GP Insights

GP Insights # 238, 1 February 2020

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan
Lakshmi V Menon

What happened?
On 28 January 2020, the US President Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, the much-trumpeted “deal of the century”. The response from Israel and Palestine has been contrasting: The President of Palestinian Authority (Mahmoud Abbas) has rejected the plan as the “slap of the century”. In contrast, the Prime Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) has welcome it as the “opportunity of a century”.
 
Based on available information, Trump’s plan focus on the following:

  • It offers an “a viable path” to Palestinian statehood by designating comparably sized land to Gaza and West Bank for a future Palestinian state, doubling the land currently utilized by Palestinians while securing a four-year “land-freeze” agreement from Israel.
  • Jerusalem would continue as an undivided city and the sovereign capital of Israel. In contrast, the Palestinian state’s capital would lie in East Jerusalem (north of Israel’s West Bank barrier) including Abu Dis, Shuafat and Kafr Aqab. 
  • A large majority of Israeli settlements will become contiguous Israeli territory. Those in Palestinian territory would also become part of Israel through transportation grids.
  • Jordan valley, “critical for Israel's national security” will be under Israeli sovereignty.
  • Palestinian refugees can choose to live within future Palestine, integrate into current states of residence, or resettle in a third state.
  • Mutual recognition of both “nation-states”.
  • A demilitarized Palestine 
  • Israel to hold security charge west of Jordan river and the US to work towards reducing Israel’s security footprint .

The global responses to the plan are not uniform. The UK has welcomed it; Turkey and Iran strongly have condemned it. Putin reserved his judgement. From the immediate region, Qatar has welcomed brokering efforts for "longstanding and just peace", Jordan has given a muted response, Egypt advised "a careful and thorough examination of the US vision". At the same time, Saudi Arabia appreciated Trump's efforts calling for direct Palestinian-Israeli talks.
 
What is the background?

The “deal of the century”, a Trump-Jared initiative, is the newest in the series of numerous peace initiatives since the birth of Israel. Before the unveiling, US recognition of occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, the Jerusalem vote, statements recognizing occupied West Bank as Israeli territory all confirmed Netanyahu’s victory. It pushed Palestinians further away from the negotiating table. 

While, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to Trump, in the past four years, frequented various Arab states brokering peace between them and Israel, his stopovers at international meets such as the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, were aimed at mobilizing international support for the peace plan from Europe, Arab states and others. 

What does it mean?
With the Trump plan, Israel has gained significantly – an authorization to expand occupation and international recognition for its claims over Golan Heights, Jordan valley, settlements and Jerusalem while blurring the borders of a sovereign, independent future Palestinian state. As per the proposal, Palestinian-Israeli interactions, in terms of networking and transportation, forces close coordination at the security supervision of Israel by a demilitarized Palestine – a complete no-no for the Palestinian Authority. 

The intra-Israeli effect includes greater security and contiguity with certainty about settlements; while intra-Palestinian aspects such as destiny of PA, Abbas and Hamas may depend heavily on a rejection of the plan. Although Palestinians’ collective memory refutes its acceptance, in all fairness, it is a plan that is realistic. 

For Trump, it means ensuring the financial backing and votes of White Evangelical Christian Americans. For Netanyahu, as Israeli opposition critiqued, the timing boosts his domestic political leverage. For Palestinians, the plan and subsequent lack of opposition from the Arab world mean shattering of hope and prolonged conflict. With less hope and strong dismissal from Palestinians, hard-liners and extremists will be intensified. 

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