Trump’s Middle East ‘peace plan’ will merely entrench division
Peace between Israel and Palestine can only be achieved through direct talks and compromise on both sides, writes Lord Collins
The long-standing policy of successive UK governments to seek a peace plan for the middle east based on a viable two-state solution now seems under threat, with Boris Johnson giving such a warm welcome to Donald Trump’s so called ‘Deal of the Century’. The 50-page plan – more appropriately labelled by Labor Knesset Member Itzik Shmuli as the “Fraud of the Century” – would eventually give the Palestinians a state consisting of just 75% of the West Bank – with fragmented bits of land joined by narrow corridors plus Gaza linked by a tunnel. Instead of East Jerusalem as their capital, they are being offered the suburban area of Abu Dis.
The plan has nothing in common with the Oslo accords and destroys any prospect of an independent, contiguous, state. It legitimises the illegal annexation of Palestinian land for settlers and puts the whole of Jerusalem under Israel’s control. As the leader of the Israeli Labor party, Amir Peretz has said: “Unilateral annexations or steps that undermine the concept of two states, living peacefully side by side is a recipe for further trouble and turmoil.”
Shmuli meanwhile, argued it would not “contribute to security, negates the important recognition of the two-state solution, rejects any chance to achieve separation and will bring about the fatal demand for a single state, which contradicts our national and security interests”. Even Benny Gantz, leader of the Israel Resilience Party – and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s main challenger in the upcoming election – has opposed immediate annexation. Welcoming Trump’s proposals, he also suggested that he would not act in the unilateral manner Netanyahu proposes but “in full coordination with the governments of the US, Jordan, Egypt, others in the region and the Palestinians”.
“To impose something on one of the parties cannot be the basis on which negotiations can begin”
UK Foreign Office Minister Andrew Murrison, in response to an Urgent Question on 30 January from Emily Thornberry, repeated official policy when he said the government wanted “to see a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as a shared capital and a proper settlement for refugees”. Despite these words of comfort, he went on to welcome Trump’s proposals as a possible route towards restarting peace talks. At PMQs, the day before, the prime minister told MPs that the deal had “the merit of a two-state solution”.
How Johnson or Murrison can suggest it will break the deadlock beggars belief. To impose something on one of the parties cannot be the basis on which negotiations can begin. Simply adding that they do not endorse the plan’s contents is not going to change what many will see, as Emily put it, a “shameful betrayal” of previous UK support for a viable two-state solution.
In rejecting the Trump proposal, the president of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas declared: “We say a thousand times: no, no and no to the ‘deal of the century’.”
Murrison’s hopes of a positive response from Arab nations also suffered a blow with the plan being rejected by both the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League. The latter said it did not “satisfy the minimum of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people” and reiterated support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which endorsed a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines – with East Jerusalem as its capital. A lasting sustainable peace will only be achieved through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians – and involving compromise and concessions on both sides. Trump’s plan clearly fails that test and far from breaking the deadlock will merely entrench opinions.
Lord Collins of Highbury is Shadow Foreign Office Minister. His short debate on the United States’ proposals for peace between Israelis and Palestinians is scheduled for Thursday 27 February