by Marilyn Stern, Middle East Forum Radio
Martin Kramer, chair of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, spoke to Middle East Forum Radio host Gregg Roman on February 5 about President Trump’s “deal of the century” plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to Kramer, the importance of the Trump proposal “transcends whether either of the parties accept it” because “it’s not a peace plan, it’s a partition plan … the proposal of a third party, looking from the outside, that has some authority.” The Palestinians refused to accept partition plans put forth by the British in 1937 and by the United Nations in 1947, yet both had “historic effects,” notably culminating in the establishment of Israel. The details of these plans were largely irrelevant – it was their underlying assumptions and core principles that proved enduring.
The same is true of the “deal of the century.” Details of the plan are flexible and sure to be superseded by future negotiations. The important focus should be on the assumptions and principles of the plan.
A key assumption of the Trump initiative, according to Kramer, is that “history only goes in one direction.” Previous peace plans, he noted, were based on expectations of “massive movement of peoples” as part of a final settlement – removing thousands of settlers from their settlements in today’s Israel and absorbing a large number of descendants of Palestinian refugees from other countries into the West Bank and Gaza – which “is not going to happen.”
A core principle of the Trump plan is that “everyone stays in place” – a reality that Palestinians must eventually come to accept. “Much of the responsibility for the predicament of the Palestinians today relies not just on them, but on their … supposed friends who … promised they would deliver to them on fantasies which were completely detached from reality.”
“[W]hat will be transformative … for the Palestinians … is that they will begin to understand that history only runs in one direction, and the world is moving gradually to an accommodation with the facts of history,” said Kramer. Until now, “the world has told them again and again that history could be reversed,” he explained. “When people stop telling Palestinians that history can be reversed, that is the beginning of wisdom It begins with the United States, [and] will percolate to other states in the West, and [to the] Arabs. The Palestinians will begin to understand that their demand for a reverse of history has no support from anyone else.”
The truth, Kramer emphasized, will have to come from “the very same quarters which historically and traditionally have been supportive of their demands.” While the Europeans, Russians and Arabs may not support the Trump plan, and many will reject it, “they will begin to echo some of the assumptions and principles … then that will begin to have an effect.”
Marilyn Stern is the producer of Middle East Forum Radio.