- With West Asia Peace plan the US plans to revive the stalled two-state talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
- Israel has consistently been encroaching more and more in the West Bank through its settlements.
- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who had earlier spoken against the two-state solution, has accepted the Trump plan.
- After World War I, both West Bank and the Gaza Strip became part of British-mandated Palestine.
- But by the end of World War II, there was a strong demand from Jews fleeing Nazi Europe for a homeland within Palestine, an Arab-dominated region.
- It also had to do with Jerusalem, considered a holy city by the Jews, which was inside British-mandated Palestine.
- When the British mandate ended in 1947, the UN proposed an Arab-Jewish partition of Palestine — between Palestine and the new state of Israel.
- This partition plan mandated 53 per cent of the land to the Jewish-majority state (Israel) and 47 per cent to the Palestinian-majority state (Palestine).
Birth of Israel
- The idea of creating a new-Jewish majority state didn’t bode well for the Arab countries in the Middle East.
- Jewish paramilitary groups, however, formed the state of Israel by force in 1948.
Shrinking of Palestine
- This prompted a deadly war with its Arab neighbours — Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan in 1948. This was the first Arab-Israeli war.
- Israel won this war and ended up occupying more land than previously envisaged in the 1947 UN partition plan.
- By the end of the war in 1949, Israel had taken up 78 per cent of what was supposed to be original Palestine. The Palestinian territory shrank to 22 per cent of what it had earlier been.
- Meanwhile, the West Bank and East Jerusalem came under Jordan’s rule while West Jerusalem went to Israel. The Gaza Strip was under Egyptian military rule after the 1949 war.
Six-Day War of 1967
- In 1967, the Arab countries again refused to recognise Israel as a state, which led to another war — known as the Six-Day War.
- Israel won this war too and occupied even more parts of Palestine.
- The West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — which houses the holy Old City — came under Israel’s control. It also occupied Syrian Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
- With the exception of the Sinai Peninsula, all other parts remain occupied by Israel till date.
- Since 1967, a large part of the Palestinian population had been living under Israeli-occupied territories in both West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The core of the dispute: West Bank & Gaza Strip
- The West Bank is located to the west of the Jordan River.
- It is a landlocked territory, bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the south, west and north.
- Following the Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during the 1990s, part of the West Bank came under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
- With varying levels of autonomy, the Palestinian Authority controls close to 40 per cent of West Bank today, while the rest is controlled by Israel.
- The Gaza Strip is a small boot-shaped territory along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel.
- A couple of years later in 2007, Hamas, an anti-Israel military group, took over Gaza Strip. The militia group is often involved in violent clashes with the Israeli Defence Forces.
- While Palestine has staked claim to both territories — West Bank and Gaza Strip — Israel’s objective has been to keep expanding Jewish settlements in these regions.
Both the West Bank and Gaza Strip are home to a large number of Palestinian populations. There are approximately 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and 3 million in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Population Registry.
The West Asia Peace Plan
- The plan unveiled by Trump seeks to give the Israelis what they have long wanted — an expansive state with Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and tight security control over a future Palestinian state.
- The Trump Plan is a 180-page document called “Peace for Prosperity”.
- The plan seeks to address most of the contentious issues in the conflict such as the border of Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements on the West Bank, land swap between Israel and Palestine, Israel’s security concerns and the status of the city of Jerusalem.
Takeaways of the Plan
The creation of a “Palestinian state” must meet a set of basic conditions where Palestinian leaders must:
- accept peace by recognizing Israel as a Jewish national state
- thus, Arabs with Israeli citizenship will receive the status of a national minority in Palestine, in their homeland
- reject “terrorism” in all its forms (“In order to achieve a comprehensive peace, the Palestinian people must clearly state that they reject the ideology of destruction, terror and conflict”)
- reach agreements that relate to the “vital” needs of Israel and the region
- create effective institutions and choose pragmatic solutions; “pragmatic decisions” refers primarily to peace with Israel under Israeli conditions
1) Jerusalem: The undivided Capital
- Jerusalem, perhaps the most contentious issue, would be “the undivided capital” of Israel, with Palestine gaining its capital in the east of the city — beyond the security border Israel has already built.
- In return, Israel would freeze further settlement activities on the West Bank for four years — the time for negotiations.
2) Land Swap
- According to the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was divided into three areas and only one of them is under the direct control of the Palestinian Authority.
- The plan proposes some land swap for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements.
- It seeks to enlarge Gaza and connect the strip with the West Bank through a tunnel.
- The Arab towns in the southeast of Israel, which are close to Gaza, could become part of a future Palestinian state.
3) Curb on Hamas
- During this period, the Palestinian Authority should dismiss its current complaints at the International Criminal Court against Israel and refrain itself from taking further actions.
- It should also crackdown on “terrorist” groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
4) Investment Plans
- The US has also proposed $50 billion in investment over 10 years should Palestine accept the proposals.
- In the final settlement, Palestine would get control over more land than what it currently controls.
5) Security restrictions
- Following the signing of the agreement, the State of Israel will maintain responsibility for Palestinian security.
- The State of Israel will be responsible for the security of all international crossings of the Palestinian State.
- The Palestinian state must be completely demilitarized.
- A Palestinian state will be prohibited from entering into military, intelligence or security agreements with any state or organization that the State of Israel views negatively in terms of its security.
End of the Palestinian aspirations
- The US has proposed to almost all of these issues favour the Israeli positions.
- For example, Israel would be allowed to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley.
- The Palestinian refugees, who were forced out from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in historic Palestine, would not be allowed to return.
- They could move to the future Palestinian state, be integrated into the host countries or settled in other regional countries.
Implications for Palestine
- The Palestine position is backed by most of the world powers is the formation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state based on the 1967 border.
- But the US has effectively rejected the Palestinian claims outright and asked them to make more compromises.
- And for this, the Palestinians should take action against militant groups, stop supporting Palestinian families of those jailed or killed by Israel and refrain it from questioning the occupation in international fora.
- As a result, from all of the above, it is clear why the Palestinians are not ready to accept such a “limited sovereignty” version of the Palestinian state.
- India has since long been maintaining that Israel-Palestine conflict should be resolved through negotiation resulting in sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
- India has urged both countries to “engage with each other, including on the recent proposals put forward by the United States, and find an acceptable two-state solution for peaceful coexistence”.
- The plan re-iterates the ideals of US fondness of Israel. It is no way a negotiation but a dictation of the vested US interest to control the Arab region.
- The consequences of America’s poor understanding of West Asia geopolitics are there to see in Iraq and Libya, among other states in the region.
- Netanyahu needs the plan now because the one-sided, all-out-for-Israel US vision will divert attention from a corruption indictment that was filed against him in court a few days ago.
- Call upon the international community to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel in order to stop the “ongoing catastrophe”.
- The situation in Palestine is not a conflict but a struggle against settler colonialism. Not unlike the struggle against Apartheid South Africa.
- It is a travesty of truth that the influential and all-pervasive pro-Israel lobby has stayed silent on this plan of U.S.
- Land grabbing with force has been a fundamental element of Israel’s approach towards the Palestinians.
- It is time for international actors who care about the situation of the Palestinians and start pushing for the latter solution.
- The world at large needs to come together for a peaceful resolution to ensure a viable and long-lasting solution to solve this issue.
- However, with the reluctance of the Israeli government and the US involved in this issue, it may not be possible in the near future.
- Pressure from the outside, a continued popular struggle from the inside and a clear Palestinian vision for the future can turn this vision into reality.