A plan that won't bring peace

President Trump has presented a document that is being called a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. He is calling it the deal of the century.

How I wish it were that simple. It isn’t. I’ve lived through a long list of US Presidents who have worked on trying to come up with a peace plan for the region and many of them have involved long and difficult talks between the various parties of concern. This plan is different in that the United States President has already shown his bias towards the conservative side of Israel. Decisions such as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv have shown his favoritism for the Israeli side of he conflict that means that his proposals are met with skepticism and rejection in Palestine.

The 80-page document does have some never before seen ideas. There is a map that Israel has put forward showing how they see a future Palestinian state, something never before offered. The Palestinians don’t like what they see in that map. From their point of view the document isn’t the result of any kind of negotiation. The so called deal of the century isn’t a deal at all. It is a description of one side’s opening offer.

Peace isn’t achieved by one side dictating terms to the other side. What the document does is illustrate that the United States, once respected by both sides as an outside broker of peace, no longer is seen as neutral in the conflict. Of course the United States never has been neutral. From the founding of Israel the financial support of that state by the United States has been critical for its survival. The money has never been equally divided.

Taking the offer of one side of a very long running conflict and printing it up into a colorful book does not constitute a peace plan. It has already been dismissed as a conspiracy by the Palestinians. They see it as further evidence that the United States has chosen to side with their enemy.

This deal essentially takes all of the positions that Israel has claimed since the 1967 war and put them into a document. By saying these are the positions of the United States, the plan is simply a restatement of one side of the conflict. The Palestinians see the proposal as a surrender document dictated by those who took their land and occupied their country.

It simply is not how peace is negotiated.

Working for peace in the region is a worthy enterprise - something that we all should support. The conflict goes back more than a century. Two peoples with different religions and different cultures wanting one set of land. In 1948, Israel won an independence war and became its own country in the region. The war was not just against the Palestinians, but also against all of the neighboring Arab countries.

Trying to sort all of that out has defeated diplomats for a generation.

So if the promise of this plan is to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it is simply not going to work. Telling one side to take it or leave it usually doesn’t result in them taking it.

It is a bit difficult at the moment to envision what consequences this plan might have. It has been put forth in a way that it cannot be ignored.

Israel says it will begin immediately, within days, to apply Israeli law to parts of the occupied territories, the first steps of full annexation of disputed land. This will not be seen as acceptable in Europe and in many other countries. Israel may have the backing of the United States in this, but genuine peace requires more than one ally even when that ally is the one with the most military might in the world.

The Palestinians have a century’s worth of history of standing up to enemies that have more weapons, more money and more support than they have. They have been underdogs for the lifetimes of every one of their citizens. Over that period of time they have not always agreed with one another. The Palestinians are disunited, often arguing with themselves. This peace plan gives them a reason and a cause to become united. The opposition to the Trump plan is so strong that it has become a cause that brings together the various factions of the Palestinian cause.

All of this is terribly risky because the feeling that they don’t have diplomatic options plays into the hands of those who suggest that violence is the only answer. A new, more united Palestine might also be a new much more violent Palestine. Anger, frustration and hopelessness can lead to more victims on both sides of the conflict.

We know the region is very combustible. We have seen violence erupt and body counts go up again and again. Having people feel that they have no diplomatic choice is dangerous.

When violence erupts in Israel and Palestine it has impacts around the world. Those promoting violence in other places have taken up the Palestinian cause as a rallying cry. Last year, in Senegal and Kenya and Mali attacks launched by terrorists included the rallying cry of the Palestinians. Major terrorist activities by various groups including Al Qaeda and Islamic State have taken up the cause of the Palestinians to justify their violence.

Support for Israel is strong in the United States. The bias toward the state has long been a part of American politics. With the Trump administration it has become much more blatant. It remains unclear what the results of this new approach will be.

So far it does not appear that the so called deal of the century is a roadmap for peace and an end to the violence.

Peace is not easy to achieve. Lasting peace requires justice. Whenever injustice prevails, violence erupts. That is a lesson that is so hard to learn.

I’ve been reading Gustav Niebuhr’s book about Episcopal Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple’s efforts to persuade President Lincoln to spare the lives of 265 Dakota men sentenced to die by a military tribunal in Minnesota for warfare against white settlers. It is clear in Niebuhr’s analysis that Whipple understood both the injustices suffered by Natives under the corrupt administration of the US Indian agents and the physical and psychological trauma inflicted on settlers by the surprise attacks on their homes and the killing of innocent people.

Persuading people to look beyond the pain of the moment towards the larger cause of true justice is a difficult process and often imperfect in its results.

History teaches us that peace requires a lot more listening, a lot more negotiating and a lot more effort that so far has been demonstrated by this plan.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!