Netanyahu Wants Trump's Mideast Peace Plan to Fail

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
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U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2020.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak

From the details published in the media, U.S. Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” seems to be the most favorable approach to Israel ever adopted by an American president regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a significant change, which creates an important opportunity.

Israel is holding 50 percent of the cards that will determine the fate of this opportunity, which imposes a heavy responsibility on its leaders – Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, who is returning for Tuesday’s discussions of immunity, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fleeing from them – as accurately diagnosed by Avigdor Lieberman. The question is “what should Israel want?”

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 58

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Netanyahu, who has formed an alliance with the far right, including Kahanists and racists, while fleeing from the threat of the trial about to begin against him, is interested in causing the Trump plan to fail, while claiming that the other side is responsible, and immediately beginning steps toward unilateral annexation with Trump’s support.

Gantz represents the correct approach for Israel, namely placing an emphasis on coordination, mutuality, a regional agreement, cooperation with Jordan and maintaining Israel’s security interests. In addition there is the option of unilateral action later on, in the event that the attempt is unsuccessful.

Everyone agrees that Jordan should be the security border in the east. Netanyahu’s proposals to immediately annex the Jordan Valley reflect personal hysteria, like the behavior of an escaped convict, and a loss of judgment, not to say an irresponsible attitude toward security. The immediate annexation of the Jordan Valley would destroy any chance of implementing the so-called "deal of the century”; damage Israel’s operational capabilities against Iran (which is our main rival at present), as well as relations with Jordan, which grants Israel strategic depth; and provide a tailwind for those who want to send Israel’s leaders to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

There is no immediate value to the annexation of the Jordan Valley, because there is no threat to Israel from that direction at present. Nor will anything happen if the next government begins to deal with this issue. Trump will still be in power. Netanyahu may not be.

As for the plan itself, it relates to all of Israel’s security needs, and even on issues relating to settlements, borders, the refugee question and Jerusalem it is very close to the Israeli viewpoint. Clearly the Palestinians will reject it, certainly at first. Trump hopes that Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt will “compel” the Palestinian Authority to agree to adopt it. Let’s wait and see.

Trump himself sees the plan as being all of a piece. He expects Israel to accept it in its entirety – in other words, to accept the principle of separation and the establishment of a Palestinian state, even if limited in its sovereignty, with East Jerusalem as its capital; to agree to dismantle 60 illegal outposts; to discontinue the expansion of the settlements outside the blocs; to recognize the fact that 80 percent of the territory of Judea and Samaria will be allocated to the Palestinian state, and more.

These are positions that are hard for the right to digest. Therefore, in political terms too, Netanyahu is falling into the pit that he himself dug. To right-wingers his position sounds confused. To members of the center-left it seems to be subverting Israel’s interests. I have been saying repeatedly for the past two years to Trump’s associates that with a different government in Israel, the deal of the century would have a far greater chance of paving a diplomatic path, or at least leading to sustainable achievements in terms of Israel’s security interests and American interests in the region.

It is customary to say that the election centers on a choice between “Anyone but Bibi” and “Bibi, King of Israel.” But that is not the case. We are the ones at the center of the election – do we support separation from the Palestinians and the vision of two states, or one state with a Muslim majority, which means an end to the Zionist dream?

Do we prefer security above all else, or a racist messiah who stands above considerations of security? Are we Zionists in the style of the Declaration of Independence or in the style of the Nation-State Law? Do we support the defense of civil rights, or corruption and the tyranny of the majority? It is for these things that we must go out and vote.