U.S. President Donald Trump revealed his long-awaited Middle East peace plan on 28 January 2020. This plan primarily aims to solve the feud between Israel and Palestine, which is one of the longest running conflicts in the world, according to the BBC. The plan was unveiled as both leaders of the U.S. and Israel face arduous political challenges domestically, with President Trump facing impeachment trials and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing corruption charges. The joint press conference used by President Trump to announce the peace plan also conveyed an ultimatum to the Palestinian leadership, stating that “this could be the last opportunity” for Palestine towards a two-state solution.
According to the White House, President Trump’s key proposals in his Middle East peace plan are as follows:
- The U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territories revealed in the President’s plan. This includes parts of West Bank that are currently occupied by Jewish Israeli settlers;
- The President’s proposed solution will “more than double the Palestinian territory and provide a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem,” where a U.S. embassy will be opened. The plan envisages the Palestinian capital to be in the suburbs of East Jerusalem, beyond the Israeli separation barrier and beyond where the Palestinians want their capital. The Palestinians also want to include Jerusalem’s Old City, which contains most of the city’s important religious sites;
- Jerusalem “will remain Israel’s undivided capital,” in a bid to keep his election promise. This is an extension to his contentious move of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;
- “No Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes,” implying that Israel’s Jewish settlers in West Bank will now be formalized. The settlers are currently considered illegal under international law;
- Israel will coordinate efforts with the King of Jordan to ensure that the current status quo regarding the governance of the key holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, is preserved. Jordan currently administers the trust that governs the site;
- The territory allocated to the Palestinians under this plan “will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years,” in which time the Palestinians can study the plan and initiate negotiations with Israel, which will allow them to move towards statehood.
Prime Minister Netanyahu declared, “This is a historic day,” likening President Trump’s peace plan with former President Harry Truman’s recognition of the state of Israel in 1948.
The plan proposed by President Trump has been criticized for overwhelmingly offering support of Israel. These criticisms were further reinforced by the President’s tweet: “I will always stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I strongly support their safety and security and their right to live within their historical homeland. It’s time for peace!”
Consequently, Palestinians were noticeably absent from the meetings of this plan. This forms a part of their boycott of President Trump since his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians’ strong opposition to President Trump’s proposal became increasingly apparent as the President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas called it the “slap of the century.” According to the BBC, Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, also rejected Trump’s proposal.
“After the nonsense that we heard today we say a thousand no’s [sic] to the “Deal of the Century’…we will not kneel, and we will not surrender,” said President Abbas in his address.
In addition, the UN, representing the international community, reported that it remains committed to a two-state solution based on the borders in place before the 1967 war. This was before Israel seized West Bank and Gaza. A spokesperson for the UN Secretary General António Guterres said that the UN wants a peace deal based on UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements. This implies that the UN remains opposed to President Trump’s proposed peace plan.
While President Trump is offering the Palestinians an opportunity to achieve statehood, it would be a much truncated one. Trump claims to have attempted to make this peace plan as fair as possible for the Palestinians however, his affinity for Israel’s position in this feud is also apparent. All in all, President Trump’s peace plan will fail to achieve its goal if it is unsuccessful in convincing Palestine to accept the deal. Ultimately, President Trump’s attempt to broker peace in the Middle East will only yield any desirable effects if he is willing to make concessions on behalf of Israel in the deal.
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