Israel

Trump makes plans and Israelis laugh: 7 things to know for January 24

1. Holocaust remembrance denial: Israel held what was perhaps among the most high profile ever Holocaust memorial Thursday, with a gathering of world leaders unseen in Jerusalem since biblical times, remembering the six million killed in the Shoah and vowing to fight anti-Semitism.

  • Even before it began, though, the ceremony was overshadowed in the Israeli media by diplomatic efforts to secure the release of backpacker Naama Issachar from Russian prison, with Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting.
  • And before the chairs from the Yad Vashem ceremony could even be stacked and put away, the memorial there was overtaken by the news yet again, this time with reports that the US would unveil it’s long, long, long awaited peace plan, which has dominated the news cycle since.
  • The peace plan and trips to Washington by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz have dominated the news agenda, and on Friday morning the story is at the top of every major news website (save Channel 12, which decides to focus on snow in the north for some reason).
  • The news is also front and center on the front page of every major daily in the country, with the Auschwitz memorial shunted to the side or the bottom. (This is not a criticism. Just a statement of facts. The plan is potentially bigger news than a memorial, as important as that memorial is.)

2. Annex it and forget it: Trump tells reporters that he will likely release the plan before Tuesday, but what the plan actually contains remains a tightly guarded secret. Details, though, have begun to leak out, at least according to reports in the Hebrew press.

  • Channel 12 news reports, with no source given, that the plan includes Israeli sovereignty not only in all of Jerusalem, but also all 100-plus West Bank settlements, all but 15 of which would be territoriality contiguous.
  • But wait, there’s more, like US backing to annex the settlements unilaterally should Israel accept and the Palestinians reject the plan.
  • The report also quotes more details, this time sourcing it to unnamed Israelis, such as full border controls and sovereignty over open spaces in the West Bank and the whole Jordan Valley.
  • Channel 13 reports that a year-old version of the plan had Israel only getting some 15 percent of the West Bank, but the plan had since “moved to the right.”
  • It quotes a White House source calling it “the most pro-Israel plan ever produced or presented,” which is a great way to be seen as a fair dealer.
  • “Israel is on the precipice of a historic development on the scale of the Six-Day War that could very well change the borders of the country – if the government makes the necessary decisions,” reports Israel Hayom, which terms the plan a “historic opportunity,” citing Israeli officials.
  • It quotes an official saying that if Israel does go ahead with all the annexations the US will okay, it will be a “a death blow to the Palestinian national movement.”

3. (T)rump state: Haaretz quotes Israeli sources saying that the plan will still let Palestinians keep whatever they have a hold on now, apparently meaning Area A of the West Bank, but it will have to be demilitarized.

  • According to Yedioth, the Americans are willing to offer the Palestinians recognition for their demilitarized rump state, after four years, if they recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “conditions that the Palestinians have no chance of accepting.”
  • Some Israelis are also apparently against the idea for giving too much to the Palestinians. Kan reports that the plan will let Israel annex only half of Area C, “meaning at least 10 settlements would be isolated.”
  • “Today, Israel controls some 60 percent of the West Bank, and the Palestinians 40%. The Deal of the Century will flip the balance, and the results will be very difficult strategically,” the outlet quotes a senior figure in the settlement movement saying.
  • The settler leadership is planning to convene next week to discuss the plan, according to several outlets. But Yigal Dilmoni, the head of the Yesha settlement umbrella group, already tells Army Radio that it appears to be a no-go for him and his comrades: “The plan needs to have red lines. I’m also against a demilitarized Palestinian state.”

4. Mr. Abbas goes to Washington? The Palestinians are also rejecting the plan outright and a statement from Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeineh even sounds similar to the settler leader, warning “Israel and the American administration to not cross the red lines.”

5. Wham, bam, thanks a lot, plan: Yedioth reports that the army is preparing for the possibility of violence should “Palestinians realize that the plan is real.” Troop levels in the West Bank and Gaza border haven’t been beefed up yet, but are on high alert.

6. Saved by the plan: The point of the plan isn’t to be accepted, though, according to several Israeli pundits, it’s to boost Netanyahu at the polls and maybe get things set for annexation.

  • Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker writes that the proposal is “a political plan written with full coordination between Netanyahu and Trump.”
  • “After Gantz said he would annex in coordination with the international community, Netanyahu is showing him a deal that ensures an okay from the strongest power in the world for the move — and will put the entire political system to the test: Gantz will need to decide how his party votes, the defense establishment will need to give its own opinion, and the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, will be asked to give an opinion on going ahead with this a few weeks before the vote,” he writes.
  • Haaretz’s Noa Landau says that the plan is a booby trap for Gantz, with the deal sending him to Washington just as immunity proceedings against Netanyahu are set to kick off: “That’s how the deal that was ostensibly supposed to lead to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians became the deal to bring peace between Netanyahu and Gantz. Or to be more precise, it’s Netanyahu’s Deal of the Century. He and Gantz were invited to discuss it together, as if they were the ones who needed to reach an agreement.”
  • Driving home the point that the plan’s timing is designed to keep Netanyahu in power is columnist Amnon Lord in Israel Hayom, which can often be read as a window into the thinking of the prime minister and his posse.
  • “This dramatic diplomatic development is a stark reminder to the diplomatic-political echelon in Israel that surrendering to legal opinions is a dangerous course of action and that existential matters take precedence,” he writes. “The signal to Gantz is unmistakable: What’s important here is the State of Israel, before any personal and partisan interests.”
  • “For better or worse,” writes Nahum Barnea in Yedioth, “the announcement of the deal, given its timing and also political consequences, is a huge achievement for Netanyahu. Time will tell if it is a lifejacket or a swansong.”

7. What Would Trump Want: Walla’s Tal Shalev writes that Gantz has jumped into a minefield set by both Netanyahu and Trump, who will also benefit from the plan.

  • “The mega-friendly deal of the century is first and foremost a gift from Trump to himself and to his evangelical voters who love Israel and whose support he needs to win a second term in November,” she writes.
  • Channel 12’s Dana Weiss also says the deal is meant to draw in evangelicals, and get Netanyahu “immunity in exchange for sovereignty.”
  • “Peace, it’s already clear, will not break out in the Middle East suddenly next week,” she writes. “But without a doubt with this is a deal of the century for two people — Trump and Netanyahu — who know exactly how to give each other what they need,just when they need it.”
  • Channel 13’s Nadav Eyal also says its good for Trump, but for another reason: “The peace plan is great spin from Trump who is having an unpleasant time during his impeachment. He decided on it [publishing the plan] at the last moment, as usual, and it’s more connected to his schedule than Netanyahu’s,” he tweets. “Netanyahu would have liked it during the last election, or the one before.”