Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan


Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan

The “Giveaway of the Century”

On January 28, President of the United States, Donald Trump, presented his long-awaited Middle East peace plan—the so-called “deal of the century”—wherein he proposed an independent Palestinian state and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. Standing alongside Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Mr Trump said his proposals could be the “last opportunity” for Palestinians. A cursory look at the plan reveals its lopsidedness as it gives Israel much of what it has long sought and imposes daunting requirements that the Palestinians must meet before negotiations can even begin. The President described his plan, orchestrated by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as “the last opportunity” for a Palestinian state, but it is, in fact, the “giveaway of the century”.

January 28, 2020 could very well go down as the most mind-boggling day in the history of Israel and its relations with the United States. Against the backdrop of a White House audience of enthusiastic cheerleaders, in a ceremony that seemed to fuse a Donald Trump rally with a religious Zionist gala, the president pronounced a dramatic, pro-Israel shift in US foreign policy and laid down a lopsided peace plan that exceeds any rational Israeli’s wildest dreams. The extraordinary event was rendered even more surreal by the fact that mere hours before Benjamin Netanyahu flashed self-satisfied grins as he stood at Trump’s side in Washington, his indictments were formally submitted to Jerusalem District Court, which he will soon face as a criminal defendant. Anyone unfamiliar with the Israeli prime minister’s rapidly escalating legal woes would never have guessed it: Netanyahu was beaming like a groom at his wedding.

In the following paragraphs, a brief analysis on various aspects of Trump’s “deal of the century” is being presented:

  1. It supports Israel

The so-called “Vision for Peace” simply confirmed that the US government has publicly adopted the long-running consensus in Israel: that it is entitled to keep permanently the swaths of territory it seized illegally over the past half-century that deny the Palestinians any hope of a state. The White House has discarded the traditional US pose as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians. This was a deal designed in Tel Aviv more than in Washington—and its point was to ensure there would be no Palestinian partner. Importantly for Israel, it will get Washington’s permission to annex all of its illegal settlements, now littered across the West Bank, as well as the vast agricultural basin of the Jordan Valley. Israel will continue to have military control over the entire West Bank. The Trump deal also approves Israel’s existing annexation of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians will be expected to pretend that a West Bank village outside the city is their capital of “Al Quds”. There are incendiary indications that Israel will be allowed to forcibly divide the Al Aqsa mosque compound to create a prayer space for extremist Jews, as has occurred in Hebron.

  1. It’s not a deal

What Trump has hailed as the “deal of the century” is actually a misnomer. It is not a deal in the actual sense of the word as it does not reflect a compromise between two equal partners. Instead, it is an attempt to impose Trump’s ideas on the Palestinians. The Palestinians, who were not even consulted in the formulation of the plan, would be the clear losers should this proposal be implemented.

Trump’s plan supposedly envisions an independent Palestinian state, though they must be subordinate to Israeli security interests and completely demilitarized. Jerusalem is to become Israel’s “undivided” capital and the Palestinians may retain some eastern neighbourhoods as their future capital.

  1. No Significant Arab backing

The only Arabs present at the White House when the plan was being announced were the Ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates—three out of the twenty-two members of the Arab League. On 31st January, the summit of Arab foreign ministers was held, upon requests by the Palestinians, in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The AL unanimously rejected US President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East plan, calling it “unfair” to Palestinians and that it does not meet the “minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.” It also warned that Israel must not act on the plan

unilaterally—a reference to Israel’s stated intention to move on annexation as soon as possible.

What are the issue at Stake?

Of all the conflicts in the Middle East, that between Israel and the Palestinians has been the most intractable. Although the two sides signed a breakthrough peace accord in 1993, more than a quarter of a century on, the two sides are arguably as far apart as ever.


Both Israel and the Palestinians hold competing claims to the city. Israel, which occupied the formerly Jordanian-held eastern part in 1967, regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians insist on East Jerusalem—home to about 350,000 of their community—as the capital of a hoped-for independent state.

Palestinian statehood

The Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israeli prime ministers have publicly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but not what form it should take. Benjamin Netanyahu has said any Palestinian state should be demilitarised with the powers to govern itself but not to threaten Israel.


Israel insists that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of it as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, arguing that without this Palestinians will continue to press their own national claims to the land, causing the conflict to endure. The Palestinians says what Israel calls itself is its own business, but to recognise it as the Jewish state will discriminate against Israel’s Arab population of Palestinian origin, who are Muslims, Christians and Druze.


Both sides have fundamentally different ideas as to where the boundaries of a potential Palestinian state should be. The Palestinians insist on borders based on ceasefire lines which separated Israel and East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza between 1949 and 1967. Israel says those lines are militarily indefensible and were never intended to be permanent. It has not said where borders should be, other than making clear its own eastern border should be along the Jordan River.


Since 1967, Israel has built about 140 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 121 outposts—settlements built without the government’s authorisation. They have become home to some 600,000 Israeli Jews. Settlements are considered illegal by most of the international community, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians say all settlements must be removed for a Palestinian state to be viable. Mr Netanyahu has vowed not only to never to uproot any settlements but also to bring them under Israeli sovereignty.


The UN says its agencies support about 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East (the Palestinian Authority says there are up to 6 million), including the descendants of people who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces from what became Israel in the 1948-49 war. Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says they are not entitled to, noting that such a move would overwhelm it demographically and lead to its end as a Jewish state.

  1. It isn’t an operational plan

Most American peace initiatives over the years—from Kissinger’s disengagement agreements between Israel, Egypt, and Syria (1973-1975) to Jimmy Carter’s Egypt-Israel peace process (1978-1979) to the Madrid peace conference (1991) to the US-brokered interim accords in Oslo, (1997-1998) to various US initiatives on final peace deals with Israel, Syria and the Palestinians—were designed to launch talks, bridge gaps, create trust between the parties and ultimately reach comprehensive accords.

Indeed, these previous efforts were marked by hundreds of hours of US dialogue with each side, including direct talks between the two sides and in other cases three-way US-mediated discussions. Trump’s plan appears to be just the opposite: a one-hand clapping exercise preternaturally tilted toward Israeli needs and requirements without the benefit of the due diligence required to produce a sustainable basis for negotiations on which both Israelis and Palestinians could engage.

There is no serious timeline or deadline and no operational component; Palestinians are given the arbitrary time of four years to decide on the plan. Lurking not so far beneath the surface is the administration’s expectation that the Palestinians will not engage. In the words of its key architect, Jared Kushner, Palestinians “have a perfect track record of missing opportunities.”

  1. It’s not about peace

The US has a special relationship with Israel that it doesn’t have with any of the Arab parties to the conflict. In many of its previous initiatives, Washington has clearly tilted toward Israel on security issues but also at times on many of the political issues as well.

But the tilt goes beyond anything any administration has done in the past. The plan adopts Netanyahu’s view that a much-shrunken Palestinian entity, including (roughly) 70% of the West Bank, will be a state in name only. Israel will control its borders, air space, electro-magnetic spectrum, foreign policy and security.

On Jerusalem, the plan allows for a kind of Palestinian sub-capital in a few of the outer neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem while maintaining that the city will remain the undivided capital of Israel. And the plan all but relegates the refugee issue to the back burner—ruling out the right of return or compensation.

At the same time, the Trump administration has put the Palestinians on a kind of probation. If they disarm Hamas, Palestine and Islamic Jihad, establish good governance, recognize Israel as a Jewish state, among other things, then and only then is a faux state possible.

Trump’s “deal of the century” is really the steal of the century—validating almost all Israeli claims and leaving Palestinians with the scraps Israel can afford to do without. The only peace here is Netanyahu’s peace of mind that he has managed without a negotiation to get America to back the right’s conception of what Israel’s borders should be.

  1. It violates international law

The US decision to recognize all settlements on the West Bank as effectively part of Israel violates international law and UN Security Council Resolution 242, which emphasizes the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war. The new US plan paves the way for Netanyahu or his successor to annex all the settlements, which comes after the US recognition of Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Moreover, the implementation of the plan would intensify the extent to which Palestine resembles an apartheid state. The crime of apartheid, defined as an “inhumane act committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination of one racial group over another,” is criminalised under the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

  1. Reshapes US policy

There is little doubt that domestic politics drove both the timing and the content of the peace plan. With little more than six weeks to go before Israeli elections, the desire to boost the political fortunes of the beleaguered Netanyahu played a key role. Waiting for the election results and for a new government might have taken until May or produced no government. And that would have gone deeper into 2020 and interfered with the President’s electoral clock. But there was something else, too. The Trump administration as with so many of its initiatives—withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accord—wanted to disrupt traditional approaches and put its own mark on the peace process too.

Animated by an extreme pro-Israeli bias and frustration with the Palestinians, the administration has now changed the game and fundamentally altered the US approach of the past three administrations by aligning its view with Israel’s on the Jewish state’s final borders.

And Netanyahu may not waste any time in taking advantage by extending Israeli law to West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. Once he does, Donald Trump may yet add another first to his collection: the first US President to watch the two-state solution expire on his watch.


Indeed, the deal of the century reflects the triumph of Trump’s arrogance, domestic politics and pro-Israeli bias over any commitment to serious peacemaking, let alone an already fraught two-state solution which the administration seems determined to bury. The Trump plan will probably let the conflict—now in its seventy-second year—rumble on for another four years, with ominous implications for all countries in the volatile Middle East. The whole discussion can be summed up in the words of Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, who said: “This is not a recipe for a just and durable peace but rather endorses the creation of a 21st-century Bantustan in the Middle East … The Palestinian statelet envisioned by the American plan would be scattered archipelagos of non-contiguous territory completely surrounded by Israel, with no external borders, no control over its airspace, no right to a military to defend its security, no geographic basis for a viable economy, no freedom of movement and with no ability to complain to international judicial forums against Israel or the United States.”

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