The impeachment trial rumbled along – Republicans aim to lock in votes against witnesses as Senate prepares for next phase of trial – but there may be witnesses anyway, after the coming two days of questioning of all concerned parties. Republicans may not get those votes. This will not end soon – a nightmare for the Republicans. Shoes keep dropping. John Bolton says the president said what? Lev Parnas has the audio or the video? What next? The only way to stop this is for the Republicans to call for a snap vote to drop all charges against the president, so no one finds out anything else, but that makes them look like thugs and creeps. The price they’d pay for doing that might be too high. And anyway, the president wants a full trial – with a full acquittal by a unanimous vote of the full Senate, declaring that he did nothing wrong and that he’s wonderful. He will accept no less, and Mitch McConnell can’t deliver that. This cannot end soon.
This is a bad look for the president, so it was time for some counterprogramming:
President Trump proposed a sweeping Middle East peace plan Tuesday that would establish a disjointed Palestinian state largely surrounded by Israel, while granting Israel most of what it has sought over decades of conflict. The proposal appears to have little chance of success.
Trump touted the plan as the potential solution to decades of bloody strife, but his administration did little to solicit the support of Palestinian leaders who had rejected it sight unseen and played no role in its drafting.
His son-in-law and the Netanyahu people had decided, after three years of talking to each other, and talking about the Palestinians, this was what the Palestinian had to accept:
The president presented the proposal as the best Palestinians could hope to get during a ceremony where he stood beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who eagerly embraced both the president and what he presented.
“Today’s agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own,” Trump said. “After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”
That was the message. Take it or leave it but decide right now:
The plan would grant Israel vast license to incorporate Jewish settlements and maintain a yoke of security on land it now occupies – proposals that could have immediate consequences. Netanyahu plans to move forward with annexing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley as soon as this weekend, a government official said, in a move that could inflame tensions in the region and is being done with the tacit support of the White House.
It’s a land grab but a bit more:
The proposal imagines new Israeli borders that cut deep into the West Bank and what Mr. Netanyahu has previously described as a Palestinian “state-minus” that lacks a military capable of threatening Israel. The White House called it “a demilitarized Palestinian state” with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River, although over time, the Palestinians would assume more of that responsibility.
Sure, give it a hundred years, over time, but this was counterprogramming:
The announcement came as both Trump and Netanyahu face politically perilous moments at home. The U.S. Senate is in the midst of the president’s impeachment trial, which has been roiled by new reports regarding his actions toward Ukraine. And hours before the peace plan’s release in Washington, the prime minister’s indictment on corruption charges was filed in a Jerusalem court.
But don’t think about that:
Both men embraced the release of the long-awaited plan in a celebratory ceremony that they portrayed as a historic moment and a testament to their leadership.
“I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems,” Trump said.
The package of U.S. ideas calls for a remapping of the West Bank and Jerusalem while offering Palestinians a pathway to statehood if they meet a set of tests.
So, if the Palestinians are good little children they might get at least their “state-minus” one day:
No Palestinians attended the White House preview of what Trump called a highly detailed proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates from Israel’s founding in 1948. Trump said he sent a letter Tuesday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas inviting him to consider the plan.
Maybe that got lost in the mail, but Kevin Drum sees this:
Did Jared Kushner actually produce any of this plan? It appears that it was created by asking Netanyahu to write a draft and then simply releasing it under the White House seal. Which is the whole point, of course. This wasn’t designed to be a serious peace plan; it was designed to be a 2020 campaign document showing how much Trump loves Israel.
Drum also sees this:
Of the three parties to peace talks, one is under indictment, one is being impeached, and the third has boycotted the whole thing. It’s hard to imagine why people aren’t taking this seriously.
That’s an understatement:
The Palestinian entity depicted in the Trump document would occupy about 70 percent of the West Bank, less than in plans envisioned by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, and would have a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem rather than in the heart of that ancient section of the city as long demanded by Palestinians and their Arab backers…
Abbas met Tuesday with a rare collection of often-feuding factions, including leaders of Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Islamic Jihad.
He dismissed the Trump plan – nicknamed the “deal of the century” – as the “slap of the century” and pledged not to abandon the quest for what he called true independence, even for a $50 billion investment fund envisioned in the White House proposal.
“Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said. “Our rights are not for sale.”
But there would be economic aid! Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could become a billionaire! And that wasn’t going to cut it:
In addition to concerns over the details of the proposal, some Arab countries were upset about how it was rolled out. An Arab official involved in previous meetings with a team led by Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said none of the Arab representatives had been allowed to see the final version of the plan before it was unveiled. A series of calls from the White House to Arab capitals over the weekend appeared mostly aimed at persuading leaders not to dismiss the proposal out of hand, said the official, who spoke on the condition that his name and country be withheld, citing the sensitive nature of the discussions with Washington.
Yes, none of the Arab representatives had been allowed to see the final version of the plan. Who did these people think they were? And then there was this:
Standing with a grinning Netanyahu, Trump listed actions he has taken that seem to tip the scales toward Israel, including a 2017 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital. Palestinians walked away from the peace effort at that point and have not returned.
Trump also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despised by Netanyahu.
“Therefore, it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn’t be fair,” Trump said as the room went quiet.
“Now, don’t clap for that, okay? But it’s true. It wouldn’t be fair. I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be.”
What? Once again the president was in his alternative universe:
At the conclusion of Trump’s speech, mosques across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem began broadcasting readings from the 33rd chapter of the Koran, a verse that warns, “Do not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites.”
By midnight, small groups of protesters were throwing rocks in parts of Ramallah. Near the northern checkpoint controlling access from East Jerusalem, video showed burning vehicles and rockets being fired from a truck.
And that called for a quick pointed insult:
In an interview Tuesday on CNN, Kushner said the plan does “a great deal” for Palestinians but did not strike a conciliatory tone. If they reject it, “they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence,” Kushner said.
Yeah, well, so be it:
Ahead of the plan’s release, Hamas, the militant group governing the Gaza Strip, agreed to sit down Tuesday to craft a joint response with archrival Abbas, whose Fatah party controls the West Bank.
“The unitary scene is the first nail in the coffin of this deal; when we are united, Trump and no one else will dare violate our rights,” Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of Hamas, said at a rally Monday night in Gaza City. “We tell everyone that we are united against the deal of the century and to drop all conspiracies. We are one people under one flag.”
Some in Israel are concerned about a Palestinian uprising in the wake of the plan’s release.
Trump, with the help of his son-in-law, had done it – archrivals Fatah and Hamas dropped their thirty-year feud and were united again, against Trump and the United States and Netanyahu’s version of Israel. That’s what the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor notes here:
The unveiling of Trump’s plan presents a dead end for Abbas, whose primary role is that of the custodian of a moribund peace process that was supposed to lead to a two-state solution. The archipelago of Palestinian enclaves proposed by Trump – subordinate to Israeli security concerns and more akin to the “Bantustans” of apartheid-era South Africa – is emphatically not that.
Trump and boosters of the plan argue that his approach is a more “realistic” reflection of the facts on the ground. Israeli settlements in the West Bank and permanent control over the Jordan Valley are, in this view, a fait accompli.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East point man, has argued that Palestinian political aspirations aren’t as important as the economic development of their territories – a perspective emphatically opposed by most Palestinians, who won’t trade their hopes for equal political rights for cash incentives.
Critics contend that Trump is taking the fundamental power asymmetry between the Israelis and Palestinians and pressing it to his and Netanyahu’s advantage. “Trump is creating not only a new Israel, but a new world,” wrote Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, “a world without international law, without honoring international resolutions, without even the appearance of justice.”
Ah, but that’s where the votes are:
Moving forward, plans for perennial Israeli primacy over the Holy Land are powerful sops to key political constituencies for both leaders – Christian evangelical voters for Trump and the nationalist Israeli right for Netanyahu. “This is about Trump. This is about Netanyahu. It isn’t about peace,” said Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission in Britain, in an interview with the BBC.
And this is about to fail, as Max Boot argues here:
The peace plan was billed as a “vision” for a “realistic two-state solution,” but this was mere window-dressing for an Israeli power grab and land grab.
You have to read the fine print – specifically page 34 – to see that Trump’s commitment to a Palestinian state is contingent on conditions that will never be met. The “criteria” for “the formation of a Palestinian State” include the complete demilitarization of the entire Palestinian population, which includes the disarmament of Hamas, the terrorist group in control of the Gaza Strip, over which the Palestinian Authority has no control. Hamas must go from advocating Israel’s eradication to renouncing the Palestinian “right to return” and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
But wait, there’s more:
This isn’t even the most far-fetched part of the plan. Another condition for statehood is the creation of a “a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, protections for religious freedom and for religious minorities to observe their faith, uniform and fair enforcement of law and contractual rights, due process under law, and an independent judiciary.”
In other words, to become recognized as a sovereign state, the Palestinians will have to achieve levels of governance achieved by no country in the Middle East other than Israel itself. None of America’s Arab allies – from Egypt to Saudi Arabia – meet these criteria.
So this is a bit of a farce:
In return for sacrificing statehood, Palestinians are offered promise of riches: “With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years,” the plan states, “Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date.”
Fifty billion dollars is the imaginary sum that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried and failed to drum up at a “workshop” in Bahrain last summer. Neither the United States nor any of its allies have any intention of giving the Palestinians that money – and they know it.
“If Jared Kushner can’t do it, it can’t be done,” Trump said.
Jared Kushner can’t do it. Case closed.
But this had to be done. There was that infuriating impeachment trial. And a lot of votes were riding on this. Mairav Zonszein, an Israeli-American freelance journalist, provides the background on that:
The evangelical-heavy Trump administration is the most fervently Christian Zionist government the United States has ever had, making it a driving force of pro-Israel attitudes in Washington.
And that means this:
U.S. support for Israel these days doesn’t mean just championing the idea of a Jewish state – it means supporting the idea of Greater Israel, the Israeli far right’s dream of a single state. The United States hasn’t merely dropped the support for a two-state solution, or stopped condemning Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. U.S. policy has shifted to endorsing the reality that Netanyahu’s right-wing government has put on the ground: an ethno-national state where Israel retains territories it occupied in the 1967 war, Jews are the sole sovereign from the river to the sea, Palestinians are denied self-determination, and international law has no currency.
And that a religious issue:
Many of the evangelical Christians whose votes Trump courts believe in the notion that God promised the land to Jews and that the return of Jewish rule in the Holy Land will bring about the Rapture and Second Coming, after which Jesus will restore a divine kingdom in which all Jews either become Christians or perish. Evangelicals comprise Trump’s core base, with more than 80 percent of white evangelicals having voted for him in 2016. (They also make up a quarter of the overall U.S. population, though obviously not all evangelicals share Trump’s views on the Middle East.) Evangelical leaders are regular visitors in the White House.
And there’s a name for that, and a welcome for that:
The influence of evangelical Christianity on U.S. policy toward Israel is a practical expression of philo-Semitism, which is the flip side of anti-Semitism; it involves having an affinity for Jews, as opposed to hating them. Evangelical adoration for Israel – and Israel’s reciprocal efforts to join forces with evangelicals in the United States – obviously predates Trump. Israel made the decision long ago to embrace evangelical support. In the 1980s, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin made the strategic decision to tap into the religious right in America, which he presciently realized was a burgeoning power base. At the time, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was organizing evangelicals as a political force in the Republican Party through his founding of the religious, hyper-conservative Moral Majority, which Begin declared in 1981 to be a great friend of Israel. Both Falwell and the Rev. Billy Graham – the prominent evangelical leader who played a pivotal role in fostering Judeo-Christian relations in the United States after World War II – were advisers to President Ronald Reagan, who ushered evangelical politics squarely into Washington.
This is today most evident in the work of Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States, boasting 8 million members. Since 2006, it has been advocating for continued military aid to Israel, settlement expansion and Israeli war with Iran. CUFI director John Hagee, who said at the annual AIPAC conference in 2007, “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened,” had been pushing for the U.S. Embassy to move to Jerusalem for years before Trump finally did it; Hagee delivered the closing remarks at the embassy’s relocation ceremony in 2018. Another evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress, who led opening prayers at the ceremony, has said Jews, Mormons and Muslims are bound for hell. Trump sent five senior officials to the CUFI annual conference last summer.
And now add this:
Trump’s administration has combined evangelical power with support from conservative Jews who support Netanyahu’s program, among them senior adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are both evangelical Christians, and their support for Israeli control over the West Bank appears part and parcel of their belief that Israel’s borders should expand across the ancient Davidic Kingdom. “We stand with Israel because we cherish that ancient promise that those who bless her will be blessed,” Pence said at last year’s CUFI conference.
For decades, American support for Israel as a matter of foreign policy was mostly steered by geopolitical and economic considerations. But under Trump, it appears far more driven by Christian, Philo-Semitic views that the distinct role of Jews in the biblical land of Israel is paramount.
And then turn this back to matters here at home:
Trump and his allies have also extended this approach to U.S. domestic politics, fostering a climate where opposition to Israeli settlements – once a mainstream American position – is seen as dangerous, while being a pro-Israel hawk provides the veneer of being a friend to Jews. There was the executive order Trump signed in December, which codifies the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel’s model of governance and, in practice, grants the Department of Education more tools with which to crush Palestinian advocacy in educational institutions. This month, South Dakota became the 28th state to pass legislation designed to punish companies or individual contractors who boycott Israel – without making any distinction between settlements in the West Bank and Israel proper…
The loudest voices affirming the “justness of Zionism” in the United States these days aren’t Jews; they’re evangelical Christians in the Trump administration.
So watch what you say, given last August:
Showing a fresh willingness to play politics along religious lines, President Donald Trump said American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Trump’s claim triggered a quick uproar from critics who said the Republican president was trading in anti-Semitic stereotypes…
Recent polling shows that a majority of Jews identify as Democrats. According to AP VoteCast, a survey of the 2018 electorate, 72% of Jewish voters supported Democratic House candidates in 2018. Similarly, 74% said they disapprove of how Trump is handling his job.
Are they even Jews at all? Trump says no. Netanyahu says no. Why do they hate Israel? Why do the hate America? And why is anyone paying attention to that impeachment nonsense? Trump loves Israel. Remember that. The Palestinians will.