On January 28th 2020, President Trump presented his “Peace To Prosperity Plan” which he hoped would provide a solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump claimed that his vision would help facilitate a two-state solution where both parties practice their own sovereignty under equal civil rights. Paradoxically, when presenting this new vision alongside Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, there was a clear absence of Palestinian government representatives. As such, Trump’s proposed “solution” to the century-long conflict is being criticized because it discloses the United States’ favorability to Israel over Palestine through territory, international relations, and foreign aid.The plan is set to start by July 1st with Israel annexing 30% of the West Bank, violating a number of international laws and displacing over 300,000 Palestinians. However, to grasp the fervor of rejection that Trump’s proposed plan is causing in the Middle East, an understanding of the region’s history is needed.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the most heated and notorious conflicts since the 20th century . In 1948, Israel annexed 44% of Palestinian land, displacing over 700,000 Palestinians from their home. This number increased after the 1967 Naksah war where Israel siezed 78% of Palestinian land. Since then, over 7 million Palestinians and descendants have been expunged from their home land. Subsequently, there have been several attempts by the international community to harbor peace in the region through the 1993 Oslo accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel. This solidified the borders drawn by Israel in 1967, whilst promising Palestinians full sovereignty over the West Bank. However, Israel continues to militarily-occupy the region.
Since the 1998 accords, there has not been any significant progress in negotiating peace between Palestine and Israel. Palestinians feel as if their state is being abridged to a civilian state, whereas Israeli military presence grows stronger in the region. Meanwhile, Israel wants to continue to expand into Palestinian territories without taking in its inhabitants as they would raise a “demographic threat” to the region.
When Trump’s proposed plan was introduced, there was little hope by the Palestinian people that it would resolve tensions that have been escalating since the Nakba, or the 1948 Palestinian exodus. The 181 page “Peace Plan” that Trump proposed entails four major changes to the region: redrawing Israel’s borders, banning Palestinians’ right to return to their home country, confirming Jerusalem as the sovereign capital of Israel, and demilitarizing the state of Palestine. Yet, these changes are not as “innovative” as Trump describes them to be. In fact, they strike a remarkable resemblance to the 1979 World Zionist Organization plan drafted by Matityahu Drobles. Both plans lay their foundation on the conviction that the Palestinian people should not maintain their sovereignty and instead manage their civil affairs under Israel’s rule. And similarly, Trump’s plan lays the foundation for total hegemony whilst wearing the face of pragmatism. It paints the Palestinian government as irrational and inflexible without offering anything new to the table.
Moreover, the plan itself breaches a number of international laws that have been presented by the United Nations. The plan impedes on Palestinian’s right of return, which was the first of the trinity of inalienable rights proposed by the PLO and established in UN Resolution 194 in 1948. However, Trump claims that by allowing all 7 million displaced Palestinians back, the militarily-occupied region would become majority Arab, which would obstruct Israel’s ambitions of a fully Jewish state. In reality, Trump’s quota set at allowing for the return of 5,000 Palestinian refugees per year over the next decade, means that there would still be a significant number of Palestinians remaining displaced. This only serves to exasperate the ethnic cleansing occurring in Palestine whilst presenting a facade of cooperation and negotiation. In response, Israel has violated this quintessential right, solidifying itself as a counterfeit democratic state in the international community for prioritizing a monoethnic Jewish state over a democratic one. Thus, the United States’ involvement in such a violation would make it implicit in breaching international law.
In addition, Jerusalem’s status as a holy site for all three major Abrahamic religions has made it a central point of contention in peace negotiations. Consequently, the 1947 UN Partition Plan stated that Jerusalem would be an unoccupied territory free from the sovereignty of both Israel and Palestine. As such, when Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1980, the UN deemed this act a violation of the 1947 agreement and condemned Israel for its actions. Moreover, Trump moving the U.S embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was perceived as an act of aggression by the surrounding region as it unofficially declared Israel’s capital as Jerusalem. Thus, Trump’s proposal legitimizing this claim is not only a violation of the UN 1947 Partition Plan, but it also sanctions the U.S. to be a major political player in Jerusalem.
The plan proposes a demilitarized “State of Palestine” where the streets and its borders would be controlled by the Israeli government. This “solution” is inherently problematic as it claims Palestine will be allowed “statehood” while paradoxically withering it to an occupied region, practicing a form of superficial civil hood. Whilst Palestine would be responsible for its own civil duties, it would not be granted the authority to be a legitimate state. Instead, it would be “a non-contiguous entity devoid of the natural resources necessary for a functioning economy.” In addition, the lack of a Palestinian military in its territories hinders any attempts of legitimate sovereignty as it creates a clear power disparity between Israel and Palestine. In other words, Palestine would not be able to fend for itself if Israel decides to proliferate its expansion, as it has done in 1967. This clear juxtaposition of power renders a two state solution impossible to attain and only disservices the Palestinian people.
Additionally, redrawing Palestinian borders only raises red-flags to the possibility of a two-state solution. This is reflected in the history of the region where the 1917 Balfour Declaration allowed Western Powers to abstractly redraw Middle Eastern borders with no understanding of the ethnic composition of the region and no regard for people’s livelihoods. This failure to establish a Pan-Arab state led to distrust and animosity between the Middle-East and the West. Hence, further deviating from the Oslo Accords only functions to exasperate this distrust between the two regions.
Consequently, a rejection of redrawing the borders will be portrayed as Palestinian inflexibility when in reality it allowed no room for pragmatism and further illustrated the West’s disinterest in facilitating a real, viable solution to the conflict. Subsequently, distrust between the Middle-East and the U.S will continue and potentially manifest itself in a war as it did in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Furthermore, Trump’s new plan dictates that Israel would freeze its construction of new settlements for four years whilst allowing it to annex existing settlements and the Jordan River Valley. Not only are these existing settlements illegal under international law, but allowing them to officially annex these settlements would make the Palestinian territory scattered islands in a sea of Israeli territory.Consequently, decentralizing Palestinian territories would aid in creating a power vacuum that Israel can then use to further its illegal occupation.
The first implication of Trump’s proposed plan is to be executed by July 1st and it comprises the annexation of 30% of the West Bank, which is a clear violation of international law. In fact, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, and the International Court of Justice have all ruled that Israeli settlements on the West Bank violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was ratified by 192 nations after World War II, stating that occupying powers “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” In addition, the International Criminal Court statute established in 1998 classifies these transfers as war crimes. Hence, Trump’s plan would justify these war crimes and signal to the international community that international law no longer holds any significance. Also, if the annexation is to be deemed official by July 1st, it would displace more than 300,000 Palestinians, which is six times the amount of those allowed to return home. This annexation does not entail a plan to incorporate these displaced Palestinians in the new Israeli settlements and instead expunges them from their homes.
As Diana Buttu, a lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, put it:
“Rewarding Israel for building settlements sends the clear message to other dictator-like regimes around the world that they too can do as they please and that they too will be rewarded. Every country under threat around the world will hear that they can be invaded, their land stolen and their people deprived of rights.”
Alternatively, Israeli Author Micah Goodman claims that: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a conflict between occupiers and the occupied. But after the plan it would become a conflict between two separate political entities — and that’s an entirely new paradigm.” This argument could be plausible if the playing field was truly leveled, as in Palestine would have its own functioning economy, military, and sovereignty, however this is not the case. This new paradigm still encapsulates a foundational deficit in which the two states are not equal, and thus negotiations will always be shifted in favor of Israeli ambitions.
Trump’s plan for Peace between Israel and Palestine represents the very reason why peace is implausible. Trump’s plan is inherently dangerous in the plight for peace in the Middle East as it disregards paramount issues between Israel and Palestine and cements the roots of oppression, terrorism, and displacement which Palestine is attempting to break free of. In addition, it does not hold Israel accountable for any of its violations of international law, and instead rewards them for it. It sets a precedent that oppression will be tolerated, and that the U.S is planning to continue its history of lacking earnest consideration for the Palestinian people. Therefore, if the annexation of parts of the West Bank does happen by July 1st, then it signals one of the most definitive acts of negligence in modern history, completely disregarding the U.S’s already fragile contradictory role as a democratic peacekeeper.