Israelis were taken aback on Wednesday when their evening news broadcast announced purported details of US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan that didn't quite fit with what they'd come to expect from the American leader.
According to journalist Barak Ravid of Channel 13 News, who cited a "senior American" official, Trump was planning to offer the Palestinians a fully-sovereign state on 85-90 percent of the West Bank, with the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as its capital city.
The report further claimed that Trump wants to return to a long-abandoned UN proposal to place Jerusalem's "Holy Basin," the area of the Old City and its immediate surroundings, under some form of international supervision.
The Trump Administration's engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict up until now had led most Israelis to believe that gone were the days that the Palestinian Authority could flaunt its peace obligations and still be offered to have nearly all of its demands met.
But offering to give them a fully-sovereign state on most of Israel's biblical heartland and divide Jerusalem would suggest otherwise, especially when the Palestinian Authority is still inciting its people to hatred and violence against Israel's Jewish population.
The White House immediately dismissed the Channel 13 report as "inaccurate."
Trump's special envoy for the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, tweeted: "While I respect @BarakRavid, his report on Israel’s Ch. 13 is not accurate. Speculation about the content of the plan is not helpful. Very few people on the planet know what is in it."
While I respect @BarakRavid, his report on Israel’s Ch. 13 is not accurate. Speculation about the content of the plan is not helpful. Very few people on the planet know what is in it… for now…
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) January 16, 2019
So, it was just another case of fake news? Could be. Israel suffers from it just as much as America.
Or, perhaps it was the Trump Administration sending up a test balloon to see which provisions would be strongly rejected, and which would find some degree of acceptance among the parties involved. It's not uncommon for the Americans to do such a thing.
Either way, one aspect of the story that's being largely ignored, indeed that's been ignored for over two decades now, is the Palestinian Authority's rejection of any proposal that doesn't meet 100 percent of its demands, and then some.
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas already months ago rejected Trump's "Deal of the Century" before any details were even known because he knew the Americans wouldn't offer him all he and the Palestinians demanded. It's the same reason he's been refusing to rejoin negotiations with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the second term of Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.
It's Abbas' rejectionist approach that suggests Trump was sending up a test balloon, and that Ravid and Channel 13 did not, in fact, report inaccurately. Trump knows he's got to give the Palestinians something really good to get them back to the table, so perhaps he was trying to see just how much the Israelis would go for.
The problem with that approach, if that's what happened here, is that Trump, like all his predecessors going back to Jimmy Carter, has failed to understand just how intransigent the Palestinian leadership has become.
Former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak already tried to offer the Palestinians all that Trump is now allegedly offering, and more, only to have Yasser Arafat throw it back in his face. Abbas, who was mentored by Arafat, isn't now going to accept a Palestinian state on anything less than the pre-1967 armistice lines, or a truncated East Jerusalem. He's staked his entire legacy on rejecting such compromises.
It's delusional for anyone to think that they can get the Palestinian leadership to now climb down from this tree, even for a "master dealmaker" like Trump.