Jan 31, 2020 - World

Diplomats, national security experts decry Trump's Mideast peace plan

A general view from Nablus in the occupied West Bank of the eastern valley. Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

30 former foreign policy and national security officials from three administrations published an “open letter” harshly criticizing the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Why it matters: The signatories, who served under George W. Bush, Clinton and Obama, criticized the plan as harming U.S. interests, giving Israel “a green light” for annexation in the West Bank and possibly turning Israel into a binational state.

  • The letter is also an indication that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a divisive domestic political issue in the U.S., after years of relatively consistent Mideast policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The big picture: The letter says the Trump plan is abandoning longstanding U.S. principles, such as excluding solutions by outside parties, resolving the conflict only through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and avoiding unilateral steps that prejudice a final outcome.

  • “Abandoning those principles will have enduring and deleterious effects on U.S. interests, Israel's security, Palestinian aspirations, and the stability of a key Arab partner, Jordan,” they said in the letter.
  • Trump’s plan “could strike a fatal blow to the two-state outcome, and lead inexorably toward a binational state in which Palestinians do not have equal rights.”
  • “The administration seems to be giving a green light to unilateral Israeli annexation in the West Bank, which would accelerate that process.”

Driving the news: The letter states the timing on unveiling the plan “appears aimed primarily at burnishing President Trump's domestic political standing and at intervening in the highly competitive Israeli elections to help re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Who signed the letter:

  • Jonathan Finer, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Kerry
  • Philip H. Gordon, special assistant to President Obama and White House Middle East coordinator
  • Brian Katulis, Clinton administration policy planning staff
  • Daniel B. Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel
  • Frank Lowenstein, former special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
  • Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden
  • Kelly Magsamen, former principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs
  • Nancy McEldowney, former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria
  • Jeffrey Prescott, former special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council senior director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States
  • Susan E. Rice, former national security adviser
  • Bathsheba Crocker, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
  • Andrew Miller, former NSC Director for Egypt and Israel Military Issues
  • Ilan Goldenberg, former chief of staff to the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
  • Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser
  • Jake Sullivan, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden
  • Tamara Cofman Wittes, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
  • Jeffrey Feltman, former foreign service officer and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs 
  • Jerry Feierstein, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs 
  • Wendy R. Sherman, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Prem Kumar, former NSC Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa
  • Julie Smith, former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Biden
  • Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel
  • Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli–Palestinian Negotiations
  • Antony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state
  • Rob Malley, former special assistant to President Obama and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region.
  • Jim O’Brien, former special presidential envoy
  • Rebecca Brocato, former special assistant to President Obama
  • Ned Price, former special assistant to President Obama
  • Matt Nosanchuk, former White House liaison to the American Jewish community 

Go deeper

Arab League foreign ministers reject Trump peace plan

Bahrain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa arrives to attend an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US Middle East peace plan, Cairo, Feb. 1. Photo: Khaled Desouki/Contributor/Getty Images

The foreign ministers of the member states of the Arab League unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday rejecting the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and said that "it does not satisfy the minimum of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people."

Why it matters: The Trump administration was counting on a coalition of Arab countries it has built over the last several years to prevent such a resolution and press the Palestinians to go back to the table. Those efforts did not materialize.

Go deeperArrowFeb 1, 2020 - World

White House blocks Palestinians at UN, urges direct talks on peace plan

Mahmoud Abbas at the UN Security Council. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After blocking a Palestinian draft resolution at the UN Security Council rejecting its Middle East peace plan, the White House is signaling that it's willing to make changes to the plan if the Palestinians return to the table.

The backstory: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan in remarks today at the Security Council. That was to be followed by a vote on a resolution condemning the plan, but the Trump administration managed to delay the vote.

Go deeperArrowFeb 11, 2020 - World

Scoop: Israel and UAE discuss anti-Iran cooperation at secret White House meeting

Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed at the White House in May. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The White House hosted a secret trilateral meeting in December between the U.S., Israel and the UAE on coordination against Iran, Israeli and U.S. officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting, which took place on Dec. 17, is one in a series of steps from the Trump administration to facilitate closer ties between Israel and the Arab states. It included discussion of a UAE-Israel nonaggression pact — an interim step on the way to diplomatic normalization.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - World