Journalists and pundits are still trying to learn how to interpret President Trump’s comments and Tweets over three years into his first term in the White House. Most are still struggling to do so; they haven’t quite mastered the nuances of how he answers questions and the fact that policy works-in-progress can come across as declarations of facts. It can be challenging, but some of us understand that unless he’s explicit and detailed in a response, we have to assume what he says is being considered rather than be in motion.
It’s for this reason we held off on reporting that the “Deal of the Century” would be unveiled before Tuesday. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Everything depends on the whether the timing of the moment is appropriate. Some have assumed that Vice President Mike Pence’s invitation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponent, Benny Gantz, to visit the White House on Tuesday was a sign that the deal’s release was impending. But President Trump initially dispelled the notion as speculation in Tweet.
The United States looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister @Netanyahu & Blue & White Chairman @Gantzbe to the @WhiteHouse next week. Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
Later, when asked on a flight to Florida about releasing the peace plan when the Israeli leaders arrived, the President said, “Sometime prior to that. Probably, we’ll release it a little bit prior to that.”
The President then went on to describe the unprecedented visit in which both the Israeli Prime Minister and his competitor in the upcoming election would be visiting at the same time. Vice President Pence had been asked to invite Netanyahu. The Prime Minister suggested they invite Gantz as well.
Optics on this visit will be extremely important for both countries, which is why it’s still very possible the peace plan will not be released before it. While it’s likely the plan will be revealed to the two Israelis, there’s a chance the potential for unrest from the Palestinians and the ongoing impeachment trial could delay the public release further.
But releasing it now would actually be very good timing considering so much focus is being placed on impeachment at home and the election in Israel. Palestinian protests will be more muted, at least in American mainstream media. It would be released when the President’s legal team is finishing up their opening arguments. If both Israeli leaders seem poised to endorse the plan, the timing might be perfect for all involved. But if Gantz objects at all, the insertion of American politics into the Israeli election will receive some backlash.
Many expect the plan to favor Israel with financial incentives to try to coax the Palestinians into accepting it reluctantly. Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements are both expected to fall under Israeli control and demilitarizing the Gaza Strip is a certainty. Palestinians have already balked at the partial plan release last year, and that was supposed to be the positive part for them. It’s unlikely they will favor the political side of the plan which is set to give Israel the security and control factors they’ve sought before considering any two-state solution.
The White House has to weigh and balance all of the factors to determine whether releasing the plan now will benefit the President or not. As with everything involving the Middle East, it’s difficult to know which way the optics will go.