On January 28 President Trump announced a framework for Middle East peace. Joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House, the president laid out a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians that offers a basis for negotiations between the two.
The president acknowledged that every president since Lyndon Johnson has attempted to prod the peace process without success, but he noted in his remarks to reporters that his proposal is fundamentally different than previous attempts.
“In the past,” the president said, “even the most well-intentioned plans were light on factual details and heavy on conceptual frameworks. By contrast, our plan is 80 pages and is the most detailed proposal ever put forward by far.”
Netanyahu spoke appreciatively of the plan as a basis for a negotiated peace.
“Since the moment of its birth,” the Prime Minister said, “Israel has yearned for peace with our Palestinian neighbors and peace with the broader Arab world. For decades, that peace has proved elusive, despite so many well-intentioned plans. One after the other, they failed. Why did they fail? They failed because they did not strike the right balance between Israel’s vital security and national interests, and the Palestinians’ aspirations for self-determination.”
The challenge ahead, as in previous attempts at Middle East peace, is to make the deal enticing to the Palestinian Authority, the organization run by Mahmoud Abbas, and the terrorist group Hamas, which control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The president’s plan proposes to offer a “carrot” to Abbas that includes:
- A formal nation-state created for the Palestinians
- U.S. assistance in building the infrastructure of the new Palestinian nation-state: roads, bridges and tunnels.
- Israel will transfer some land it captured in the 1967 war to the Palestinians.
In return, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a legitimate nation-state, something they have never done. Jerusalem will be the recognized capital of Israel, and Israel’s borders will include historic lands and borders that allow Israel to properly defend itself.
Significantly, the Palestinians must also renounce terrorism. Predictably, Abbas condemned the president’s plan almost immediately. “We say a thousand times, no, no, no to the deal of the century,” Abbas stated, referring to Trump’s description of the plan. “We rejected this deal from the start and our stance was correct.”
Ever since President Harry Truman—on behalf of the U.S. government—was the first to recognize Israel’s status as a nation-state in 1948, America has always been a friend and defender of Israel. Why is that? The typical reasons offered include: 1) Israel is the only western-style democracy in the Middle East and the U.S. needs an ally in that region; and 2) American evangelicals support Israel for theological reasons.
A recent study of evangelical support for Israel found that support for Israel was rooted in: 1) the belief that the re-establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was the fulfillment of biblical prophecy (Deuteronomy 30:1-5; Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 29:14; Ezekiel 20:41-42); and 2) the belief that “Jews are God’s chosen people.” (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2)
The Bible also commands believers to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6)
Whether or not this current proposal succeeds in its goal of prodding Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, or even reaching an agreement of some kind, it still behooves us to try. Accepting a perpetual state of war might be viewed as the only realistic option but offering hope and a chance at real peace to Israel and the Palestinians will always be the right thing to do.