As someone who has dealt with Israel-US relations for almost his entire career, it is clear to me how important American leadership is for us to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. The US is our most important ally, as well as the world’s central power, so it is natural that both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should have taken the opportunity to meet with the US President even in an awkward timing.
However, the plan published by the Trump administration contradicts the interests of the State of Israel, distances us from the two-state solution and is published during very problematic political times. As a result, it will likely do more harm than good.
The two-state solution is an existential interest for Israel. It is a necessary component of the Zionist dream, in which the State of Israel is both the state of the Jewish people and a democracy characterized by complete equality for all its citizens. Yet the two-state solution is unattainable while Palestinian interests are ignored and Palestinian leaders are excluded from the peace process. I would expect Israeli leadership to be capable of making that clear to an American president.
In the past, Prime Minister Sharon tried to convince the Bush administration not to force democracy on conflict-ridden Iraq; Prime Minister Olmert sought to influence the same administration not to push for Palestinian elections at that point in time. Neither succeeded, but in hindsight, both did the right thing, as an ally should.
The Palestinians are rejecting the Trump plan outright, so it will not lead to a settlement. But from it we must try to extract components that will help achieve a settlement in the future. Of importance is the fact that a Palestinian state will be established, even according to Trump’s vision, and that it must have a capital in East Jerusalem as well as an American embassy there.
Contrary to common perception, our ability to promote true peace is stronger now than ever before. In the Palestinian leadership of today, Israel has infinitely better partners for peace than it had in Oslo and Camp David. The leaders of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah understand that terrorism has hurt them just as it has done damage in Israel, and they are trying to achieve independence through non-violent means. The regional context is also more favorable than in the past; most Arab countries see Israel as part of the solution to the problems this region faces, rather than as the problem itself, as they have in the past. This is reflected in the Arab Peace Initiative, which is endorsed time and again at the summits of Arab states and which did not exist during Oslo and Camp David.
In addition, the majority of the Israeli public supports a two-state solution, as evidenced in polls conducted over the past twenty years, even though this wasn’t reflected in the election results in Israel, because our leaders have preferred to instill fear, suppress hope for peace, and remove the Palestinian issue from the agenda.
To the extent that the Trump plan leads to annexation, it will not only keep us away from a solution of two states for two peoples. It will also damage regional stability, our relationship with Jordan and security coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which has led to relative calm and a significant reduction in terror.
Consequently, those who come to power in the upcoming Israeli elections should take significant diplomatic steps that will provide for a real peace plan. They should do so in coordination with the international community, rather than allowing themselves to be dragged on by false initiatives that do not merit the support of most of the international community or the Democratic Party in the US. Israeli leaders must make it clear to our American friends that this is not the way to advance the long-term interests of the State of Israel.
Nadav Tamir is a Board Member at Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies; a former diplomat and policy advisor to President Peres