Sunday, 29 Mar 2020 - 4 of Nisan, 5780
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US peace plan draws immediate responses from Jewish, Israel-related groups, Mideast experts

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“It is now essential that Palestinians forego the path of violence, boycotts and the criminalization of differences at international forums and return to peace talks with Israel,” stated AIPAC.

By Jackson Richman, JNS

Jewish and Israel-related groups expressed mixed reactions to the Trump administration at long last releasing its long-awaited peace plan on Tuesday to help resolve the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We appreciate the efforts of [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump and his administration to work in consultation with the leaders of the two major Israeli political parties to set forth ideas to resolve the conflict in a way that recognizes our ally’s critical security needs,” said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in a statement. “Indeed, both Israeli political leaders view this framework as the basis to restart negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Its leadership said “we have long believed that direct Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy is essential to create a durable peace and lasting two-state agreement that effectively addresses the concerns of both sides.”

At the same time, AIPAC bemoaned that “the Palestinian leadership has continually refused direct talks with Israel for the last several years.”

“It is now essential that Palestinians forego the path of violence, boycotts and the criminalization of differences at international forums and return to peace talks with Israel,” continued the pro-Israel lobby. “We were encouraged to see that the ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates attended the announcement, and we call on the Arab states to play a constructive role in urging the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israelis.”

AIPAC called for “Palestinians to rejoin Israelis at the negotiating table,” adding that “a lasting, genuine peace will inevitably require agreement between the parties themselves and tough compromises from both sides.”

‘A moment of opportunity for the region’

The Republican Jewish Coalition approved the proposal.

The organization’s national chairman, former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), said in a statement that it creates a “realistic path” for the Palestinians to have a state while not compromising on “the requirements that the Palestinians reject terrorism, stop inciting violence, stop their indecent ‘pay for slay’ program that pays terrorists for their crimes, and end corruption and human-rights abuses.”

Coleman continued to remark that the plan “offers challenging steps to both parties, as well as the prospect of great achievements. If this plan can be fully implemented, it will change the face of the Middle East for centuries to come.”

The Anti-Defamation League affirmed its record as “a staunch supporter of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel living with security and at peace with its neighbors.”

In a statement, it said that “for decades, ADL has been a strong advocate for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a two-state solution that ensures a secure, equitable and lasting peace for both parties. Moreover, we long have supported the United States’ involvement in addressing the conflict and have encouraged the U.S. to play a constructive diplomatic role with the parties, believing that American support and facilitation can help Israelis and Palestinians take the risks necessary for peace. And so, we currently are studying the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan released today by the White House and carefully considering its implications.”

But ultimately, it said, “the two parties must engage together on a settlement of the conflict, and so we hope that this might prompt both sides to resume negotiations toward a two-state solution that leads to a lasting and just peace.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, declared Tuesday a “historic day,” saying he was encouraged by the proceedings.

“We saw the U.S.-Israel relationship in its full expression—a great moment of opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis, as well as the region,” he told JNS. “Hopefully, the Arab states will support this initiative, and it will be backed by European and other countries that want to see stability and peace in the Middle East. We look forward to meaningful negotiations, and in the interim, the beginning of implementation.”

B’nai B’rith International, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) and the American Jewish Congress also expressed optimism for the initiative.

“This proposal provides a pathway to achieve a lasting peaceful resolution of this conflict that is well-grounded in a reality that includes Israel’s vital security needs,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin. “It should be clear to the Palestinians that this plan will not allow them to run from recognizing and accepting Israel as a Jewish state, a prerequisite for any serious negotiation that might ensue.”

EMET founder and president Sarah Stern told JNS, “I really do believe that this is a good plan,” citing that it gives Israel control over the Jordan Valley and other land crucial for its border security, while giving the Palestinians “billions of dollars people want to invest in their economy to give hope to their children for a better future.”

American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen said in a statement that the president, as well as his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, deserves credit for constructing a plan that holds the best interests of Israelis and Palestinians in mind. “What the Palestinian people need most is the chance for economic growth, opportunity and self-sufficiency, and the economic component of the peace plan will facilitate investment, trade and cooperation,” he said. “An important part of this will be cooperation with neighboring Arab states, and some of them are already on board.”

‘He’s ignored one side’

NORPAC national president Ben Chouake told JNS that while the plan is “fair and generous,” it won’t be accepted by Palestinian leadership.

“Unfortunately, the history of Arab leadership making peace with Israel turns out to be short-lived. King Abdullah I Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, King Faisal of Iraq all of whom tried to have peace with Israel were assassinated,” he said. “So this is a high bar to overcome especially for President Abbas who is years overstaying his electoral mandate and has little influence over that mandate.”

Christians United for Israel founder and chairman John Hagee in a statement that “President Trump has shown time and again that he is the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history. This plan reflects that tradition and is the best peace proposal any American administration has ever put forth. The president’s vision ensures Israel’s defensible borders, a united Jerusalem, sovereignty over biblical holy sites and provides an opportunity for the Palestinians to choose peace.”

Meanwhile, J Street and the Jewish Democratic Council of America criticized the proposal, exhibiting skepticism from the get-go.

“Trump claims his plan is ‘win-win for both sides,’ but he’s ignored one side. This is a green light for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, an intentional undermining of a viable two-state solution & another example of Trump using Israel to further his domestic political agenda,” tweeted JDCA executive director Halie Soifer.

J Street did not hold back in its denunciation, writing: “It is absolutely clear that the “plan” released today by the Trump administration stands zero chance of serving as the basis for renewed diplomacy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it is the logical culmination of repeated bad-faith steps this administration has taken to validate the agenda of the Israeli right, prevent the achievement of a viable, negotiated two-state solution and ensure that Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank becomes permanent.

The timing of this announcement, coinciding with the formal indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the impeachment trial of President Trump, only underscores that it is a cynical political maneuver entirely lacking in diplomatic credibility. Coming in the midst of an Israeli election campaign, this is an attempt to hand the prime minister a political gift and a distraction from the very serious charges he is facing.”

StandWithUs offered a neutral, yet hopeful, assessment. “As the U.S. administration presents a new peace plan, we know that it is ultimately up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resolve their conflict through direct negotiations,” said SWU co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein in a statement. “We firmly respect the right of Israelis to decide what they need in any peace agreement and urge Palestinian leaders to finally engage in good faith. We hope this will be a step towards a better future for both peoples.”

‘A false basis that will fail’

Mideast experts also expressed mixed reactions.

“My first impression is that this plan, while in specifics far more friendly to Israel than prior ones, is still based on hopes for the Palestinians,” Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes told JNS. “This I believe to be a false basis that will fail. Only when the Palestinians give up can peace be achieved.”

Israel Policy Forum policy director Michael Koplow lamented the proposal. “What Trump has destroyed is not Israeli-Palestinian peace or a two-state outcome; it is the long-held idea by many, including me, that we know what the contours of a deal will look like and only need to wait for the right leadership on both sides to have it realized,” he wrote in The Forward.

“Nobody should be any under illusions that the Trump vision presented today is going to lead to a deal,” he continued. “The Palestinians are hunkered down so deep in their bunker that President Mahmoud Abbas refused to take Trump’s call yesterday, and the prospect of them coming to the table is closer to non-existent than it has ever been.”

“Even on the Israeli side, with a proposal that is literally the most generous that Netanyahu or any Israeli prime minister could hope for, there is not a clear path forward.”

Ilan Goldenberg, who served as the chief of staff to the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations at the U.S. Department of State under the Obama administration, tweeted that the plan “might have sounded nice but it’s all about the details and many of the ideas are absolute non-starters” and that it “is just deeply deeply condescending to Palestinians and uses insensitive language [sic]all over the place. It reads as it was written by a bunch of Americans who never talked to a Palestinian about its content, which is exactly what happened.”

Aaron David Miller, who advised on Mideast issues at the U.S. State Department for 25 years and is currently a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, dismissively tweeted, “This peace plan is like so many other Trumpian ventures. He comes up with a solution to a problem we didn’t have and in process makes the original problem so much worse.”

“I see now that the Israeli right endorses the plan. They back Bibi. They appear to understand that there is no way that a Pal state comes to pass under these circumstances. If true, the plan will be seen by critics as cover for Bibi and company. Will be up to Trump to make peace,” tweeted Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason Antonin Scalia Law School, who advised the Trump administration on the initiative, said in a statement: “This plan corrects numerous fundamental failures of prior failed plans. This plan says that if the Palestinians claim they want a peaceful state, they have to meet minimum conditions, like disarming Hamas and ending pay for slay.

“The reaction of critics that such basic criteria are unrealistic shows that the idea of peaceful state has never been the real goal,” he continued. “Another difference is that in prior plans, whenever the Palestinians said ‘no,’ they simply locked the rejected offer as a floor for the future. The Trump plan turns that around: If the Palestinians don’t come to the table, statehood gets taken off the table.”

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