Barely a second after the world stomached President Trump’s new peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the world grappled with another threat: the coronavirus pandemic. Focused on the new threat, we nearly missed the pivotal decision made at a meeting between Israel’s political leaders and President Trump last week.
Finally, after three inconclusive Israeli elections, long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief opponent, Benny Gantz, agreed to form a government together. This decision was made per the urgent need to face COVID-19. Their deal stipulates that for the first six months they will focus exclusively on combating the coronavirus. However, there is one exception: as of July 1, Netanyahu, who will remain prime minister, can seek a vote by his cabinet or the parliament on Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank, as per Trump’s two-state solution announced early this year.
But, it’s not completely up to him. Netanyahu can cast this vote if he acts in “full agreement with the United States.” Essentially, similarly to the “deal of the century,” President Trump can decide whether Israel proceeds with this precarious decision that will almost certainly destroy any realistic prospects of a two-state solution. However, the world is preoccupied.
Unfortunately, the only official censures regarding this decision thus far were via Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy of Turkey, the terror group Hamas and a meek sense of disapproval from Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. This lack of criticism leaves the world to assume that President Trump agrees with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in supporting the rash annexation of the West Bank. In effect, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, he would take “appropriate measures.” Although this response seems vague, it poses a great threat to peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict. This plan will likely jeopardize all agreements between the Palestinians and key Arab allies such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the U.S and Israel; something neither Israel nor President Trump can afford to lose. Risking a halt to any forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as a result of this unilateral annexation is going to damage Israel, perhaps irrevocably.
A few months ago, the media had a field day, mocking the Trump administration for the plan that they now beg to keep intact. Lending to this, the peace plan that was revealed in January is realistic and promising but happening all too quickly. The peace plan marked the beginning of a civil relationship between countries who, until a week prior, regularly fought each other and hardly recognized the other’s existence. Unlike what the media refers to as a “muted response,” it was an enormous step towards peace.
Regardless of the Palestinian stance, with the four-year transition phase that the peace plan allocates and the looming threat of what happens if Palestinians continue to resist, something is bound to change. That is, unless, Netanyahu’s reckless bid for a territorial legacy comes through too soon. The dynamics of the Middle East, and the once one-sided, united Arab countries’ view on the subject is evolving. That much is undeniable. The question now is whether President Trump will decide to end it all.