Here’s what former Trump peace envoy Jason Greenblatt did not tell Arab News on Wednesday: he did not say that “Renewed negotiations could stall or prevent Israel’s plans to annex Jordan Valley.” The fact that Arab News, an English-language daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia, placed this paragraph right below its headline, “Exclusive: Ex-Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt says ‘door to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains open,’” shows you that nowadays you can’t trust anyone, not even the Saudis.
Greenblatt did say that “the door to the White House to negotiate a peace agreement will remain open,” but warned that the door on annexation may close come July 1, which is when Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would impose partial Israeli sovereignty, and if the PA Arabs wait too long “and annexation happens, then it happens.”
Granted, the logical inverse of “if you don’t join the peace talks there will be sovereignty” would be that if you do join the talks there won’t be sovereignty – but that’s not a quote from Jason Greenblatt, it’s just Saudi wishful thinking.
On Thursday, Netanyahu gave Makor Rishon a huge interview (“חשבו שאבוא למשפט אבל וחפוי ראש, באתי מלא עזוז”) in which he stated: “I intend to follow exactly the recipe we agreed on in the coalition agreement. This agreement said I could bring the proposal to apply sovereignty after we ended the mapping project with the Americans, not before July 1, and this is how I intend to act.”
In other words, according to Netanyahu, July 1 is not a deadline – July 1 is the day before which Israel will certainly not apply sovereignty and after which it might.
Arab News suggested that the Greenblatt peace proposal included a map that defined starting boundaries for a Palestinian state that would include about 70% of Judea and Samaria, including parts of Area C which are currently under full Israeli control, and all of Areas A and B, as defined by the Oslo Accords.
The Saudi news outlet also said the plan calls for a Palestinian state capitol on the boundary line of eastern Jerusalem, in Kafr Akab, Abu Dis and Shuafat, and supported the transfer of the Arab Triangle, a group of Arab cities clustered between Hadera on the coast and Afula in lower Galilee, to the new Palestinian state. Israel would also have to part with some of the Negev, near the Gaza Strip.
Again, as much as many Israelis would love to be rid of those cities – it just ain’t gonna’ happen. It would be tantamount to transferring the Hispanic Americans living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to San Salvador. They would surely make noise.
Throughout the interview, Greenblatt expresses just how sad he is at the shortsightedness of the PA leadership, which rejected up front the Trump deal. The thing is – anyone familiar with the history of this tortured area knows this is how the Arabs respond to what appear to be very reasonable plans. So why, in the name of all that’s good and sacred, do you keep pushing your plans on them?
“How sad that the Palestinian leadership won’t even engage and see if there is something in this plan that they can help shape differently,” Greenblatt says, then adds: “We weren’t into the business of trying to give them a carrot or incentive just to come to the negotiating table. That had been tried before and it just wasn’t going to work.”
You know what else wasn’t going to work? Anything. We are dealing with two contradictory national narratives, neither of which acknowledges the validity of the other. So why not leave it alone? If not for the crazy pressure from Europe and the US to make peace between Arabs and Jews, things would have calmed down on their own in a decade or so. Israel has learned the lesson of Oslo and the lesson of the 2005 disengagement – give us ten or twenty years, wait for a resilient Arab middle class to emerge and push out the PLO and Hamas gangster regimes, and things will take care of themselves.
Which is why Israel does not need the sovereignty nonsense either. Oh, sure, if the sovereignty had been imposed over all the areas of historic western Eretz Israel I would be for it. But the sovereignty which is being offered – over the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs, as well as those skyscraper communities Ambassador David Friedman imagined would rise up in the isolated settlements on the eastern slopes of the Samaritan and Judaean hills – does not offer a single tangible advantage to anyone in Israel.
In fact, instead of being a stepping stone to a broader sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, this puny sovereignty is a guarantee against future Jewish rule over our Biblical lands. And the benefits? None. Israeli law is already the de facto law of the land in the settlements. They may be ruled by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, but the same administration is directed by law to create laws that mirror whatever the Knesset enacts over on the approved side of the 1949 armistice green line.
So, much like Trump’s grand gestures of recognizing what is already Israel’s – a unified Jerusalem and an annexed Golan Heights – this second-rate sovereignty will give us what we already have and exact a price we should never agree to pay.
The White Man will never stop offering the indigenous folks his colorful beads – but it doesn’t mean we should grab them.