While details on a possible Trump-directed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan are still under wraps, a discussion on Thursday, Feb. 7, organized by the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) at the Senate Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., aimed to shed some light on the “deal of the century’s” underlying strategies.The discussion was moderated by EMET founder Sarah Stern and featured Jeff Ballabon, an adviser to the GOP on its Israel policy and a Trump 2020 campaign board member, and historian Daniel Pipes.
According to reports by the Jewish News Service (JNS) and other outlets, Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, will give an update on the plan at a Middle East peace conference to take place in Warsaw Feb. 13-14. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already said that the plan will be released after the upcoming Israeli elections, scheduled for April 9.
Referencing speculation around the deal, Pipes said he believes it will encompass “conditional U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state, which will include A, B, and some of C areas” along with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital, but not “any of the downtown or Old City” areas.
Pipes said he thinks American recognition of a Palestinian state is a “crucial mistake,” because it incentivizes Palestinian leadership to “misbehave” instead of driving them toward positive action.
“The Trump administration has shown a sympathy to Israel, but I worry there’s a dynamic that’s going the wrong direction,” he said. “It’s up to us as American Jews to worry about it or preempt it by showing we’re unhappy with it.”
Ballabon, on the other hand, began by saying Trump had “delivered” on many American-Jewish issues of concern, including the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem, his reneging on the Iran nuclear agreement, and the recent cutting of aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Without surrendering new details, Ballabon argued the Trump administration is driving toward “a strategic shift” in the narrative surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would leverage American allies in the region and “disentangle the Arab states from the Palestinians.”
“The Palestinians will reject his deal, but that’s where it gets interesting,” Ballabon said. “What comes next, in my view, is that America’s Arab allies will negotiate directly with Israel, which will give them some influence.”
He added that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is “very involved” in hatching the new deal, and that he believes the administration’s efforts will show people that “Palestinians are not the obvious representatives and owners of land — the Jews are.”
Pipes doubted the feasibility of such a plan, saying that while the Palestinians have been reluctant to engage with Israel and the United States as of late, if they eventually come to the table, “It’s going to be a big problem.”
By Anis Modi
Jeff Ballabon speaking to the audience at the Senate Visitor Center in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Feb. 7. (Photo credit: Anis Modi)