built following the Second Intifada) will form the capital of the Palestinian state. Precisely because the plan recognizes the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions, the plan insists that the Old City remain under the sovereignty of a state under the rule of law.
On the refugee issue, the plan finally tells the long-forgotten truths: that the war of 1948 produced not only Arab refugees but also Jewish refugees, that the so-called “right of return” of the Palestinians is incompatible with a two-state solution and is without foundation in international law, and that UNRWA stirs up and amplifies the problem of refugees instead of solving it. Refugees and their descendants (both Arab and Jewish) will be integrated into their respective nation-states and/or their host countries, and compensated for the loss of their property. It remains to be seen if the Palestinians will come to terms with letting the perpetual refugee issue be erased from their agenda. After all, it is one of their main “accomplishments.”
Finally, the plan calls for a $50 billion “Marshall Plan” for the Palestinian economy. The purpose is that this money is invested in infrastructure and not used for the financing of terrorism and corruption. Here, too, it remains everyone’s guess if the Palestinian state will be able to build democratic and transparent institutions. Many billions have already been donated to the Palestinians since the Oslo Accords; but instead of using it to improve the lives of the ordinary Palestinians, many investigations revealed that the funds were embezzled, used for terror activities, and simply stolen by the Palestinian leadership.
The plan is supposed to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. During the period of negotiations, Israel will obediently freeze any construction in Judea and Samaria intended for the Palestinian state, and the Palestinians are supposed to stop harassing Israel at the International Criminal Court.
While Israel has proven time and again that it seeks genuine peace and is willing to make painful concessions, past history can easily prognosticate which side will constrain its behavior and which side will continue its petulance. One only needs to look at the very recent outburst of violence since the deal was published. Perhaps the status quo is, after all, better, as it will preserve Israel’s rights to its Biblical homeland until Divine intervention decides differently.
Jacques R. Rothschild was born in Belgium and served in the IDF paratroopers. He graduated in Mathematics, Statistics, and International Affairs from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lives currently with his family in New York City, where he works as an advisor to the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait. He also writes and speaks publicly about current affairs and causes for which he cares deeply.