Context and caveat

Over the past few weeks, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt briefed some media outlets, several groups of experts in the US, Europe and the Middle East, as well as a couple of heads of state. Consequently, it is now possible to construct a rough outline of the prospective Trump plan’s substance and the administration’s strategy – with one caveat: two previous versions of the plan were abandoned,* and the discussion below relates to version three as it stood until quite recently.

Governing – and missing – principles

In their various briefings, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt accentuated the resolve to not be bound by old principles and code words, such as “the Palestinian right of self-determination,” “an agreed and just solution to the refugee issue,” and, most notably, “a two-state solution,” which they deemed responsible for past failures.

Instead, they presented four principles as governing the Trump plan:

  • Respect for the two negotiating parties, as well as of each to the other;
  • Securing religious freedom and unfettered access to religious sites for all;
  • Addressing Israeli security needs while contributing to regional security;
  • Addressing Palestinian needs for economic opportunities while enhancing economic opportunities for all neighboring peoples: Israelis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and Lebanese included.

On more than one occasion, those briefed questioned the avoidance of any reference to a two-state solution or a Palestinian state next to Israel. In response, the American officials argued that given numerous interpretations of the term “state,” it was decided not to add to the confusion.

The one exception to the strict avoidance of traditional code words seems to be the issue of Jerusalem. It appears that of all the reservations encountered, the one that did leave a mark was the Saudi insistence on some Palestinian (and thus, Arab and Muslim) standing in the Old City’s holy shrines.

Arab audiences in the Gulf, more than others, also challenged the absence of any reference to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API), which promised Israel normal relations with all Arab and Muslim states once a deal with the Palestinians is reached, and has been reiterated repeatedly at Arab summit meetings. To the Arabs’ reported dismay, Mr. Kushner dismissed the API as dead.

*The first, most balanced and innovative plan, was scrapped in late 2017 for being “too harsh on Israel”. The second was abandoned in the fall of 2018, after being rejected by all Arab leaders briefed about it for denying Palestinians long accepted basic traits of sovereignty including a capital in East Jerusalem.

No Plan B

The plan, designed to achieve a final deal (peace between Israelis and Palestinians), is to be presented as “take it or leave it.” “Success” is defined as getting the parties to engage with each other on this basis.

There is no Plan B. It was made clear that should either party or both decline the opportunity; agree to engage but condition talks on terms rejected by the other; or offers no answer – the administration walks away.

Expressions of concern with the consequences of failure – such as the Second Intifada erupting in the wake of the failed Camp David Summit in 2000 – did not seem to have generated second thoughts regarding the need for a fallback position.

The one exception was an indication that the plan’s elements regarding the Palestinian economy might survive a failure. Here, too, audiences questioned the likelihood that the donor community will assume responsibility for funding elements of a failed plan, one which the US walks away from. Mr. Kushner reportedly found such an eventuality unlikely.


As had been the case several times before, the timing of presentation was adjusted recently. The intention to do so right after the Israeli elections gave way to a new benchmark “after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.” Not many observers expect it to happen even then (that is, in June), as most suggest that the timing has long been determined by the changing domestic political needs of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Not sure that election results were to enable the prime minister to form an all-right-wing coalition, the option of having the plan presented right after the elections was to facilitate his less desirable option of a broad coalition with the centrist Kachol Lavan. With results seemingly making possible the preferred coalition of Right only, a Trump plan preceding government formation might complicate matters for Netanyahu. Hence the expected further delay.

The document

Those briefed were not privy to the text. Even Egypt’s president Sisi, who was briefed by Mr. Kushner in person during the former’s recent visit to Washington, was only advised of the plan’s economic aspects.

Rather, most briefings involved extensive description and characterization of its content. It can be summarized as follows:

Unlike past plans, which were short, and drafted in legal language, the current, long document, is drafted in more colloquial language, heavy on details, and in a narrative style.

The idea is to make the plan accessible to every member of the family, who can read it around the dinner table. They may not like what they read in one section but will appreciate the promise in another. And once they’ve gone through it, they will have a clear idea of what is offered them as well as of the hard compromises asked of them.

Old code words and concepts are replaced with lengthy descriptions of what life will look like once the Deal is implemented. For example, as noted above, there is no reference to a “two-state solution,” to “a fair and just solution” to the Palestinian refugee question, or to the 67 lines as a basis for border delineation, but the plan explains at length what is intended.

In the wake of Kushner’s October 2018 trip to the region, and King Salman’s insistence on revising the administration’s position on Jerusalem, audiences were indeed advised that when President Trump “removed Jerusalem of the table,” he was not prejudging the solution for the holy city  at all, but sought only to put an end to questioning Israel’s right to have its capital there. While precise details are not known, as noted above, the plan does include a solution for Jerusalem, described by its co-authors as difficult for both sides.


The administration expects more difficulties with the Palestinian side than with Israel. Dismissing suggestions that recent US moves have contributed to Palestinian attitudes, the plan’s co-authors views Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as disconnected from his public and therefore focus on what the Palestinian people want, not what their leaders say.

Having conducted numerous public opinion polls, focus groups, and conversations with Palestinians, the White House team is convinced that the Palestinian people would support the plan as they see its benefits and will urge their leaders to embrace it.

The other lever to overcome expected Palestinian leadership resistance is Arab state support. Once key Arab leaders support the plan and once they commit to fund its economic components, the Palestinian leadership is expected to have second thoughts about opposing the White House.

The role of the United States

The senior American officials do not believe in imposed solutions, nor will they serve as referees or judges. They view themselves as facilitators, whose job it is to point out the advantages of engagement, and as deemed justified, offer rewards for good conduct and impose penalties for bad behavior.

Audience takeaways

Participants in briefings in three continents came away with similar impressions. Besides a uniformly pessimistic assessment of prospects of success, of significance are the following:

  • Both in substance and in timing, the plan was designed with Israeli political needs and considerations in mind.
  • The expectation that Palestinian public pressure will have a significant effect on leadership decisions, and that Arab leaders will endorse a plan that is rejected by Abbas without that plan featuring traditional Arab positions – first and foremost the API – seem unrealistic.
  • The absence of any Plan B suggests a need to prepare for the fallout – possibly violent – should the plan proves dead on arrival.
  • An eventuality whereby Israel will have accepted and the Palestinians rejected the plan will strengthen the unilateral annexation school in Israeli politics.