unday afternoon is an unusual time — and that’s an understatement — to announce an important policy decision. After all, most of America is at the mall.
Eyebrows were raised, therefore, when a senior White House official chose that day and time to declare that the economic section of the long-awaited Middle Eastern peace plan would be unveiled on June 25, at a conference in Bahrain.
“When we shared our economic vision with people in the region, it was met with very good feedback,” the senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Sunday. “Everyone liked it, they asked that we come and present it in the region. We are grateful to Bahrain for the opportunity to do this. We are going to have foreign ministers and treasury ministers there. We are not looking to focus on the political plan at this forum — we really want to focus on the economic plan to show that you can’t have peace without economic stability.”
The economic aspect is important, of course, and there is no peace plan without it. But it remains an open question why the administration chose to split the rollout of the economic and political aspects of a plan, especially when its future is so uncertain. Only ten days ago, in a speech before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jared Kushner revealed that the plan would include dozens of pages covering every aspect of life, including the core subjects, in great detail. So how is it that within ten days, we’ve arrived at a situation in which the publication of a central part of the plan has been pushed off to an unknown date?
It is difficult, if not impossible, to answer this question. But a few different factors might be in play. First, as these lines are being written, a government has not yet been formed in Israel. Considering the complexity of the coalition math and the lackluster progress of the negotiations, it seems a very poor time to unveil a plan that could shake up the entire political establishment. The Trump administration seeks stability, not a political crisis, in Jerusalem.
Second, it’s no secret that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are ready for peace at the moment. Not today, not tomorrow, not in another year. Experts have emphasized again and again that the Palestinians will reject the plan without a moment’s hesitation, so it is unclear why the administration is releasing a plan that has almost no chance of succeeding. One other possible explanation is that the Palestinian refusal is meant to serve as a pretext for Israeli annexation, with American backing, of Area C.
Maybe the best explanation is that the Trump administration has decided to present the carrot before the stick. Unveiling the economic before the political aspect will allow the administration to build enormous pressure on the Palestinians. Maybe when they understand what the administration is offering and the economic opportunities that will follow, the Palestinians will come to reconsider their rejectionist position.
But don’t hold your breath. The chances that the Palestinians will actually come to the negotiating table are extremely low. And no economic plan, laden with incentives and supported by the leading superpower, is going to change that.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 761)
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