InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 13

Trump’s Middle East peace plan

US President Donald Trump’s new Middle East peace plan has excluded the Palestinians, the main stakeholder, from the process and aims to benefit Israel and its political leadership, His inability to bring together two sides of the conflict to the negotiating table is the weakest link of the “deal of the century,” which may consign it to the dustbin of history.

The plan titled “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People,” presented by US President Trump together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, failed to fulfill any expectation of the Palestinians. The 181-page plan extends the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories further and approves the annexation of the occupied territories in the West Bank under Israeli administration. It also gives immediate approval to Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and denies Palestinians the right to return or to appeal to any international court. The plan seeks to legalize the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. It also does not ensure any of the legal protection under international agreements to the Palestinian population.

Analysts say the Trump plan may be the “deal of the century” for Israelis but not for Palestinians. The plan completely disregards the internationally recognized idea of a two-state solution that has the potential to bring a fair and sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Trump wishes to recognize Jerusalem, which is sacred for Muslims, Christians and Jews, as the capital of Israel. If the Palestinians agree to Trump’s terms, East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine – an independent state whose security will be provided by the Israelis. At the same time, the Trump administration guarantees that Palestinians and Israelis alike will be able to remain in the areas that they currently inhabit. In other words, Israel gets to keep the illegal settlements, among other places. In exchange, Trump says that Palestinian lands won’t be touched for the next four years, effectively signing off on the expansion of Israeli settlements down the road. Although the Trump administration claims that Palestinians will walk away with more territory than they currently control, yet Washington conveniently refrains from saying that those lands will be isolated and detached from the rest of the world. In return for getting on board, Trump promises higher per capita income and better standards of living for the Palestinians.

Experts say the Middle East peace plan cannot be implemented. It does not provide guidance or a roadmap for a sustainable and feasible peace accord between the two parties in the region. The absence of the Palestinians in the declaration and their lack of trust in the process make its implementation almost impossible. The fact that the plan could not bring together the two sides of the conflict to the negotiating table is its biggest weakness. Some analysts also questioned the timing of the declaration, when Israel is a challenging political situation with the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the equally controversial situation taking place with the impeachment process of President Trump. Regional commentators believe domestic political concerns were prioritised over sustainable, lasting peace in the region.

Analysts fear the plan will not only be another failed attempt to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but could also make the future attempts more challenging. The one-sided deal could backfire in the form of fresh violence and deepening chaos across the Middle East. Any peace attempt needs to consider the parties’ sensitivity to the critical and symbolic issues in the conflict. Emotions run really high in these conflicts, and unilateral decisions on topics, such as the status of Jerusalem, will make the conflicts more difficult to resolve, they observe.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan dropped like a bomb at an increasingly complicated time for the region. Syria is in turmoil, Iraq is in chaos, Iran is reacting to the killing of Qassem Suleimani, and Libya is embroiled in a civil war. With Trump’s plan favoring Israel over Palestine, the situation will be far from resolute on the long-disputed holy soil. The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador, along with several Gulf diplomats, attended Trump’s joint press conference with Netanyahu but it does not make the plan any more representative.

The Trump plan has consequences not only for Palestinians but also for the entire international community. The plan gives the unified Jerusalem to Israel and allows a small territory in East Jerusalem to be the capital of the future Palestinian State. There is the idea of a Palestinian State in the plan, but in practice, the plan denies the existence of a functioning Palestinian statehood. It projects Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. In addition, Palestine is given four years to meet certain conditions to become a conditional independent state. In other words, Trump’s plan is to make Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. This one-sided, unrealistic so-called Middle East peace plan has delighted the Israeli government and outraged Palestinians.

The unilateral agreement is not only a cause of concern for Palestinians but the whole world, especially for Pakistanis, who were pleased after Donald Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Analysts in Pakistan are alarmed at the way he plans to resolve the decades-old Palestine issue. They believe he will leave out Kashmiris and Pakistan and benefit only India, if he is allowed to mediate on the Kashmir issue. Fortunately, India has already rejected his offer. If he had unveiled his Middle East plan earlier, India would have loved his mediation on the Kashmir issue. However, Pakistan will never seek his role is resolving the dispute.