President Donald Trump on Tuesday aimed at reviving a Middle East peace process which went comatose under President Barack Obama.
In issuing his “Deal of the Century” plan, Trump also took a decidedly different approach than his predecessor, James S. Robbins noted in a Jan. 28 analysis for USA Today.
“President Obama had a contentious relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pushed back against the special relationship between the United States and Israel more than any of his predecessors,” Robbins wrote. “At the same time, Obama did not inspire confidence among the Sunni Arab leaders whose buy-in is necessary for any peace plan to be successful.”
Trump, on the other hand, “has shown himself to be a reliable partner to the key players,” Robbins wrote. “He has a long-standing relationship with Netanyahu, he stood by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman through the controversy over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and has backed the Sisi government in Egypt during its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood it ousted in 2013. If Saudi Arabia and Egypt throw their weight behind the plan it will have a much greater chance of moving forward, and the United States will rely heavily on them and other countries in the region to actually implement it should the Palestinians come to the table.”
Bringing the Palestinians to the table, however, will be the biggest challenge for Trump.
Robbins is author of “Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past,” has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and serves on the Advisory Board of Free Press Foundation.
The Palestinian Authority “rejected the new plan even before it was announced, and then again afterwards for good measure,” Robbins noted. “This was expected, but the Abbas government cannot be the mule in the stall ignoring the changes going on around them. By refusing to negotiate even using the plan as a baseline subject to change, the Palestinians are saying they really aren’t up to the task of reaching a settlement.”
Trump’s plan presents the Palestinians “with a series of steps establishing a path for sovereignty, with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem and control of most of the land they claim is occupied by Israel,” Robbins noted.
Trump’s posture “is a classic take it or leave it,” Robbins noted.
The president said: “Without (the Palestinians), we don’t do the deal and that’s okay. If we do, it’ll be a tremendous tribute to everybody. And if we don’t, life goes on.”
Robbins noted that, for the Palestinians, “life going on means diminishing control of territory, stifled economic development, faded relevance on the diplomatic stage, and generally watching as the world moves on without them.”