White House peace plan leaves Palestinians in the dust, according to Baker Institute expert

Report provides suggestions for more constructive strategy

The terms of the White House’s Peace to Prosperity plan all but assure Palestinian failure, according to an expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Under the plan, “Palestinian statehood is conditioned upon a compilation of unreasonable and impractical thresholds,” according to Gilead Sher, the Isaac and Mildred Brochstein Fellow in Middle East Peace and Security in Honor of Yitzhak Rabin at the Baker Institute. He is available to discuss the plan’s potential impact on Israelis and Palestinians and the role of the U.S. in defining the terms.

“Given the total absence of Palestinian involvement in planning and implementing the deal, the current deal has no way of serving as is as a driver to resolving the conflict (between Israel and the Palestinians),” he wrote in a new report. “Instead, it will further blur the borders between two states, as the Israeli right wing looks to ensure a continued presence in Judea and Samaria.”

Credit: 123rf.com/Rice University

Sher examined the proposed framework, the problems he sees with its implementation and how the parties involved can navigate a negotiation process — noting that the plan will shape negotiations for years to come, regardless of the results of the U.S. election in November.

“The Trump plan could harden the Israeli center-right to tolerate fewer compromises in future negotiations, enter a new potential spoiler into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and lead Israel down a perilous path to international demonization and social upheaval,” he wrote.

According to Sher, the Peace to Prosperity plan allows Israel to initiate unilateral annexation — or accomplish its equivalent by “extending Israeli law” — over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Sher also argues that the proposed map that define the new borders “offers Palestinians a piecemeal state and renders statehood moot by proffering Palestinian autonomy without sovereign self-rule.”

The report argues that the plan gives Israel “overriding security responsibility” over a future Palestine. This includes responsibility for all international crossings into Palestine and control of the state’s airspace, electromagnetic spectrum and water rights, offering Palestinians “little more than they already have: autonomy and self-governance without ultimate jurisdiction,” Sher wrote.

The plan calls for Jerusalem to remain the undivided capital of Israel and for a new capital for Palestine — leaving the Christians and Muslims of Palestine without direct access to the Old City and the Temple Mount.

“The Trump administration has boldly proclaimed that Israel’s current capital in Jerusalem will remain, while deceptively claiming to offer the Palestinians a capital in East Jerusalem,” Sher wrote. “Rather, the neighborhoods selected to be the Palestinian capital were chosen because they lie to the east of the security barrier.”

Sher argues that the proposed map not only creates problematic borders, but creates friction by “further entangling mixed populations:”

“Rather than advancing a reckless and irreversible annexation project detrimental to a two-state-for two-people solution, Israel and the U.S. should clarify and resequence the negotiations under the plan,” Sher wrote. “Trump and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu must eschew unilateral action in favor of multilateral good-faith negotiations. This is necessary but not sufficient for advancing negotiations, as the deal contains significant nonstarters regarding Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty, borders and water rights.”

Though the plan abandons the parameters of previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and lacks coherent policy, Sher argues, it will continue to sit on the table for years to come. Inasmuch as it is meant to be a bilaterally implemented plan for peace, it will fail without significant Israeli restraint, complete resequencing and resourceful Palestinian initiative, he said.

In addition to his fellowship at the Baker Institute, Sher is a senior researcher at the Tel Aviv Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), where he heads the Center for Applied Negotiations. He was chief of staff and policy coordinator to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who held the office from 1999-2001, and served as Israel’s chief and co-chief negotiator at the 2000 Camp David Summit and the 2001 Taba Summit, respectively. He also served under former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as a delegate to the 1994-1995 Interim Agreement negotiations with the Palestinians.

About Avery Ruxer Franklin

Avery is a media relations specialist in the Office of Public Affairs.