After more than two years of anticipating how he would resolve the perpetual conflict, President Donald Trump has finally released his controversial peace plan for the Middle East.
With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing by his side at the White House, it was a symbolic moment. Key details of the peace plan from Washington were revealed, ultimately favouring the wishes of the Israelis — America’s long-standing allies.
Calling it a ‘deal of the century’, the 181-page resolution addresses contentious issues, including settlements, territory, sovereignty, and concerns over security, that have long embroiled the Israelis and Palestinians in a bitter struggle for territory. Notably, Palestinian leaders were not there to attend, having already rejected the terms even before they came to light, on the certainty that the proposals would be heavily biased towards Israel.
If we examine the proposal in further detail, the Palestinians’ concerns were arguably not unfounded:
- Jerusalem has now been acknowledged as an undivided territory, and will remain as the capital of Israel.
- An independent Palestinian state was briefly proposed, but it will be demilitarised and coexist peacefully alongside Israel. Meanwhile, Israel will maintain its security responsibilities until a more thorough agreement is made between Palestine, Israel and America.
- Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze until a two-state solution is reached.
- Both Palestinians and Israelis won’t have to go through resettlement. The West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem will therefore likely remain occupied by Israel.
- Palestinian territory will double, with a capital in eastern Jerusalem. The Palestinian Liberal Organisation (PLO) responded by saying they would only have 15 per cent control over ‘historic Palestine’.
- Palestinian refugees can either decide to resettle elsewhere, integrate in a country they already reside in, or live in the future state of Palestine. They are not given, however, the ‘right of return’ to homes ceased for Israeli citizens.
Upon the plan’s disclosure, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the proposal, branding it a ‘conspiracy’ that was solely drafted by the beneficiaries, Israel and America. Trump and Netanyahu certainly aim to benefit, as both currently face problems within their administrations. Trump’s Senate impeachment trial goes ahead this week, while the latter faces prosecution on several corruption charges. The release of the peace plan could serve to either distract from, or even compensate for, their political scandals at home. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has not failed to notice the special timing of the peace plan’s announcement, saying: ‘this is a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison. It is not a Middle East peace plan’. Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, was notably the plan’s chief architect. Palestine, on the other hand, was deliberately excluded from providing input.
Despite some pointing out the lack of ‘any presence of fairness’ for the Palestinians, Trump lauded Israel’s willingness ‘to make for the cause of peace’. He further made several controversial statements in his address, one of them being that this peace plan ‘could be the last opportunity’ for the Palestinians.
Whether or not Trump said this with the intention of provoking Palestine to enter negotiations, it already seems likely that the steps taken towards peace won’t last long if one party feels it is being mistreated. Trump’s underlining of additional hurdles and conditions that Palestinian leaders would have to meet if they were to have a sovereign state, ‘including the firm rejection of terrorism’, does not help to offset that assumption of being treated with hostility.
Considering Israel’s mixed reaction to Trump’s proposals, it seems unlikely that peace will be secured any time soon. Although Netanyahu was seen with a grin on his face during the announcement, and many of the proposals recognised Israeli sovereignty, Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said that the right-wing party, Yamina, ‘will under no circumstances recognise a Palestinian state in any format‘. Netanyahu, as well as the peace plan, have an obstacle to overcome then. He will need the right-wing party’s support if he is to succeed in the elections on March 2nd. And Bennett is not alone in his criticism of the proposals.
‘This is not a plan for Palestinian rights nor a state, except for the permanent state of apartheid’, commented Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
It remains to be seen what exact actions the Palestinians will take and whether Washington’s peace plan has lightened or exacerbated the ongoing conflict.