Trump Mapping Committee needs to break its deafening silence

August 12, 2020 by David Singer
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Peace between Jews and Arabs after 100 years of unresolved conflict – promised with President Trump’s release of his deal of the century on 28 January – has stalled – with the continuing failure to produce a map translating Trump’s conceptual plan into an attainable reality.

Trump’s plan (See map below) proposed:

  • Israeli sovereignty in about 30% of Judea and Samaria (West Bank)
  • The remaining 70% plus Gaza providing “a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security”

Incredibly Trump announced:

“My vision presents a “win-win” opportunity for both sides, Today, Israel is taking a giant step toward peace.  Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that he is willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations — and, I will say, the General [Gantz] also endorsed, and very strongly — with the Palestinians.  A historic breakthrough.

This is the first time Israel has authorized the release of a conceptual map, illustrating the territorial compromises it’s willing to make for the cause of peace.  And they’ve gone a long way.   This is an unprecedented and highly significant development.”

Trump continued:

“We will form a joint committee with Israel to convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.  We will also work to create a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian State for when the conditions for statehood are met, including the firm rejection of terrorism.” [Underlining by author]

This joint committee began its work just two weeks later in February – but since then little has been heard from the current Committee:

  • Israeli representatives – Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, Prime Minister’s Office director Ronen Peretz, and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer on the Israeli side; and
  • US representatives – Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, his adviser Aryeh Lightstone, and the US National Security Council’s Israel and Palestinian affairs director Scott Leith.

Leith had been unable to join the Committee in Israel because of Covid 19 until he visited Israel in June with Avi Berkowitz, US Special Representative for International Negotiations.

Complications and differences could be holding up the plan’s finalisation such as those detailed in June by Lior Schillat – the director of the Jerusalem Institute of Policy Research:

“When we say mapping, it isn’t just opening up Google Maps. It means applying complex geographic information system layers that display land ownership and land use. It’s true that there aren’t any new mountains that have suddenly appeared in [the northern West Bank], but there are building plans in progress that need to be accounted for. The territory is extremely complex and dynamic.

The decisions being made today are very politically charged, and therefore the people involved are from the political echelon. However, this may be why they’re having a hard time completing the task in the amount of time [by 1 July].”

Ambassador Friedman had optimistically predicted in February:

“We’re going to go through a mapping process to convert a map which is drawn of more than a million to one into something which really shows on the ground how the territory will be put together

It’s not unduly difficult, but it’s also not simple, because there are a lot of judgment calls. We don’t want to do this piecemeal.

We want to do it once, holistically, in totality, and get it done right”

Failure to finalise a “detailed and calibrated map” after six months is disturbing.

The Committee needs to break its deafening silence to confirm that Trump’s vision is geographically achievable – not simply a shimmering mirage.

David Singer is a Sydney lawyer and a foundation member of the International Analysts Network

 Author’s note: The cartoon – commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones” – one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators – whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog

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