Today, on 28 January, Donald Trump released a long-awaited, 80-page “peace plan” for the Middle East, claiming to seek to put an end to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. After holding separate talks in Washington, D.C. with the embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political opponent Benny Gantz, Trump revealed his plan at noon in Washington, D.C., with Netanyahu beaming and leading a room in rapturous applause by his side. As expected from information leaked beforehand, the plan offers Israel support for much of the annexation of the West Bank, purporting to aim for the establishment of the “future Palestinian state” and work for the best of both sides. Palestine, however, pre-emptively rejected the deal amid protests in the occupied West Bank, and charities in the U.K., including Care International, have penned a joint letter warning that the rights of Palestinians could be endangered by the implementation of these measures.
Mr. Trump reaffirmed the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital” under the new plans, as well as emphasizing the historical status of the agreement, as the first time Israel willingly endorses a detailed plan of the territorial concessions it is willing to make. Furthermore, his references to the future Palestinian state, with a capital in east Jerusalem – raising questions as to how “undivided” it will truly be – confirm his realignment with a form of the two-state resolution to the conflict agreed upon in the Oslo Accords of 1993. However, Palestine’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayehh had already highlighted the political opportunism of the agreement in a cabinet meeting beforehand. Netanyuhu is currently facing charges for corruption, while the impeachment trial against Trump is underway. At a cabinet meeting, Shtayehh described the plan as one “to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison” and “not a Middle East peace plan.”
Trump’s announcement did talk openly about the rights of Palestinians, describing a bright future for investment and economic and political sovereignty for both states in question. However, his expressive phrase that “peace transcends politics” is one that should not be ignored. It is flagrantly hypocritical. To invite Netanyahu and Gantz during his own impeachment raises questions about how serious this agreement is; to manipulate it as a smokescreen for his own political ends rather demonstrates a worrying capacity for politics to transcend peace, rendering it subservient for its own ends.
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a constant source of tension since the second half of the twentieth century. The Trump Administration has been open about being the most Zionist presidential administration the United States has ever seen, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, and more recently affirming its view of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as in line with international law. Again, the political currency of such a stance is clear, with evangelical voters in the United States often in support of the Zionist cause. Israel’s steady settlement in the West Bank is also on the rise as reported by Peace Now, an Israeli rights group, and after the forthcoming election in March, the newly elected prime minister will have the momentum to act decisively.
It is unnecessary to speculate on Palestine’s response, as they have given it already, even before the announcement. It was a firm rejection. Trump’s vision for economic investment in the area– up to $50 billion, although where exactly that money will come from has been unclear in the reports drawn up last year – and a peaceful transition, promising that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted,” is an optimistic one. However, the protests already seen today in the West Bank, and the meeting of opposing Palestinian factions, Jamas and Fatah, suggest that such a rosy future is far from coming into view. On a broader scale, the way both politicians – lauded with applause at the announcement – have clear ulterior political motives in this deal demonstrates yet again the damaging tendency of “short-termism” and selfishness to rear their ugly heads in an issue that will affect livelihoods on the ground, but protect egos at press conferences.
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