US President Donald Trump finally unveiled his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Jan. 28. The plan has been shrouded in secrecy and could well bolster peace in the region or deteriorate the security situation. Success may also hinge on the amount of diplomatic efforts that are dedicated to solving the most contentious issues in the coming days.
Reactions To The Trump Peace Plan
The plan has already elicited mixed reactions among pundits with Israeli Arab political analyst Marwan Bishara describing it as “opportunism, populism and cynicism all wrapped in one deal…it is as tragic as it is laughable.” However, there is the belief in some quarters that the deal could pave the way for future negotiations between Israel and Palestine in reaching a viable two state solution.
What Is The Core Goal Of The Deal?
It appears the aim of the deal as highlighted in Trump’s remarks is to achieve long-term security for Israel by providing economic incentives to Palestine. “Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism. They deserve a far better life,” Trump said while unveiling the plan in the White House.
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who was also present at the peace plan’s release—described Trump as “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” Netanyahu also added that he supported the plan because it recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over sections of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank, which are regarded as vital for Israel’s security. The timing of the announcement, however, raised some eyebrows with observers claiming it was meant to boost Netanyahu’s standing as elections loom and his political troubles persist, while others claimed it was meant to distract the public from Trump’s impeachment hearings.
Trump’s Meeting With Israeli Opposition Leader Benny Gantz
Earlier in the day before meeting Netanyahu, Trump had held discussions with Benny Gantz, who is also a front runner in the race for Israel’s leadership. This meeting was possibly done to avoid accusations that Trump was providing political leverage to Netanyahu with his peace plan release, or just because Trump wanted to win the confidence of both leaders since either of them could become Israel’s next Prime Minister judging by the current political uncertainty.
So far Gantz has expressed his satisfaction with Trump’s plan saying, “the President’s peace plan is a significant and historic milestone indeed.”
Palestinian Reaction To Trump’s Plan
The plan was outright rejected on the Palestinian side, with leaders describing it as dead on arrival. “After the nonsense that we have heard today, we say a thousand nos,” said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after the plan was announced.
This reaction comes hot on the heels of reports that he had refused to take a phone call from Trump to discuss the plan before it was unveiled. “They called me from Washington and I did not pick up the phone. I said no and I will continue to say no .., we are going for difficult days and we are beginning to bear the consequences,“ Abbas was reported to have said.
Since June last year Trump has been dangling a $50 billion investment fund carrot to the Palestinians if they accepted his proposal. This was unveiled in Bahrain last year by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is largely credited with crafting the plan. In reference to the $50 billion investment fund, Kushner said a deal could unlock prosperity for the Palestinians and security for Israel. The views among most Palestinians is that Trump’s aim is to use economic bribery to make them accept what they call Israeli occupation.
Palestinian officials have been skeptical of the plan ever since reports about it began to emerge. Some officials warned that Palestine would withdraw from the Oslo Accords if Trump went on to announce his plan.
“If Netanyahu begins annexation of Palestinian territory officially, this means Isreal’s withdrawal from Oslo Accords and agreements signed,” said the Palestinian chief negotiator Dr Saeb Erakat last week, while the foreign minister called for an international rejection of the plan saying it could jeopardize regional security.
Benefits Of The Deal
Despite the deal clearly favoring Israel, many analysts have agreed that it gives much more to Palestinians than what had been expected. The proposal of a two state solution as the core of the plan was a big step from an American perspective that has always resented Palestinian sovereignty.
According to the plan, the only condition that Palestinians have to meet to pave the way for the State of Palestine is to fight terrorism, stopping “pay to slay” payments for attacks on Israeli soldiers, implementing steps towards free speech and introducing political reforms.
Although the plan offers Palestine more territory, it gives Israel full control over major settlement blocks in the West Bank and establishes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. For Palestine the plan proposes that “the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine should be in the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier including Kufr Aqab, the eastern part of Shujaat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine.”
Even though Israel will maintain control of Jerusalem, Palestinians will continue having access to religious sites in the city. “Jerusalem’s holy sites should remain open and available for peaceful worshipers and tourists of all faith.” “People of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in a manner that that is fully respectful to their religion, taking into account the times of each religion’s prayers and holidays as well as other religious factors.”
The plan also calls for a dematerialized Palestinian State with Israel maintaining overall security until Palestinians show “capability to secure the areas. The more the Palestinians show they can secure their areas and cooperate with Israel, the less Israel will have to do in terms of maintaining security,” the report reads.
In summary, there are several reasons why Trump’s proposal could fail. It is pro-Israel and it proposes only 70 percent of the West Bank should go to Palestine compared to the 94 to 96 percent proposed by President Bill Clinton. It sets the uprooting of Hamas in the Gaza as a precondition of statehood and other benefits that are unlikely to occur very soon. Nevertheless, although the proposal is likely to lead to violence in the near future, it could also open up opportunities for negotiations leading to long lasting peace.