الطرق الصوفية أو سلاح تركيا السري
December 20, 2018
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December 28, 2018

Will Trump’s Ultimate Deal Resolve the Conflict?

President Trump’s Ultimate Deal, the supposed solution to the decades long intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, is allegedly already finalized and might be implemented in the early months of 2019. This rapid timeline has alerted leaders in the region that there may be some serious strides in a peace plan. However, with all of the details yet to be uncovered, all there is to do is wait. Trump has appointed his son in law, Jared Kushner, as the overseer of the plan. [1] However, the plan has faced considerable hurdles since the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy there.[2] The embassy move and the withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear Deal shows the connection between Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, as stronger than most US/Israel bilateral relationships, and subsequently has prompted a stark refusal by the Palestinians to take part in talks.[3]

Furthermore, the plan’s success greatly relies on support from the Arab world as well and recent tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which would be expected to play a key role in financially supporting the peace plan, have harmed the proposal’s prospects.[4] The key allies in the rest of the Arab world, notably Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS, the crown price of Saudi Arabia), are eager to collaborate with President Trump for a win in Palestine as a rebuke to Iran. Israel is seen to be collaborating with more Arab leaders following the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”[5]

The clearest sign of the deal so far is the September 2018 meeting at the United Nations. Trump explicitly stated his support of a two-state solution.[6] However, Trump has slashed aid to Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which directly aids Palestinian refugees. [7]  This move is seen as a sign that draws further unwillingness from the Arab world to cooperate. These financial cuts, in tandem with a massive reduction in USAID projects towards Palestine, have prompted Palestinian leaders to suspend contact with Trump’s administration. [8] It no longer considers the United States viable to play a mediation role in the peace process.[9] Furthermore, Trump’s administration closed the Washington DC offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) citing this refusal to engage in the negotiation process as the reasoning for the closure.[10]

Trump’s justification to the slashing of funds might be because the idea of squeezing its purse might force Palestinian leaders to the bargaining table with Israeli leaders.[11] Placing them under such dire financial strains, as the United States was the main source of funding for UNWRA, USAID, and some foreign aid, seems to be the current strategy Trump is championing. [12] However, the animosity against the United States and its subsequent peace negotiations has only grown, making the political situation for leaders in Palestine even less conducive to accepting any peace agreement.[13]

As the announcement of the details for the ‘deal of the century’ looms, Russia seems to be interested in taking part of the process inviting Palestinian Authority leaders to Moscow to discuss the peace process as well as reconfirming its offer to be a neutral host between Israeli and Palestinian leaders without any preconditions.[14] Israel’s relationship with Russia is tense and prefers the United States to mediate the conflict, while Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the State of Palestine, has publicly and repeatedly stated his intent to boycott this process due to the embassy relocation, and thus may welcome Russian involvement in the peace process.[15]

The European Union, as well, is gravely concerns with the humanitarian consequences of the United States’ measures. The bloc has an unprecedented opportunity to define its own strategy in the region, as the animosity against Trump’s administration increases from the Palestinian side. It can deploy its economic leverage to foster peace between the two major Palestinian parties while attempting to assuage the grave humanitarian concerns around infrastructure, water, healthcare, and education.[16]

Under the current circumstances, it seems that no deal will suffice the enraged Palestinian leadership as the funding, embassy, and arms sales continue to put them at a disadvantage at the negotiation table. Unless Israel makes massive and unexpected concessions or this ultimate deal turns out to be truly non-biased, so far it seems very likely that this deal will favor the Israeli side as Trump’s administration prior to the announcement has made it clear that several key Israeli priorities are in congruence with his policies.[17] Since Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, the Trump administration has cracked down hard on the Palestinian front from selecting a divisive US Ambassador to Israel, moving the embassy, slashing funding for refugees, governance, health, and education, and closing the PLO Mission in Washington DC.[18]  These decisions display a consistent policy of ignoring Palestinian needs and concerns.[19]

Recent leaks on the details of the plan heavily favor the Israeli stance. The details include the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders on half of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, without Jerusalem, and with only humanitarian solutions to the refugee issue. The plan, moreover, calls for “building a new Jerusalem for the Palestinians from the city’s surrounding villages” and also keeps Palestinian security and borders in the hands of Israel.[20] These details are decisively antithetical to Palestinian demands, and yet it seems to be suggested that Kushner will go ahead with parts of the deal regardless if they do not sit at the table.[21] This could mean a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, which in itself is a key sticking point to the negotiations.[22]

Trump’s administration seems to be clearly pro-Israel given all of the recent moves it has made against the Palestinian leadership, but their goal of forcing Palestine into submission for the negotiation table has already begun to backfire. Mahmoud Abbas’ boycott and the worsening tensions in the region have created the opposite effect as Palestinians have begun to reject any notion that this deal will be fair and representative of their desires. The mistakes of past failed peace deals must not be repeated if the Trump administration truly wants to make the deal of the century. However, until the details are shared, it seems that the United States is following the same path of a non-solution to the Middle East’s longest conflict.

 

[1] Levingston, Ivan. 2018. “Israel’s UN Envoy Sees Trump Mideast Deal Emerging in Early 2019.” Bloomberg.com, November 27, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-27/israel-s-un-envoy-sees-trump-mideast-deal-emerging-in-early-2019.

[2] Manchester, Julia. 2018. “Kuwaiti Ambassador Says He Is ‘Optimistic’ about Mideast Peace Plan.” TheHill, November 28, 2018. https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/418636-kuwaiti-ambassador-says-he-is-optimistic-about-mideast-peace-plan.

[3] Sommerlad, Joe. 2018. “Two-State Solution: What Is the Answer to the Israel-Palestine Conflict Donald Trump Allegedly Favours?” The Independent, September 28, 2018.  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/two-state-solution-what-is-israel-palestine-trump-middle-east-peace-deal-west-bank-a8559241.html.

[4] Wainer, David, and Nick Wadhams. 2018. “Trump’s Middle East Plan Dealt Another Blow With Israel Turmoil.” Bloomberg.com, November 15, 2018.  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-15/trump-s-middle-east-plan-dealt-another-blow-with-israel-turmoil.

[5] Sommerlad, Joe. 2018. “Two-State Solution: What Is the Answer to the Israel-Palestine Conflict Donald Trump Allegedly Favours?”

[6] Reuters. 2018. “Trump Explicitly Backs Independent Palestinian State for 1st Time.” NBC News, September 26, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/trump-explicitly-backs-two-state-solution-palestinian-israeli-conflict-n913261.

[7] France-Presse, Agence. 2018. “Donald Trump Cuts More than $200m in Aid to Palestinians.” The Guardian, August 25, 2018, sec. US news. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/25/donald-trump-cuts-more-than-200m-in-aid-to-palestinians.

[8] Ibid

[9] TOI Staff. 2018. “Palestinians Reject Trump Bid to Force Talks through Aid Cut.” The Times of Israel, September 8, 2018. https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinians-reject-trump-bid-to-force-talks-through-aid-cut/.

[10] BBC. 2018. “US to Close PLO Mission in Washington.” BBC News, September 10, 2018, sec. Middle East. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-45471420.

[11] Maza, Cristina. 2018. “Donald Trump Offers Palestinians $5 Billion in Aid to Negotiate with Israel, Report Reveals.” Newsweek, September 13, 2018. https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-offers-palestinians-5-billion-aid-negotiate-israel-report-1120364.

[12] Doumar, Karim. 2018. “How Trump’s Palestinian Aid Cuts Hurt Cities Most.” CityLab, October 24, 2018. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/10/cities-will-bear-the-brunt-of-trumps-aid-cuts-to-palestine/573340/.

[13] Zilber, Neri. 2018. “Trump Wants to Help Israel by Cutting Aid to Palestinians. Why Are Some Israelis Worried?” Foreign Policy, August 29, 2018. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/29/unrwa-israel-palestine-trump-zilber/.

[14] TOI Staff. 2018. “Russia Offers to Mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.” The Times of Israel, November 23, 2018. https://www.timesofisrael.com/russia-offers-to-mediate-between-israel-and-the-palestinians/.

[15] Makovsky, David. 2018. “So Much Winning: Why Mahmoud Abbas Thinks He’s Beating Trump – and Israel.” Haaretz, October 14, 2018. https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-so-much-winning-why-mahmoud-abbas-thinks-he-s-beating-trump-and-israel-1.6553232.

[16] Oppenheim, Beth. 2018. “‘As the Situation in Gaza Worsens, It’s Time for the EU to Step in – Trump Has Proven the US Can’t Help Any More’.” The Independent, November 13, 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/palestine-israel-gaza-strip-war-ceasefire-eu-donald-trump-us-jerusalem-embassy-a8632031.html.

[17] Ashrawi, Hanan. 2018. “The ‘ultimate Deal’? For Israel, Maybe. We Palestinians Will Never Accept It.” The Guardian, July 19, 2018.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/19/ultimate-deal-israel-palestine-peace-middle-east.

[18] Gideon, Kobi. 2018. “Trump and the Palestinians: A Timeline.” Al Jazeera, September 18, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/trump-palestinians-timeline-180910164949522.html.

[19] Ross, Dennis, and David Makovsky. 2018. “If Trump Wants the Ultimate Deal, He Must Not Repeat These Mistakes.” Foreign Policy, October 2, 2018.  https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/02/if-trump-wants-the-ultimate-deal-he-must-avoid-these-mistakes-middle-east-peace-israeli-palestinian-netanyahu-abbas-clinton-bush/.

[20] Persson, Anders. 2018. “What Will Trump’s ‘Ultimate Deal’ Mean for Palestinians?” Al Jazeera, March 28, 2018. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-ultimate-deal-palestinians-180327082942844.html.

[21] Entous, Adam. 2018. “Donald Trump’s New World Order | The New Yorker.” The New Yorker, June 18, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/06/18/donald-trumps-new-world-order.

[22] Cohen, Gili. 2014. “Top Israeli Think Tank: If Talks Fail, Israel Should Withdraw From 85% of West Bank.” Haaretz, January 28, 2014. https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-if-talks-fail-quit-85-of-west-bank-1.5316066.

Benjamin Lutz
Benjamin Lutz
Benjamin Lutz is a recent graduate from Elon University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in International & Global Studies and Political Science where he concentrated on the Middle East, Peace Studies, and Inter-religious Studies. He is currently enrolled at the University of Bradford for a Master’s of Arts in Middle East Security and Peace and Conflict Studies, after which he plans to permanently move to the Middle East to conduct internal and regional peace diplomacy. His interests in Middle East diplomacy began with an eight-year-long engagement with Model United Nations and Model Arab League. He previously worked as a Research Intern at Generations for Peace, a youth-diplomacy peace-oriented NGO located in Amman, Jordan. You can reach him at blutz3[email protected]