Last week, Trump Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt announced that he was leaving his position. While still too early determine, Jason Greenblatt’s biggest achievement may prove to be his being a part of the team that facilitated the death of the Oslo “peace process” framework and created the space for new paradigms for addressing the broader Arab-Israel conflict.
Skeptics may query: Almost three years of the Trump administration have passed and only the economic part of the so-called “deal of the century” has been revealed; what have Jared Kushner, Greenblatt, and co. accomplished?
Two and half decades ago, the Oslo Accords were signed. On paper, it was meant to be a temporary framework for a final status agreement that would be agreed upon within five years. In reality, it was the beginning of an industry, albeit with good intentions, that has consistently undermined Israel’s legitimacy and distanced any chance for an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis for at least a generation. This industry is made up of think tanks, consultants, NGOs, international organizations, career bureaucrats who have made their living on the false premises that an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is just a matter of straightening out small details. It’s an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars — private donors and government appropriations that have enriched the wrong people, given false impressions of the likelihood of a settlement, stimulated Palestinian violence, and are now responsible for the political obliteration of the Israeli Left.
The Oslo industry is nothing less than a carrier group sailing in the open waters, guarding in its holy of holies the “land-for-peace” paradigm. Its behemoth strength was even able to overtake the Bush administration, which at one point tried to change the paradigm. The Oslo carrier group quickly swallowed up the idea and regurgitated it with a plan that fit its own paradigm.
The Oslo industry has retained its hegemony as the only game in town for the past two decades — so much so that differing ideas and alternate paradigms are met with suspicion. Having been demonized and relegated as the propaganda of radicals, mainstream publications rarely entertain these alternate ideas.
Needless to say, this industry could not have consolidated its power toward the end of the 1990s without help from the Israeli government to keep the Oslo framework on life support as buses blew up, pedestrians were gunned down, and cafes were ravaged. Indeed, as Oslo was about to utter its last words, the Israeli government shocked it back to life with a 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza that bewildered many.
Into this hegemony and industry entered Kushner, Greenblatt, and their group. While the details of the political side of the Trump plan have yet to be revealed, the economic plan — lengthy and detailed — gives insight that this plan was a case study as to how to create the foundations for a prosperous society. It was the culmination of a two-year learning session trying to draw on the lessons of history. The input of all players was to have a stake in making this plan work.
To the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) dismay, the PA realized that it was actually being asked to provide constructive solutions that could help its people, and to internalize that it doesn’t possess an inalienable right to all of Judea and Samaria (i.e., the “West Bank”). Unlike past peace plans, there was no predetermined outcomes, and there was also a penalty for not participating.
By writing a lengthy plan, both economically and politically, and including all the regional actors who bear responsibility for perpetuating the Palestinian quagmire, the Trump peace plan will become a paradigm that future presidential administrations will be unable to ignore. It is not an executive summary that can be easily dismissed as recyclable ideas regurgitated from two decades of failures.
The strength in the plan is that there was a real effort to find solutions — and to base it on empirical evidence. Ideology didn’t guide the plan; rather, it has been an effort in conflict resolution where all sides are consulted. Though future administrations may reflexively shun anything that came out of the Trump administration, intellectually honest statesmen may just be tempted to enter a secure room while nobody is watching, learn the plan, and try to build on some of the ideas presented therein.
To be brutally honest, the Trump plan will probably fail, because the Palestinian Authority — or any Palestinian leadership — cannot make peace at this juncture, and the generosity of Israeli governments to relinquish large swaths of its heartland has substantially contracted since then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s 97% withdrawal offer in 2001. In fact, it’s the opposite: Palestinian terror, in all its malicious forms — missiles, mortars, suicide bombers, bus bombs, random shootings, lynchings, kidnappings, and more — has convinced many Israelis that there is no peace partner.
If one were looking for an overnight revolution to change the Oslo paradigm to one that has the potential to work, it’s not going to happen. But should the Trump administration receive a second term, this plan, spearheaded by Kushner and Greenblatt, will become the beginning of a paradigm change that will facilitate a process for more realistic ideas to succeed.
The Trump plan will offer new proposals grounded in reality that will open the waters for new ideas and paradigms to be built upon its foundations — a clear and present danger to the Oslo framework. Metaphorically, the plan will become a group of torpedoes hitting the hull of aircraft carrier Oslo. And once that happens, and while that happens, the many ideas and paradigms which have been disparaged, shunned and kept at bay, will begin to occupy the waters of public discourse. This will lead to a more earnest and reality-based discussion of the ideas that can provide for a better future in the Middle East. When that happens, we can look back and say that it was the hard work of Kushner, Greenblatt, and co. that first put this process in motion.
Gideon Israel is the founder and president of the Jerusalem-Washington Center, which works to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.