Devil’s in the Details: President Trump’s ‘Vision’ for Mideast Peace
While Israel has accepted to negotiate based on the proposal’s contours, the Palestinian Authority has officially rejected the framework
US President Donald Trump on Tuesday unveiled his long-delayed Middle East peace plan, which envisions Israel maintaining sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem and the application thereof to large swaths of the West Bank. The plan, while calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, conditions this eventuality on the disarmament of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
President Trump, flanked by Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, hailed the proposal as the “most serious, realistic and detailed plan ever presented, one that could make Israelis, Palestinians and the region safer and more prosperous.”
He affirmed that “today Israel takes a big step for peace,” while emphasizing that “peace requires compromise but we will never allow Israel’s security to be comprised.”
Amid strained ties with the Palestinian Authority, President Trump extended an olive branch, expressing sadness over his perception that Palestinians had been “trapped in a cycle of violence for far too long.” Despite the PA’s repeated denunciations of a proposal its top brass had not seen, President Trump insisted that the massive document offered a “win-win opportunity” that provided “precise technical solutions” for ending the conflict.
In this regard, the plan itself calls for “maintenance of Israeli security responsibility [in a future Palestinian state] and Israeli control of the airspace west of the Jordan River.”
A reasonable solution, the proposal suggests, “would give the Palestinians all the power to govern themselves but not the powers to threaten Israel.”
For his part, Netanyahu vowed to “negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis on your [President Trump’s] peace plan.” This, despite the Israeli leader facing a strong backlash from his right-wing political allies who vehemently reject, on principle, the notion of Palestinian statehood.
“You [President Trump] are the first US leader to recognize the importance of areas in Judea and Samaria [the biblical terms for the areas encompassing the West Bank] vital to Israel’s national security,” Netanyahu added.
Specifically, he highlighted that the peace plan calls for the eventual application of Israeli sovereignty to “all” Jewish communities in the West Bank, as well as to the strategic Jordan Valley, which is viewed by Israel’s political and defense establishments as essential to ensuring the country’s long-term security.
The peace plan “contemplates a Palestinian state that encompasses territory reasonably comparable in size to the territory of the West Bank and Gaza pre-1967.”
That is, prior to Israel’s capture of those regions from Jordan and Egypt, respectively.
Netanyahu left no room for interpretation in announcing that his cabinet would vote on Sunday on annexing all “areas that [the peace] plan designates as part of Israel and which the United States has agreed to recognize as part of Israel.”
The Israeli prime minister also stressed that the plan requires the Palestinian refugee problem be solved outside of Israel, and the declaration that “Jerusalem would remain the united capital of Israel.”
Nevertheless, the peace plan envisions as the future capital of a Palestinian state “the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier [and beyond the current municipal boundary], including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine.”
In fact, the proposal includes a map delineating the full prospective border between Israel and a Palestinian state. While President Trump vowed that the areas allocated to the PA would remain “undeveloped,” restricting Israel from expanding existing Jewish communities in the West Bank for at least four years, he qualified that “recognition [would be] immediately achieved” over those areas meant to remain under Israeli control.
“Peace should not demand the uprooting of people – Arab or Jew – from their homes,” the peace plan states, as “such a construct, which is more likely to lead to civil unrest, runs counter to the idea of coexistence.
“Approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory,” it continues, “and approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory.”
With respect to Gaza, the US “Vision … provides for the possibility of allocating for the Palestinians Israeli territory close to Gaza within which infrastructure may be rapidly built to address … pressing humanitarian needs, and which will eventually enable the building of thriving Palestinian cities and towns that will help the people of Gaza flourish.”
The peace plan calls for the restoration of the PA’s control over the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Regarding the regional dimensions, both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu on Tuesday underscored the significance of the presence at the White House of ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
Indeed, the proposal makes clear that the Trump Administration “believe[s] that if more Muslim and Arab countries normalize relations with Israel it will help advance a just and fair resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and prevent radicals from using this conflict to destabilize the region.”
Moreover, the plan calls for the establishment of a regional security committee that would review counter-terrorism policies and foster intelligence cooperation. The plan invites representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to join alongside Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.
The giant elephant in the room before Tuesday was that there would be no Palestinian representation at the White House. However, despite repeated appeals to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the peace plan heavily criticizes the Palestinian leadership.
“Gaza and the West Bank are politically divided,” the document notes. “Gaza is run by Hamas, a terror organization that has fired thousands of rockets at Israel and murdered hundreds of Israelis. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is plagued by failed institutions and endemic corruption. Its laws incentivize terrorism and Palestinian Authority-controlled media and schools promote a culture of incitement.
“It is because of the lack of accountability and bad governance that billions of dollars have been squandered and investment is unable to flow into these areas to allow the Palestinians to thrive. The Palestinians deserve a better future and this Vision can help them achieve that future.”
Prior to Tuesday, most agreed that it would be a tall task to get Palestinian officials back to the negotiating table. Now, coupled with the PA’s call for mass protests in the West Bank, analysts have near-uniformly declared the “Deal of the Century,” as the US plan has been dubbed, dead on arrival in the eyes of Ramallah.
Nevertheless, President Trump seemed content speaking directly to the Palestinian people.
Central to his proposal is raising $50 billion in investment funds – to be split nearly evenly between the PA and regional Arab governments – that would be used to provide Palestinians with economic opportunities.
“By developing property and contract rights, the rule of law, anti-corruption measures, capital markets, a pro-growth tax structure, and a low-tariff scheme with reduced trade barriers, this initiative envisions policy reforms coupled with infrastructure investments that will improve the business environment and stimulate private-sector growth,” the peace plan states.
“Hospitals, schools, homes and businesses will secure reliable access to affordable electricity, clean water and digital services,” it promises.
The plan’s “Vision” may be best encapsulated by one of the first paragraphs of its introduction, which invokes the last parliamentary speech of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, “who signed the Oslo Accords and who in 1995 gave his life to the cause of peace.
“He envisioned Jerusalem remaining united under Israeli rule, the portions of the West Bank with large Jewish populations and the Jordan Valley being incorporated into Israel, and the remainder of the West Bank, along with Gaza, becoming subject to Palestinian civil autonomy in what he said would be something ‘less than a state.’
“Rabin’s vision,” the proposal continues, “was the basis upon which the Knesset [Israeli Parliament] approved the Oslo Accords, and it was not rejected by the Palestinian leadership at the time.”
In short, the US is seemingly turning to a past vision in hopes of building a better, albeit unlikely, future.
The full contents of the peace plan can be viewed here.