GP Insights

GP Insights # 246, 4 February 2020

Trump's Middle East plan gains mixed responses
Lakshmi V Menon

In the news
On 28 January 2020, while Donald Trump unveiled the much-awaited Trump-Jared "deal of the century" in the presence of a beaming proud Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinians, who boycotted the event, strongly rejected the deal with "the day of rage". Netanyahu applauded the peace proposal as the "opportunity of the century" and Mahmoud Abbas, head of Palestinian Authority, called it "the slap of the century". Although the Arab League rejected the plan, individual Middle Eastern states mainly gave a muted response to Trump's proposal.

Issues at large
First, strong rejection from Palestinians despite Trump's proposal of a two-state solution, stems from the indifference the plan shows to Palestinian stance and demands. Any plan that is unacceptable to the Palestinians, the conflict's primary affected, will not yield prolonged and sustainable negative peace, let alone positive peace.

Second, intra-Palestinian problems like the divides amid Palestinian Authority and the lack of a political voice for the Palestinians further challenge conflict resolution. Intifadas were proof that PLO and Hamas do not represent the collective voice of the Palestinians.

Third, the Arab divide jeopardizes the Palestinian cause. With the presence of ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and UAE for the unveiling of the plan, Qatar hailing US's mediation efforts, Jordan's muted response, acclaiming of Trump's efforts by Egypt and Saudi Arabia; Turkey and Iran as the only states spearheading for the Palestinians, schisms in the Middle Eastern stance are apparent. However, Arab leaders have refrained from overt backing of the deal.

Fourth, despite Israel's agreed four-year land freeze, it emerges victorious. The country's acceptance of the plan that recognizes Jordan valley, Jerusalem and settlements as contiguous Israeli territory upholding military supervision of Israel as a national security issue is a no brainer. 

Fifth, a demilitarized future state of Palestine is a proposition that will surely be refuted by the Palestinian Authority. Sixth, the muted responses from the international community. The UK voiced a warm response, Putin chose to reserve his judgement, EU gave a bland reaction stating it would assess and study the proposal, Germany and France spoke of a negotiated two-state solution. Lack of uproar is noteworthy. 

In perspective
The complete absence of Palestinians from the negotiation table dwindles the peace proposal into a power preservation attempt by a President facing impeachment trial and a prime minister facing corruption indictment. Bereft concessions to Palestinians, this proposal will enter the long list of failed attempts for peace. Recognition of statehood of Palestine is the need of the hour. Insufficient as it may be, the current plan must be used as a starting point for further negotiation by Palestinians. Point of interest is the lack of Palestinian turn out for "the day of rage". It may indicate the Palestinian population's willingness to settle for this limited peace and desire of normalcy after the decades-long struggle.

With the foundering of the peace processes starting from 1949, the relevance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is waning for the world at large. The region wishes to move on and not jeopardize the budding Arab-Israeli peace in the name of Palestine. The unprecedented rapprochement is a direct result of Arab states like UAE and Saudi considering Iran as an existential threat and Israel (Iran's enemy) an expedient ally. 

Unusual for the region, politics has moved beyond religion and ideology. Nevertheless, in the current scenario, the conflict will endure and clashes will peak. 

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