Israeli-Palestinian relations appeared to be on the verge of explosion after President Trump unveiled his peace plan Tuesday. Israel was talking about immediate annexation, while the Palestinians were getting ready to fight. But a day later, both sides stepped back from the brink.
Shortly after Tuesday’s ceremony, several reports suggested that Israel is poised to annex all of its settlements within days. Right-wing pundits and politicians were celebrating what seemed like the dawn of a new era.
Meanwhile, reports from Ramallah described an angry Mahmoud Abbas issuing belligerent orders and preparing to escalate the security situation across the West Bank. The IDF was taking no chances and deploying more troops to counter potential trouble.
But the war atmosphere did not last for long. By Wednesday morning, Israeli officials made clear that annexation reports were premature. Citing technical issues and the need for some preparatory work, a vote on the matter was postponed to an unspecified date.
In Ramallah, too, officials woke up in a more relaxed mood. Senior Palestinian sources told Israel’s Channel 13 that they are not planning a major wave of violence to protest the peace plan.
America Steps In
So what changed overnight? For one thing, America again took up the role of responsible adult. US officials made clear in polite but firm language that annexation will have to wait. The Trump Administration realizes that it needs to consider the Arab side, and Israel is in no position to object.
However, there is also a good chance that Israel and the Palestinians got cold feet, for now. A decision to annex settlements, or to launch an Intifada, carries huge implications and could exact significant costs. It appears that both sides want some more time to consider their next moves.
This does not mean that Israel will not eventually move forward with annexation, or that the Palestinians will not turn to violence. But for the time being, the two sides apparently prefer to avoid war, or peace.
Ultimately, much will depend on the decisions taken in Washington, rather then in Jerusalem or in Ramallah.