What to expect from Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Palestinian demonstrators burn a crossed-out poster depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and reading: "no for Deal of the Century" during a protest against Bahrain's workshop for U.S. Middle East peace plan, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)

The Trump administration is announcing parts of its much-anticipated Middle East peace plan at 17:00 GMT (21:00 Dubai time) today.

Dubbed by the administration as the “deal of the century,” the plan aims to provide a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The economic side of the plan was revealed back in June 2019, but greeted with widespread disappointment by Palestinians.

The plan is widely seen as pro-Israel. US President Donald Trump invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz to Washington for talks ahead of the reveal.

Analysts told Al Arabiya English that the plan is likely to favor Israel on all the key issues, including settlements, the right of return, and the status of Jerusalem – a plan that is likely to be rejected by Palestinians.

An exclusive source also added that the plan is likely to include a two-state solution, creating a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

But what is the two-state solution, and will it be in the plan? What else should we expect from the peace plan announcement later? And are the plans feasible?

Here is an explainer addressing all you need to know.

The “deal of the century”

US President Donald Trump has promoted the so-called “deal of the century” in his attempt to solve the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

The economic side of the deal was announced back in June 2019. The “Peace to Prosperity workshop” presented in Bahrain was led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt.

While the conference set out to address economic growth, human capital, and governance, no concrete progress came from the workshop as the conference failed to garner support from Israel and Palestinians.

While Israel sent business men and journalists, no formal delegation attended.

In response to the event, senior Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said in a statement that Palestinians’ “full economic potential can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation, respecting international law and UN resolutions.”

What will be announced today?

President Trump is set to announce the political side of the deal today.

Details of the plan remain scant, with available information based on leaks.

According to Ryan Bohl, Middle East and North Africa analyst at Stratfor, the plan is likely to be 60 pages long – and will favor Israel, authorize Israel to build settlements, and allow Israel to annex the Jordan River – assuming the leaks are correct.

On the key issues, Bohl said it is likely that the plan will endorse Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, state that 70 percent of the West Bank will remain under Palestinian Authority control, and deny Palestinian refugees the right to return.

Previously, the right of return was set to be decided through negotiation but it is likely the Trump administration will make a unilateral decision on the issue, added Bohl.

An exclusive source familiar with the plan told Al Arabiya that the plan will remain committed to the two-state solution, at least in name. The plan will also maintain the current and special status of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem under the supervision of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, according to the source.

Although the two-state solution has long been advocated by the UN and most of the international community, recent moves by the Israeli government and the Trump administration have been seen as putting it under threat.

Since Trump came to office in 2016, the US has made significant moves in favor of the Israelis, noticeably moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory, contrary to international law, and cutting off nearly a quarter billion dollars in aid to Palestinians.

“I don’t think that the plan will be along the lines of a two-state solution. I think it will be even further capitulation for the Palestinian people. I don’t think Palestinian sovereignty or statehood along the borders of the 1967 armistice lines is in the cards at all,” said Dr. Yara Hawari, senior policy fellow at al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

What are the chances of the peace plan succeeding?

Trump said on Tuesday that he is still optimistic for the plan, despite Palestinian leaders rejecting it before it had even been published.

“We’re going to show a plan. It’s been worked on by everybody, and we’ll see whether or not it catches hold. If it does that would be great, and if it doesn’t, we can live with it too. But I think it might have a chance,” he said.

Israel’s Gantz also endorsed the plan and pledged to implement it should he succeed in his challenge to replace incumbent Netanyahu as prime minister.

“Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region.”

Given that Netanyahu is close to the Trump administration and has also voiced his support for the plan, the Israeli government is likely to attempt to implement it.

But the Palestinian leadership has already rejected the plan, and Palestinians are unlikely to accept what is seen by many as a capitulation.

“We reject it, and we demand the international community not be a partner to it because it contradicts the basics of international law and inalienable Palestinian rights,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, adding “It is nothing but a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.”

Without the consent of Palestinian leaders, it seems the plan would have to be imposed by Israel, unless there is a radical change in circumstances.

There are also different ways of measuring the plan’s success. Hawari said that as she expects the plan will be a continuation of developments which are already underway, such as the settlement project, it is likely to succeed – but not in a way that will be accepted by Palestinians.

What are the likely consequences?

If the Palestinians reject the peace plan as predicted, there is a chance there might be an uptick in violence in the region.
There have been sporadic violent incidents in the West Bank over recent years, which are unlikely to recede if a deal is imposed on the Palestinians.

Bohl said that while a massive intifada-style uprising is unlikely in the short-term, the Palestinian Authority will be challenged to find a new counter strategy, which could involve ending cooperation with Israelis on security. Security forces will also be on heightened alert for lone wolf attacks.

In the next Palestinian Authority elections, Hamas could also benefit from the backlash against the deal, which Israel would be prompted to counter in turn, added Bohl. Whether the current Palestinian Authority officials win the elections or not, they will likely be forced to end their status as a partner with Israel.

If the peace plan represents a continuation of the status quo as Hawari predicts, the key issues will remain unresolved for future generations.

Yet some Palestinians also admit that they have few other options than a settlement with Israel eventually.

“I think the Palestinian leadership don‘t have many cards to play, and they don‘t have many friends,” said Hawari, adding, “It’s difficult to see what will happen.”

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Last Update: 06:17 KSA 09:17 - GMT 06:17
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