Former Israeli government adviser says US peace plan meant 'to create conditions for annexation'

"This was written by Israelis and by the most hardline of Israelis," said Levy.
Sunday 23/02/2020
Israeli analyst and diplomat Daniel Levy. (Coutesy of Daniel Levy)
A sceptical take. Israeli analyst and diplomat Daniel Levy. (Coutesy of Daniel Levy)

Daniel Levy is an Israeli analyst and diplomat whose work focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From 1999-2001, Levy served as an adviser to the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In 2001, he was a member of the Israeli delegation at Taba peace talks.

Levy worked as senior fellow and director of the New America Foundation’s Middle East task force in Washington and later as director of the Middle East and North Africa at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Levy heads the US/Middle East Project, which aims to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace through analysis and policy options. He spoke with The Arab Weekly via telephone two weeks after the Trump administration unveiled its peace plan.

The Arab Weekly (TAW): "Why did you describe the Trump plan as a 'hate letter'?"

Daniel Levy (DL): “The plan is 181 pages, the first 55 of which is the political plan, the remainder fleshes out a little more the economic plan. What most struck me -- and hence I think the correct designation is a 181-page hate letter and not love letter from the Americans and, by extension, the Israelis to the Palestinians -- is that the text itself, the way it’s written is the absolute antithesis of any document that is trying to advance peace that anyone would have read ever.

"I would go that far because it’s a document that basically says: 'Here’s a conflict. In this conflict, there are good guys who have historical claims, who have aspirations that need to be fulfilled, who’ve done wonderful things and they should get everything and then there are these dreadful miscreants who are portrayed in the most demeaning, subhuman of terms, who have no justified claims or aspirations whatsoever.'

“If you’re going to write a surrender document, you don’t even write that in these terms, let alone something that purports to be a peace proposal where literally it’s an exercise in kicking the Palestinians rhetorically on every page.

“I think that was missed in the reporting of the Trump plan, mostly because, understandably, most people didn’t sit down and read these 55 pages of text and those who did were perhaps not familiar enough with the conflict.

“What I saw was a text that was copied and pasted from previous drafts and then put through this hate grinder when it came to the Palestinians. This was written by Israelis and by the most hard-line of Israelis.

“If you read the text of a Colombian peace deal or an Irish peace deal or a Balkans peace deal, there is no text comparable to this in terms of its exclusive embrace of one side’s priorities and slap in the face to the other side.”

TAW: "Why was the international response fairly muted in its criticism of the Trump plan?"

DL: “On one level, which at the very least is not helpful, is that the Palestinian body politic has been in a deep malaise for some time.

"There is a divided Palestinian political house that has not gone back to its own public to seek a renewed democratic mandate, that has been at an impasse, had no strategy for quite some time and at this important moment remains very ill-equipped to drive an international response. The people who have to lead the pushback, the current Palestinian body politic, was uniquely ill-placed to do so because of its own internal problems.

“Number two, we’re at a moment when virtually every country has an important bilateral relationship with America because we’re still in a time when America is the pre-eminent global power, of course.

“And this is an administration that is highly unpredictable and disposed to bullying on everything. With this administration, there is clear signalling to the world that you will be quite seriously judged on this issue and you better understand that bashing the Palestinians is a real win for you.

“The third element to this is that Israel has quite effectively deployed and leveraged not only this unique moment in its relationship with America and with the Trump White House but also its own capacities for being helpful to countries in ways that one shouldn’t underestimate. If you’re a conservative, authoritarian-leaning regime, Israel can be helpful in your relationship with the US.

“The last point I would make is, having said all of the above and despite probably in many instances their desire not to do so, we found ourselves with a strong Arab League statement and actually America has no endorsement.”

TAW: "Is the Trump plan dead on arrival?"

DL: “It depends on what one thinks it was designed to do. If one thinks it was designed to kick-start peace or kick-start negotiations, then you haven’t been paying attention because that’s not what it’s about.

“The first thing it was designed to do was to create a new reference point in the future. This was the real goal of the settler right in Israel and their friends in the US administration who want to fundamentally reframe two states from being something that on a good day might look like two states to something that is not two states at all, it’s basically a Greater Israel and a Palestinian Bantustan [territory that was set aside as a black homeland in southern Africa under apartheid].

"The second thing it was designed to do was to create the conditions in which Israel could annex territory. It was intended to generate Palestinian rejection and it was intended to not only pave the way after that for Israeli annexation but, even more than that, to entrap the Israeli opposition leader [Benny] Gantz in the elections environment that this was released. [Israeli elections are March 2.]

“Gantz did two things. He endorsed and embraced the plan and he said it should be implemented as part of a regional consensus, which you won’t get, but it also did make things much more difficult between his party and the [Joint List] party representing Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel [which endorsed Gantz], which also probably was premeditated by the architects of this peace plan.”