Once again, the US shows utter disregard for the subtleties of conflict in the Middle East with a simplistic and ineffective solution; Trump’s plan for Israel-Palestine peace is obviously flawed and cannot be actualised. What is more interesting is how this plan reflects a change in US policy and the implications for peace in Palestine.
Trump’s plan redraws the boundaries dividing Palestine and Israel, with large areas of land around Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley given to Israel and Jerusalem as the ‘undivided capital’ of Israel. The proposed state of Palestine includes new territories near Trump stirs the pot as Palestine seeks peace the Egyptian border intended to compensate for the loss of other claimed territories. Israeli settlements, declared illegal by the United Nations, are to be legalised and annexed, connected to Israel through roads and tunnels hauntingly reminiscent of the division of Berlin.
The plan violates international legal prohibitions against annexation and undermines the principle of self-determination. But not only is it unjust and unlawful, it is also ineffective. The Palestinian people, and the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, have made it resoundingly clear that they will not accept such a plan. The militant group Hamas also shows no signs of reducing attacks. So far the main result of the plan has been an upsurge of violence. Three Palestinians killed in the West Bank, twelve Israeli soldiers hurt in Jerusalem, and further Israeli air strikes triggered by militants’ firing of mortars. The long term consequences of the plan should not be underestimated either. The legitimisation of Israel’s actions by an outside power is likely to stimulate tensions in the area.
The plan displays a simplicity that has come to characterise Trump’s policies. It is a statement: designed not to have any real effect but instead as a show of strength domestically and on the world stage. Netanyahu’s election is upcoming and it is possible Trump chose this moment to announce the plan to increase Netanyahu’s chances of re-election. Furthermore, Trump’s thoughts may be on his own office and the opportunity to boost his votes among evangelical Christians, who generally support Israel as the Jewish state. Any genuine plan for peace must involve both Palestine and Israel and take into account the rights and lives of civilians: surely the key people we must protect. And a solution for the crisis is also one rooted in people. The conflict is not simply one of states but it is embedded on the microlevel in religion, identity and norms.
A resolution is only possible if attitudes change in the citizens of Israel, Palestine and the international community. Changes in power configuration indicate the possibility of progress: China and India obtain greater prominence on the world stage, and Europe and Russia, more directly affected by the instability than the US, are likely to play a greater role. The US is not likely to retain its free hand in the Middle East, and looking at the direction in which its foreign policy is headed, we may be glad of this development.
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