Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on May 13th for a brief eight hour visit. Despite Israel’s strict lockdown, Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new governing partner, Benjamin Gantz to discuss President Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan, reports Foreign Policy. Netanyahu has long vowed to annex the West Bank. With this visit, many are worried that Pompeo has provided a stamp of approval for this move, scoring a win for Trump with his right-wing Jewish base ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November. If the annexation of the West Bank goes forward, a two state solution between Israel and Palestine will become geographically impossible, and thus the possibility of peace will be eliminated.
Recent Political Developments In Israel May Determine How The Plan Proceeds
Given these concerns, the Trump administration has kept its involvement in Israel’s plans for annexation rather quiet but according to U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, one of the main architects of the plan, that could begin in just a few weeks. Former U.S. Diplomats Dennis Ross and David Makovsky are hopeful that with Gantz’s new role in the Israeli government, “there may well be an opportunity to reverse some worrying trends in Israel including […] moves toward West Bank annexation.” Although Gantz has previously campaigned against West Bank annexation, the power sharing agreement struck between himself and Netanyahu allows for the advancement of annexation beginning in July. Annexation has been condemned by the Arab League as “a war crime” and caused “deep concern” in the United Arab Emirates, reports the New York Times.
Outline Of The Peace Plan
Developing a peace plan for the Middle East has been an ambitious undertaking of many U.S. presidents. While progress has been made with peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan, peace in the Middle East is ultimately not possible until there is an agreement between Israel and Palestine. According to the New York Times, Trump’s peace plan allows Israel to annex 30% of the West Bank, while giving Palestinians a very limited version of statehood. Thus, this peace plan creates an enormous power imbalance between the two states, making a mutually beneficial agreement even more challenging. The world has seen authoritarian leaders use this unprecedented global pandemic to seize power, drop the illusion of democracy, and reverse human rights gains. Annexation of the West Bank would threaten Israel’s democracy, the fragile peace it has with its Arab neighbours, and any hope for a future peaceful resolution to the Palestinian problem. According to Israela Oron, a retired Israeli general, “only the United States is likely to be able to dissuade Israel.” Given this, Pompeo had an opportunity to sway Netanyahu in his rush to annex the West Bank, and we can only hope that he took it.
The Agreement Is Not Necessarily Mutually Beneficial
The Trump administration has made many bold actions showing its support for Israel, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and viewing Israel’s West Bank settlements as complying with international law. Therefore, when President Trump released his Peace Plan for the Middle East, with Palestine playing no part in its creation, it was largely criticized for heavily favouring Israel and immediately rejected by the Palestinians. One of the most contested components of the plan revolves around the West Bank, which was seized by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Despite international condemnation, Israel has held onto this land, putting down roots with settlements. These settlements conflict deeply with the Palestinians and proponents of a two-state solution who view the West Bank as Palestinian territory.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has existed since the creation of the state of Israel, and the first Arab-Israeli war, in 1948. Over decades of fighting, the incompatibility of both state’s goals’ has become more clear and peace has become seemingly unattainable. Today, many observers believe the only possibility for peace lies in the two-state solution. The Peace Plan, which allows Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank, effectively eliminates this possibility and sets the stage for future conflict. The Middle East has enjoyed relative peace in recent years, with the last Arab-Israeli war taking place in 1973. In order to maintain this fragile peace, Israel and Palestine must move towards a peaceful resolution, not further away.