The Trump plan has embraced several blunt realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, with a vast expansion in settlement activity over the past two decades, Israelis are winning the territorial war for the West Bank. While a majority of settlers live near Israel proper, small numbers of committed, well-armed settlers are establishing outposts in strategic areas in the West Bank designed to break up a future Palestinian state. The Trump plan offers Palestinians a way to stem that territorial bleeding.
Second, the plan also underscores the reality that Palestinian leaders have lost the active support of much of the Arab world, where leaders worry much more about Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya, ISIS and domestic economic development. That’s a development over more than a decade, but Trump has seized on this reality in ways his predecessors haven’t. As Kushner told me: “The United States is now energy independent. Our national interest in the Middle East is less focused on oil than countering extremism, empowering allies, and fostering long term stability.”
This is where the economic component comes in. The Trump administration has pledged to drum up $28 billion over 10 years to support Palestine, with $22 billion of additional funding going to Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon. This aid comes in the form of investment. The money would go toward infrastructure and transportation links, raising standards of living, and enabling broader regional trade. Funding would also be devoted to improving education, healthcare, and workforce development. Only small amounts of money were pledged at the Bahrain conference last year. But the U.S. has pledged that they’re not going to let the process die for lack of cash.
Yet, many Palestinians—and especially their leaders—will likely not accept anything that smells like a payoff. Despite dire long-term economic prospects in the West Bank and Gaza, many Palestinian and other critics will seize on four highly sensitive elements of the plan to dismiss it.