By Elton Gomes
US President Donald Trump said that he would be unveiling a peace plan for the Middle East in the coming months and endorsed a two-state solution. Trump’s comments came despite his unconditional support for Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he remained confident that Palestinians would return to the peace talks despite this. Trump spoke of the peace plan ahead of attending a meeting with Netanyahu.
His comments were more declarative than he has previously been over the peace plan’s timing and nature—which his administration has been working on for nearly 20 months.
Trump said it was his “dream” to see a peaceful end to the 70-year conflict, and promised to come up with a peace deal in the next two to four months.
Peace talks between Israel and Palestine have been suspended since 2014, and successive US administrations have failed to push for any resolution to the conflict. However, speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Trump claimed that “a lot of progress had been made”.
What we know about the possible plan
In March, three senior officials said that the Trump administration was putting the finishing touches on the Middle East peace plan, and that Trump would release it soon, the New York Times reported.
The officials further said that the exact timing of the plan’s release was not confirmed. The White House suggested that Trump would soon reveal a detailed blueprint that was intended to help Israelis and Palestinians resolve any bottlenecks to an agreement, one of Trump’s senior aides said.
Trump’s aides described a multi-page document, with annexes, that proposes solutions to all primary disputes, namely borders, security, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem. The president saw the final destination as the “ultimate deal,” but many experts claim that the deal could be the ultimate lost cause.
Notably, that the aides who wrote the peace plan—Jared Kushner, Jason D. Greenblatt, and David M. Friedman—had no experience in diplomacy when they took up their jobs. Moreover, officials said that nobody outside the Trump administration has seen the document, though Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman were said to have met with Netanyahu, according to the New York Times.
What Trump said
On Wednesday, September 26, Trump said, “I would say, over the next two to three to four months,” the Independent reported. “I really believe something will happen. It is a dream of mine to be able to get that done prior to the end of my first term [in 2021],” he added.
Trump then confirmed that his son-in-law Kushner, who has been tasked to come up with a peace plan, was going to be “very fair with the Palestinians”. Trump then declared that he supported the two-state solution: “I think the two-state is more likely,” he said, according to the Independent.
How Netanyahu responded
The Israeli Prime Minster thanked Trump for his “extraordinary support”, but asserted that Israel must be able to retain security control of land west of Jordan, which includes the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu said, “I suggest you wait and see. It is important to set what is inadmissible to us: Israel will not relinquish security control west of Jordan. This will not happen so long as I am prime minister and I think the Americans understand that,” Haaretz reported.
What does Palestine think of Trump’s comments?
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said that Trump’s comments were extremely vague to indicate any real progress. He said that the American president needs to clarify whether a two-state solution would include a return to borders that preceded the 1967 Six-Day War, and that east Jerusalem is occupied and does not become a part of Israel.
“These are important statements that President Trump has to say in order just to convince anyone that he is committed to real peace in our region,” Maliki said, the Independent reported.
Making sense of Trump’s stance on the two-state solution
There has been some criticism of Trump’s confidence in his administration’s attempts to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. However, from the beginning, Trump’s statements have been unclear. His most recent statement only goes so far to add any clarity to his plan.
In his article for CNN, Oren Liebermann says Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition simply won’t hold negotiations with Palestinians. Highlight a strong US-Israeli bond, Israel’s powerful education minister Naftali Bennett said on social media: “The American President is a true friend of Israel. Together with this, it’s important to say that as long as the Jewish Home is in the government there will not be a Palestinian state established.”
Liebermann says that Trump’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shifted between being pro-Israel and very pro-Israel. In a notable departure from decades of US foreign policy, Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and fully supported Israel at the United Nations.
Furthermore, Trump cut more than $500 million in aid to the Palestinians and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency in charge of Palestinians. Trump also revoked the visas of the Palestinian representative to the US and his family, and closed the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.
Liebermann, in his article, says that the US President is “equally loved by Israelis and loathed by Palestinians,” and his endorsement of a two-state solution certainly comes as a surprise.
The Israel-Palestine conflict
Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land that is now controlled by Israel, refer to the territory as Palestine. Palestinians want to establish a state over the entire land or a part of it. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about who gets what land and how it’s controlled.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a huge issue in the region and around the world. Israel has fought multiple wars with each of its four neighbors, all of whom support the Palestinian cause. Israel now has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but its relations with Syria and Lebanon remain distressed. The other three most important states involved in the conflict are Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to remain distrustful of the Israel’s right-wing coalition government. On the other side, Netanyahu has been a critic of a two-state solution and many have questioned his commitment to the solution.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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