BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
President Trump unveiled in the White House on January 28 his long-awaited “peace plan” between Israelis and Palestinians. The architect of the plan is the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The “peace plan” had several drawbacks even before it was announced. To begin with, neither Trump nor his son-in-law had any clue about the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict. From the start of his Presidency, displaying his ignorance, Trump continuously said that this is an easy problem to resolve. His son-in-law, an Orthodox Jew, is just as ignorant about the conflict in the Middle East. If the problem was so easy to resolve, it would have been solved a long time ago.
Trump’s peace plan is nothing but a ploy to distract attention from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges, as well as Trump’s impeachment proceedings. A good faith mediator between Israelis and Palestinians must be objective and neutral. Trump is far from fulfilling this basic requirement, not after moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and announcing that Syria’s Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, is Israeli territory. These are matters of complicated international law and subject to extensive negotiations. These are the reasons why the conflict has not yet been solved. Only someone who is ignorant of these complexities would opine that this is an easy issue to resolve and come up with a plan that is completely one-sided and meets all of Israel’s demands, but none of Palestinians!
The proposed peace plan actually promotes neither the interests of Israelis nor Palestinians. The terms of Trump’s plan is dictated by Israel under the guise of preserving its security. It “legitimizes” the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and prolongs their existence. These settlements inside the borders of a future Palestinian state create a considerable risk to the security of Israeli settlers, continuing the conflict and bloodshed. The proposed Palestinian state is surrounded on all four sides by Israel maintaining total military control over Palestinians. Furthermore, the status of Jerusalem remains unresolved. Israel is supposed to take over the entirety of Jerusalem, restricting Palestine’s capital to a village in the outskirts of the city. This is totally unacceptable not only to Palestinians, but all Arabs and Muslims in the world, as well as all those who believe in peaceful settlement through international law.
Trump’s peace plan provides a window of four years for negotiations between the two parties. However, right at the bat, the plan places Palestinians in a losing situation depriving them of their sovereign rights in a weak and diminished area, as Israel will shortly declare the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as Israeli territory.
No Palestinian leader attended the January 28 White House ceremony. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the “deal of the century,” calling it the “slap of the century.” He also refused to accept the $50 billion investment plan offered by the White House. Abbas said, “Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale.” Out of 22 Arab States, only the Ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates attended the White House ceremony.
On February 1, the foreign ministers of the Arab League’s member states unanimously adopted a resolution rejecting the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, stating that “it does not satisfy the minimum of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
In a rare sign of unity, Abbas met last Tuesday with the leaders of Hamas, Palestine Liberation Organization and Islamic Jihad to form a common stand against Trump’s peace plan. If anything, this peace plan has served to unite the diverse and often conflicting Palestinian groups.
At the conclusion of the White House ceremony last week, Mosques in the West Bank and East Jerusalem began broadcasting a verse from the Koran that warns, “Do not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites.”
Twelve Democratic Senators signed a joint letter to the White House criticizing the peace plan as “one-sided [and] not a legitimate attempt to advance peace. It is a recipe for renewed division and conflict in the region.” All Democratic Presidential candidates objected to Trump’s peace plan, criticizing it as being a “unilateral move” leaving out the Palestinians. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter also denounced the peace plan, noting, “The unilateral annexation to Israel of a large piece of the occupied Palestinian territories offers the Palestinians fragmented statehood, without control of their borders…. The plan violates the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders….”
The peace plan is actually contrary to Israel’s national interests, according to many American Jews and Israelis who were harshly critical of Trump’s plan. Israel’s leaders do not seem to understand that the more they antagonize the Palestinians, the more they prolong the hostilities and continue to live under a state of war and terror!
“Peace Now,” Israel’s largest and longest-standing movement advocating for peace through public pressure, announced on its website that Trump’s peace plan “not only neglects to advance peace, but also has the potential to severely harm prospects for a genuine peace plan for both parties.”
The American Jewish liberal advocacy group “J Street” denounced the peace deal as having “zero chance of serving as the basis for renewed diplomacy…. It was the logical culmination of repeated bad-faith steps this administration has taken to validate the agenda of the Israeli right.”
The Jewish-led “Americans for Peace Now” declared the peace plan “a recipe for disaster, for annexation, for the perpetuation of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, for the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, [and] for misery and bloodshed.”
Trump’s peace plan will hopefully never see the light of day. Both Israelis and Palestinians should denounce violence and sit at the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution to their long-standing conflict. They should both avoid the intervention of mediators who are more interested in their own self-interests than the interests of Arabs or Israelis!