Those inclined to dismiss the unveiling of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan as solely related to short-term political considerations have a point.
No scheme for a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, when one party, the Palestinians, are ignoring that scheme, can be considered a realistic formula for peace. It’s also true that the international community is giving Donald Trump’s so-called "ultimate deal" just as little consideration as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Even more importantly, the Trump foreign policy team’s labor could be a footnote to history as soon as 12 months from now if the president is not re-elected. Any possible Democratic successor will preemptively reject this effort, as they will everything else the current administration has done since it came to office.
But any assumption that Trump’s plan has no long-term significance is almost certainly wrong.
As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro has pointed out, Trump’s plan will be no more binding on his successor than Barack Obama’s assumptions about the conflict were on the current U.S. president. The peace process – which has been on hold since midway through Obama’s second term – won’t be revived as a result of any announcement by Trump this week. And international efforts to promote Palestinian statehood or to censure Israel at the United Nations and its agencies will continue without so much as acknowledging what the United States has done.
Indeed, even those who are focusing on how Trump's meetings with Kachol Lavan Party leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will influence the March 2nd Israeli election – for Netanyahu's benefit – are probably exaggerating its impact. Gantz’s inclusion in this process formally undermines Netanyahu’s claim to be Israel’s indispensable man, as well as its sole Trump whisperer.
Israel’s Kachol Lavan party leader Benny Gantz arrives on a flight via Zurich ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Dulles International Airport, January 26, 2020 JOSHUA LOTT/ REUTERS
Trump’s willingness to talk to former general Gantz also signals how his peace plan will help shape future diplomatic discussions. That Gantz – the only plausible alternative to Netanyahu – hailed the plan it as a "milestone," and agreed with much of it, is not just a tribute to his recognition that alienating the White House won’t help him win an election or govern.