On January 28th, 2020, President Trump released his long-heralded “Peace to Prosperity” Plan for Middle East Peace.
While we celebrate all good faith efforts to bring peace, justice, and prosperity to both Israelis and Palestinians, we believe this Plan will do the opposite. It will entrench occupation and injustice—making the security, dignity, and freedom that both Palestinians and Israelis deserve even more elusive.
Essentially, the Plan formalizes the current reality on the ground. It aims to legitimize occupation and permanent subjugation of Palestinians with Palestinian consent and international endorsement. This contravenes international law, the long-held positions of most nations around the world, and even the view of many prominent segments of Israeli society.
Click below to find information and analysis on the following:
1) What does the Plan say?
2) Couldn’t this be a basis to restart negotiations? Is there really nothing positive to say?
3) Shouldn’t the Palestinians come to the table and negotiate?
4) What’s missing from the Plan?
5) How was the Plan drafted and why were no Palestinians included?
6) What does this mean for the two-state solution?
7) The U.S. had to know the Palestinians would reject this. Why would they propose such a one-sided Plan?
8) How are Arab countries responding to the Plan?
9) Nothing has worked for 70 years. Shouldn’t we give peace a chance?
10) What is the pro/pro/pro peacemaker’s role in moments like this?
11) What impact will the Plan have on the Holy Land’s Christian and Muslim communities?
12) What can I do?
The Plan deems itself a detailed framework for negotiations over four years. It identifies the “primacy of Israeli security” as its core principle. The Plan sketches a detailed vision for what it calls a “two-state solution” that aims: (a) to protect Israel’s security interests on Israeli terms; and (b) to create a Palestinian “state,” which will benefit from massive economic investment.
Developed with virtually no input from Palestinians, the Palestinian territory proposed by the Plan is only a state in name:
No Palestinian sovereignty: The proposed Palestinian territory will be subject to permanent Israeli control. Israel will control its land borders, seaspace, and airspace—including its electromagnetic sphere, which means Palestinians will not have control over essential communications like radio waves, GPS, cellular signals, etc. The Plan explicitly greenlights Israeli annexation of 30% of the West Bank, including most of its settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law. This means the West Bank will be entirely surrounded by Israel. No goods, people, or resources will be able to enter or leave the Palestinian territory without Israeli military approval.
No Palestinian independence: The proposed Palestinian territory will amount to a series of urban enclaves connected by roads, tunnels, and bridges. While this configuration will ease movement within Palestinian territory, the Israeli military will retain ultimate control over all movement of people and goods within Palestine. The Israeli military will also retain the right to enter Palestine at will and conduct military operations at its sole discretion. Additionally, by retaining a veto power over prospective Palestinian refugees seeking to “return” to Palestine, Israel will effectively control immigration into Palestine. Even under the Plan’s best-case scenario, Israel will retain ultimate control over a variety of Palestinian affairs—ranging from security to immigration to internal and external trade.
No Palestinian presence in Jerusalem: Israel will retain full control over a “united Jerusalem.” While Palestinians will have the option to establish their capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem, any capital will be beyond the Israeli barrier/wall/fence, and Palestinians will be denied free access to Jerusalem. Current Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem will still be eligible to apply for Israeli citizenship.
Perpetual insecurity for both Israelis and Palestinians: Beyond the specific mechanisms included in the Plan, it is important to ask what the best way is to mitigate all acts of violence and displays of force and achieve the security both sides seek in the context of a peace agreement. The ability to live in safety and security is a fundamental human right—for both Israelis and Palestinians. But true security for Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved when an equitable and just resolution to the conflict is implemented: a resolution in which the humanity of every person is honored, and no people group is given control over another. This Plan falls far short of this mark, and any “security” that it helps creates for Israelis or Palestinians is fleeting at best.
For a deeper dive, let’s look at what the Plan says about five key “permanent status” issues—issues Israel, Palestinians, and the international community have long agreed must be addressed as part of a two-state solution:
The Plan sets Israel’s easternmost border in the Jordan River Valley, which Israel already controls, but that it will annex under the Plan, ensuring that Israel will completely surround all Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank. The Valley makes up a quarter of the West Bank and is currently the internationally recognized border between the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan.
Palestinians, meanwhile, will be restricted to a series of largely urban enclaves, connected by a series of roads, tunnels, and bridges. This configuration severely handicaps a future Palestinian economy, as all goods and people entering, leaving, and traveling between some enclaves within the Palestinian territory will be subject to Israeli control. Further, it permanently separates Palestinians from resources like room for urban development, farmland, open public spaces for parks and nature reserves, grazing pastures, and access to water aquifers—a scarce, shared resource.
Jerusalem will remain Israel’s “eternal and undivided capital.” But Palestinian political presence in and access to any part of Jerusalem will be highly restricted. The Israeli capital will include East Jerusalem, where the Old City is located, and which has long been presumed to be the location of a future Palestinian capital.
Palestinians, however, will be permitted to establish a capital in Jerusalem’s suburbs, on the other side of the Israeli barrier from the city. No one considers these disconnected suburbs to be part of Jerusalem. Still, Palestinians will be free to call this new capital al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem, or another name of their choosing.
Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem will retain their right to apply for Israeli citizenship. But there would be no Palestinian political presence in Jerusalem. And Palestinians from elsewhere would need to apply for permits and use international border crossings to enter Jerusalem.
The Islamic Waqf, based in Jordan, will ostensibly maintain some control over access to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound, and Israel will continue to allow free access to holy sites in Jerusalem to members of any faith. Yet the Plan also contemplates opening Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount for prayer to people of different faiths—a highly sensitive move that would contravene the current status quo.
This approach to Jerusalem is not only a symbolic blow to Palestinians, who have a large and ancient presence in this multi-faith city and have long claimed a capital here, as Israelis have. Severing Jerusalem from Palestine will further restrict the economic viability of Palestinian communities as the city is a site of international interest that attracts millions of visitors a year. Permanently denying Palestinian Christians and Muslims access to this economic engine and minimizing their historic presence there will severely impede credible prospects for peace.
No Israelis or Palestinians will be forced to leave their homes—including Israeli settlers. While this may seem like a fair principle at first glance, consider that all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. These settlements fragment Palestinian territory and deny Palestinians access to the lands and key resources necessary for any measure of independence. Under the Plan, almost all of these settlements will be annexed by Israel. The remaining settlements will become Israeli enclaves within the Palestinian territory. Residents there will remain Israeli citizens, enjoy access to Israeli-only roads that connect them to Israel, and be protected by Israeli security.
The Plan does enact a four-year moratorium on new construction in Israeli settlements. This time frame will cover the period envisaged to negotiate and begin implementing the Plan. The moratorium, however, only extends to those settlements in territories designated for the future Palestinian territory. Israel is theoretically free to annex all of its other settlements, whether or not Palestinians seek to engage this Plan. Likewise, it is free to build new settlements on all lands slated to become part of Israel.
In practice, this settlement freeze applies to virtually no existing settlements—giving Israel a greenlight to expand the vast majority of its existing settlements, if it chooses.
The overriding frame of the Plan is the primacy of Israeli security.
Understandably, Israelis want to live in security and to prevent all acts of terror or violence against civilians. But even within Israel there are competing notions of how best to achieve the security all seek. The Plan adopts a particular point of view on this, assuming a specific right-wing perspective in tone and substance; a view held by many but also one disputed by broad segments of Israel’s own security establishment.
Further, the Plan fails to imagine that Palestinians have their own security interests – even though Palestinians live in a state of perpetual insecurity without means of self-defense, whether against frequent Israeli military incursions or settler violence against Palestinian life and property.
Israel “will maintain overriding security responsibility over” the Palestinian territory.
Israel will control Palestinian airspace (including the electromagnetic sphere, seaspace, and land borders). It will retain the right to enter the Palestinian territory at will. While the Plan establishes a principal that “[t]he more Palestinians do, the less Israelis will do” in matters related to internal Palestinian security, Israel will ultimately always be in charge. Israel will presumably maintain ultimate authority over immigration to Palestine. And it will retain control over all border crossings into Palestine, establishing a “Crossings Board” to resolve border disputes, comprised of three Israelis, three Palestinians, and a US representative.
Finally, Palestinians will not be allowed to reopen their airport and seaport in Gaza. If Gaza is connected to the West Bank via a tunnel—which is conditional on Hamas and other Islamic factions in Gaza either being defeated or renouncing violence, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, and accepting all previous agreements with Israel—Palestinians will still have to rely on Israeli ports and Jordanian airports for shipments of goods and travel abroad. After a minimum of 5 years, Palestine might be allowed to open a “small” airport and seaport on a to-be-constructed artificial island off the coast of Gaza, subject to Israeli approval and under Israeli security control.
Beyond the specific mechanisms included in the Plan, it is important to ask what the best way is to mitigate all acts of violence and displays of force and achieve the security both sides seek in the context of a peace agreement. The ability to live in safety and security is a fundamental human right—for both Israelis and Palestinians. But true security for Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved when an equitable and just resolution to the conflict is implemented: a resolution in which the humanity of every person is honored, and no people group is given control over another. This Plan falls far short of this mark, and any “security” that it helps creates for Israelis or Palestinians is fleeting at best.
While the Plan calls for resolutions to both the plight of Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab States, it leaves Jewish refugee claims to be pursued via a to-be-determined, alternate mechanism—one separate from the Palestinian refugee question.
In addressing Palestinian refugees, the Plan minimizes their rights and summarily rejects their core demand: the Palestinian Right of Return. Most Palestinians no longer live in their homes in Israel/Palestine; they live as refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip—often in United Nations refugee camps. The Plan rejects allowing even a symbolic number of Palestinians to return to homes and villages in what is now Israel – something all previous efforts at a two-state solution considered and a right affirmed in UN Resolution 194.
The Plan also seeks to recalibrate ideas about compensation for refugees and cites the worldwide refugee crisis as justification for limiting the resources allocated for Palestinian refugee resettlement, compensation, and humanitarian needs.
As far as refugee settlement in Palestine, the Plan imagines a maximum number of 50,000 refugees who could return to the new Palestinian territory each year, subject to Israeli approval. That number could be further reduced based on a variety of assessments about Palestine’s capacity to absorb refugees. Israel would maintain ultimate authority over determining Palestine’s absorption capacity. And a board comprised of three Israelis, three Palestinians and an American would make individual determinations of which specific refugees would be allowed to resettle in Palestine—meaning that Israel will retain a veto power over which Palestinian refugees are allowed to immigrate to the Palestinian territory.
We welcome all good faith efforts to bring peace, stability, justice, equality, and flourishing to both Israelis and Palestinians. We especially welcome new thinking and innovation, as so many previous attempts have resulted in profound failure.
Unfortunately, this Plan is less a sincere effort to restart a moribund negotiations process, and more the product of senior officials of the governments of Israel and the United States coming together to dictate terms to the Palestinians.
There are features of the Plan—such as the commitment to investment in the Palestinian economy and a proposed transportation corridor connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – that, in isolation, can be considered positive. But these are undermined by the way in which the overriding aim of the plan is to permanently entrench subjugation of Palestinians. The Plan neither envisions nor allows for a future date at which time the Palestinian territory, and the Palestinian people, are free from Israeli control.
While many have called the Plan “pro-Israel,” we believe that it in fact undermines Israeli long-term interests. This Plan would permanently foreclose any possibility of a two-state solution, while locking up millions of disenfranchised Palestinian civilians within an undemocratic state of Israel. While Palestinians will pay the heaviest price, this Plan undermines the democratic aspirations of Israel and creates conditions that leave Palestinians under permanent Israeli control inside the State of Israel.
The dilemma for many supporters of Israel has always been the tension between being a Jewish and democratic state, securing a Jewish majority, and preserving equal rights for all its citizens. Official annexation of large parts of the West Bank would embrace an ideological-territorial understanding of the definition of a Jewish State. That per se is undemocratic as Palestinians living on the annexed territory of the state will likely not have a right to vote as citizens. Israelis who want to keep living in a democracy would therefore be deprived of their right to do so.
For Palestinians, their core aspiration is for freedom—whether in a newly independent state of Palestine or equal citizens within whatever state(s) govern them. Palestinians don’t want to live under occupation or to be second-class citizens in Israel or any other State; it is their fundamental right not to be. Yet the Plan’s best-case scenario for Palestinians envisages permanent Israeli control over most aspects of their lives – even in the new Palestinian territory. We believe the Palestinian leadership has made a variety of serious mistakes in how it historically has engaged both the Peace Process and Israel. We also believe the Palestinian leadership should be faulted for many things: from at various times supporting terrorism, to corruption, to anti-democratic practices within Palestine. And, certainly, the Palestinian leadership could be more proactive regarding the Peace Process: Perhaps now might be another opportunity to present their own Plan or detailed response to this one. Perhaps they would gain the endorsement of other nations around the world, and some segments of Israeli society in doing so. Regardless of these faults, we cannot imagine any people—Israeli, Palestinian, American, or other—being offered a situation of permanent subjugation, even if it is a marginal improvement over their current situation and being expected to use it as a basis for negotiations.
On its face, the best-case scenario for Palestinians presented under the Plan promises perpetual Israeli control over most aspects of their lives. No one would say yes to that arrangement or be reasonably expected to use it as a basis for negotiations.
Palestinians can also point to U.S. moves in the three years preceding the Plan’s release to show their justified mistrust of the Trump Administration’s proposal. While the Administration started with a listening tour that hinted at a potential openness to Palestinian concerns, it quickly began to unfold a series of punitive actions aimed at Palestinians: cutting funding from the Palestinian Authority, UNRWA, healthcare programs, hospitals (including to the only cancer center open to Palestinians), coexistence and reconciliation programs, and more. Further, the Administration signaled its rejection of Palestinian input by unilaterally moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and closing the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. Everything that the Administration has done signals that it is acting solely in the interest of the Israeli government and its own domestic interests. It is unreasonable to ask Palestinians to view the Administration’s actions as a fair process that could produce a just solution to the conflict. Driving this kind of bargain may work in a real estate transaction, but not one tied to existential issues like identity, dignity, narrative, and culture.
An honest attempt to understand, communicate, and address both people’s experiences of their shared history. Any fair assessment of the conflict would acknowledge that it is possible to disagree about who is most responsible for this conflict, but it cannot be credibly asserted that only one party is at fault. And yet the Plan lays blame for the conflict entirely on the Palestinians. Honest peacemakers must be familiar with both the complex nature of the human condition generally and with the history of this particular conflict specifically: acknowledging both peoples’ complicity in creating and perpetuating the conflict and honoring the many people of good will on both sides who remain ready to achieve peace. Finally, this Plan ignores the current asymmetric reality, in which Israel ultimately controls most aspects of Palestinian lives. Instead of remedying this central feature of the conflict, the Plan explicitly and permanently entrenches it.
A commitment to equality, dignity, and human rights for all the people in the land. In the Plan, Palestinian rights are conditional on Israeli security interests. Palestinians are not seen as human beings, much less a sovereign nation. There can be no good future for anyone in Israel/Palestine without a good future for everyone.
A political path to Palestinian sovereignty in a Palestinian state, or equality within Israel, and an end to Israeli occupation. The envisaged Palestinian territory—its borders, airspace, commerce, and immigration – will be under permanent Israeli control. That configuration is not a “state” or a “two-state solution.” If a two-state solution is not possible, Palestinians, as equal human beings, need a path to end their subjugation through models like a confederacy, or providing them with equal civil and political rights within Israel.
A truth and reconciliation process designed to heal the wounds and build the bridges to allow for sustained coexistence. Whatever the political arrangement, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, each have deep and historic connections to the same small piece of land. They’ve each endured more than their share of traumas and injustices. And yet there are amazing, wise, and resilient people who are currently doing the difficult work of coexistence and reconciliation. Any political agreement must be accompanied by a significant expansion of this work in order to be sustained.
According to media reports, the Plan was largely drafted by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s recently resigned Special Envoy to the Middle East.
Early on in the Trump Administration, all three officials consulted with and met different Palestinian interlocutors. After the Trump Administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Israel, however, Palestinians stopped formally engaging with American representatives.
As background, the status of Jerusalem has always been one of the core issues in the conflict. Both sides claim it as their capital. The United States and most other countries have historically declined to place their embassies there until the conflict’s resolution. The U.S. Congress passed legislation in the 1990s directing the State Department to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, but Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama – and, in his first year in office, President Trump—each signed national security waivers declining to move the embassy except as part of a larger peace agreement. The current Administration’s decision to reverse this policy and move the embassy was seen by Palestinians as a major American concession on their behalf to an Israeli demand in which they were not consulted, and for which the Americans received no Israeli concession in return.
The Trump Administration then began to unfold a number of other moves widely seen as anti-Palestinian, including closing the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington D.C., cutting aid to Palestinians, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the occupied Golan Heights, and no longer categorizing Israeli settlements as illegal.
The result is a Plan drafted with almost no Palestinian input and despite its claim to “meet core Palestinian needs,” one that fails to do so by any reasonable interpretation (see analysis of the terms of the Plan above, which deny Palestinian sovereignty, independence, a capital in East Jerusalem, and resolution to the refugees issue).
For years now, the feasibility of enacting a viable two-state solution has been seriously questioned.
Previous attempts to achieve a two-state solution have centered around resolution of four core issues: borders, the status of Jerusalem, security, and refugees. This plan accepts the historic Israeli maximalist positions on Jerusalem, refugees, and security, while allowing for unilateral Israeli annexation of territory required for a viable Palestinian state.
While the Plan ostensibly seeks to enact what it calls a two-state solution, the details undermine that goal, and should Israel formally annex the territory envisaged in this Plan, a viable two-state solution would be virtually impossible. Given that the Plan represents a formalization of realities on the ground today, we may have already passed the point of no-return on the two-state solution.
We can only speculate.
Since the beginning of this Administration, American officials have repeatedly stated that applying pressure to Palestinians would get them to the negotiating table or to agree to certain terms. It is possible that some Administration officials viewed this as a potentially viable strategy.
It’s also possible that this could be part of a cynical political game: Put forward a “peace” proposal you know one side would reject. Use that rejection—and the exposure of Palestinians as recalcitrant, non-partners for peace—as justification to sanction controversial Israeli measures.
Given Israel’s desire to form more enduring alliances with Arab countries in the Gulf, however, and the American recognition of the strategic value of pursuing such alliances (for example, in pursuing a more united and coordinated front against Iran), it’s possible that the Administration did not expect or desire a Palestinian dismissal.
It’s also plausible is that the drafters are tone deaf to basic Palestinian needs and hold extreme bias for far-right Israeli positions.
Finally, many commentators speculate that this Plan has little to do with the Palestinians. After all, it was released while both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are in the midst of re-election campaigns and legal troubles. Prime Minister Netanyahu was indicted on criminal charges the day the Plan was released, and President Trump was in the midst of his impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
Before the Plan’s release, some Gulf countries seemed to warm to the Plan. Representatives from Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates even attended the White House launch.
However, all 22 members of the Arab League soundly rejected the Plan within days of its release and reaffirmed their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative (API). The API is a 2002 proposal for negotiation that would normalize relations between Israel and all 22 Arab nations in exchange for establishing a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a “just and agreed” resolution to the Palestinian refugee crisis.
Despite their condemnation of the Plan, Arab states are increasingly warming relations with Israel. States like Saudi Arabia, for example, increasingly see Israel as an ally against Iranian regional power. This openness to working with Israel is a major shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East. The “Question of Palestine” remains a limiting factor in Arab cooperation with Israel but is no longer the immovable barrier it once was.
Yes, we should give peace a chance. Unfortunately, this Plan is not an effort to resolve the conflict, but rather an attempt to manage it on Israel’s terms by reconfiguring the map and the terms of the occupation. It represents two powerful parties dictating terms to a third. We strongly urge restraint from efforts that are sure to only make matters worse.
But we are wise to remember the timeless insight of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “[p]eace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.” We must never forget that there is a direct link between peace, justice, and reconciliation, and that the pursuit of these things is the surest pathway to security and human flourishing.
The Israeli and Palestinian people each deserve to live in peace and safety, in freedom and equality. Either side by side or together in some just and equitable arrangement. The path to get there is obviously not an easy one, or we’d be there already. But it begins with an embrace of the inherent dignity of all, and with a recognition of the deep historic connections both people have to the land they inhabit. It requires listening, talking, negotiating, sacrificing, and committing to nonviolent solutions.
The peacemaker’s role is to remind all who will listen that peace is made not dictated; that peace and justice are intertwined; and that any solution must be predicated on the equality and dignity of Israelis and Palestinians alike. We must continue to extend friendship to people on both sides, standing in solidarity with those who are working for a better future for all, for mutual flourishing. Peacemakers must continue to tell their stories and to advocate for security, dignity, and freedom for all the people of the land.
Peacemakers must declare again and again the necessary marriage of justice and peace; they must denounce the use of violence and aggression; and they must live and act in hopeful ways, remembering that “hope is what you do.” In the most difficult of times, peacemakers lean into the mess, allowing themselves to be continually transformed and redoubling their efforts to create a better future for all.
The Plan calls for access to all religious sites for members of all faiths “who come in peace.” However, we maintain that what makes a faith community vibrant is not just its ability to pray at holy sites, but its ability to live full and dignified lives. This Plan fails to offer any path to viable social and economic lives for Palestinian Muslims and Christians. In fact, the Plan is virtually silent regarding Palestinian Christians, the oldest Christian community in the world, dating unbroken back to Pentecost. Today, the Palestinian Christian community is on the brink of extinction—largely because of economic and social pressures related to Israel’s military occupation. The ancient Palestinian Christian communities in Jerusalem and Gaza are particularly vulnerable. While the Plan seems to receive enthusiastic support from American evangelical Christians, the unfortunate irony is that the attitudes and policies promoted in this Plan will hasten the extinction of the Palestinian Christian community (and severely prejudicing the basic human rights and religious freedoms of their fellow Muslim Palestinians). Though Palestinian Christians have passed down the gospel from generation to generation, through empire after empire since (literally) the time of Jesus such that billions around the world—including in America—now have Christian faith, this may be the last generation of that two-millennial chain; permanently severed with the blessing and enthusiasm of misinformed Christians half a world away. Palestinian-Christian communities will not survive unless all Palestinian rights are protected. Simply providing access to holy sites while denying people freedom, dignity, and security isn’t religious freedom. It’s subjugation with a nicer name.
1) Be in touch with those you know from your visits to Israel/Palestine. Assure them that you do not support this plan and ask how you can support them.
2) Let American leaders know you oppose this plan but support solutions that advance security, dignity and freedom for all, equally. Use this letter as an idea of how to engage your elected representatives.
3) To the Christians in the pro/pro/pro network, we must recognize and acknowledge that one of the primary drivers of this plan is a weaponization of faith and theology. Help us create a different way to live out an incarnate faith, a discipleship of peacemaking. Reach out to Telos if you need resources on how to get started.
4) Double down on building the pro/pro/pro community. Connect more deeply to us and each other. Help us strengthen and grow so that we can shift our culture. The politics on this issue can only bend towards justice when our culture shifts. We see that from the fact this plan was announced, supposedly to cater to the desires of many people within our own communities.
– Reconvene your trip group, or host one of our new Telos Tables;
– Organize a return trip and tack on a couple days to volunteer with local partners; or
– Set up a call with one of us to talk about specific things you can do.