Donald Trump’s much-ballyhooed bromance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is on the rocks because Netanyahu’s Likud party failed for a second time this year to win enough votes to secure his political future, throwing Israeli politics into indefinite disarray.
Trump—hater of non-winners—had no problem quickly throwing his one-time bestie under the bus. He reportedly didn’t bother to call Netanyahu after his initial defeat and told reporters tersely, “Look, our relationship is with Israel. We’ll see what happens.”
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier lost, but his rival, a former military general, Benny Gantz, hasn’t won yet. Because neither politician’s party won a majority of votes, the fight to form a coalition could take months and even force an unprecedented third election. It’s more likely, however, that Netanyahu and Gantz will form a rotating premiership, Reuters reported Monday night.
Middle East experts in the United States and Israel say the plan now may never see the light of day.
But there might be a clear winner of Israel’s murky and muddied elections—far from Jerusalem.
First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner, the alleged mastermind of a yet-to-be-unveiled and much-mocked Israeli-Palestinian peace plan dubbed the “Deal of the Century,” may avoid certain derision if his “Vision of Peace” plan ends up shelved—temporarily or possibly permanently. Netanyahu’s initial defeat could mean Kushner’s peace plan dies with him.
A top Arab lawmaker in Israel hit out at the peace plan Sunday.
“The [election] result is a slap in the face not [just] of Netanyahu but also President Trump, who supports all the racism, all the atrocities and is preparing the most anti-Palestinian plan that has even been presented by the U.S.,” Ahmad Tibi, who heads the Arab Movement for Change party, told The Times of Israel.
“Mr. Trump, keep your deal,” Tibi said. “Please don’t play with the rights of the Palestinian people. Palestinians are a nation that deserve to be free. Can you understand that, Mr. Trump?”
The peace plan has already been crippled by the imminent departure of White House Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt who met with both Netanyahu and Gantz after the elections—and who was a chief architect of the peace plan along with Kushner.
Greenblatt’s replacement is Avi Berkowitz, 30, a 2016 law school graduate who Business Insider described in 2017 as Kushner’s “right-hand man,” someone whose duties included “getting coffee” for Kushner.
Political Solution, Not Economic Aid
The economic portion of Kushner’s plan, 30 months in the making and revealed in June during a speech made by Kushner in Bahrain, calls for expenditures of $50 billion, with $28 billion set aside for the Palestinian economy, $9 billion for Egypt, $7.5 billion for Jordan and $6 billion for Lebanon. The plan has been rejected by Palestinian leaders and other Middle Eastern nations who say a political solution is needed before an economic plan can be successful.
Netanyahu boasted right before last week’s elections that Trump’s peace plan would give him the go-ahead to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up almost a quarter of the West Bank.
Several Middle East experts in the United States and Israel told DCReport the plan may never see the light of day.
“It’s not in their best interests to release it,” Michael Koplow, policy director of the Washington D.C.-based Israeli Policy Forum, told DCReport. “It’s going to be dead on arrival when and if they do.”
Koplow said the proposed plan will only alienate people in both Israel and the United States—and could rile up a key segment of Trump’s base.
“Better to keep the peace plan under wraps,” Koplow said. “American evangelicals are very distrustful of any peace plan.”
A senior White House official told DCReport that the peace plan would still be released at the “appropriate time” but did not elaborate further.
Netanyahu’s hard-right policies led the Joint List, a bloc of Arab parties who came in third in last week’s elections, to throw its weight behind Gantz, the first time since 1992 that an Arab political group has issued an endorsement for prime minister.
“The Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel have chosen to reject Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade,” Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List or predominantly Arab parties in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, wrote in a New York Times Op-ed Sunday.
“The Israeli government has done everything in its power to reject those of us who are Arab Palestinian citizens, but our influence has only grown. We will be the cornerstone of democracy. Arab Palestinian citizens cannot change the course of Israel alone, but change is impossible without us.”
Change is an enormous challenge in the Middle East no matter what, say experts.
“There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to Middle East peace,” Philip Gordon, a White House Middle East coordinator under former President Barack Obama told The New York Times.
“When you get into these details, that’s when you come up against the strong objections of the two sides. If they don’t want it to be dead on arrival, they may wind up with vague principles, but as we’ve seen, even vague principles are beyond what the parties are willing to embrace.”