A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus

A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus

It has a brilliant twist: The Palestinians do not have to say yes or no for four years. That means their bottom-line response would not come until the very end of Mr. Trump’s next term, if he is re-elected. In the meantime, Israel would freeze settlements in the territory that Mr. Trump has set aside for the Palestinians, much of it areas the Israelis have little interest in.

That proviso defers all the hard questions for several years of negotiations — with their inevitable breakdowns and crises. But it gives Mr. Trump the campaign-trail talking point that he has fulfilled a 2016 promise and proposed an actual solution, rather than just a process.

The proposal, of course, helps Mr. Netanyahu by moving the goal posts. The status of Jerusalem is set out in the Trump document, rather than being a subject of negotiation. And while past presidents lectured Mr. Netanyahu about his creation of Jewish settlements in territories that are subject to negotiation, Mr. Trump’s plan makes them a permanent feature.

To critics, that is the fatal flaw.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who was among the lawmakers briefed by Mr. Kushner at the White House, called it “a total abandonment of decades of U.S. Middle East policy.”

He was referring to the longtime American support for a deal that would include only modest adjustments to the Israeli borders drawn in 1967, the year of the Arab-Israeli War, and by a process created in the Oslo Accords, which began in 1993 and largely ended with the failed summit in 2000 at Camp David. The premise of those talks was that the Israelis and Palestinians would set up a complex process and inch their way toward agreements on borders, settlements, political rights and the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian lands.

There were years of talks, stalemates, “road maps to peace,” collapsed negotiations and intifadas.

Mr. Trump, the disrupter, has made it clear he does not believe that approach would work. On Tuesday, he noted that every president since Lyndon B. Johnson had tried and failed to negotiate a peace deal. Always the real-estate mogul, Mr. Trump has declared that he is more interested in working with existing facts on the ground than on creating processes.

So his plan, three years in the making, is less about future negotiations and more about cementing what exists today and making deals around the edges. If the Palestinians take it, he suggested, riches would follow. There would be a million new jobs, he said, and poverty would be cut in half. Mr. Trump has offered a similar incentive to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

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