One month ago, the world was wondering if the new phase of the US-Iran conflict would lead to World War III. Three weeks ago, we were getting all worked up about Brexit. More recently, people in Poland, as well as our immediate European neighbours, have been wondering whether President Macron’s visit would revive the relationship between Paris and Warsaw. Finally, we have been pondering if a sort of post-Brexit afterthought would emerge. After all, the second biggest economy had just left the EU. And the Brits had never had their rule of law questioned. In the meantime, on January 28, President Trump stepped forward with his Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan.
This conflict has almost been forgotten for roughly a decade, despite its previous international spotlight. It was universally claimed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the source of all the troubles in the Middle East. Its roots, after all, are ancient. According to the Bible, the Holy Land was the Promised Land for the refugees fleeing Egyptian enslavement. On the other hand, the Arab side insists it had been inhabited long before Exodus.
The fact that the Middle East has bathed in blood for millennia, before the foundation of Israel in 1948, is far from common knowledge. A decade ago, the Arab Spring broke out. The developments in Tunisia, Egypt and the Civil War in Syria grabbed the world’s attention. Soon after, international public opinion rooted for the negotiating team that would be responsible for putting an end to Iran’s nuclear program. The world has also been captivated by the War on Terror and Islamic fundamentalism. The conflict with the Islamic State (ISIS) was the climax of the former and it originated from both the former and the latter. Europe was also struggling with an unprecedented wave of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been overshadowed by these developments. At some point, it even seemed like it was going to fall victim to a power struggle in the Muslim world with local contenders to the throne including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Ever since Donald Trump was elected President, information on Washington’s peace plans has been leaking out of the White House. It was also made clear that the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner oversaw its drafting.
After three years, on January 28, Trump announced his peace plan from the White House pulpit. It was no surprise that Benjamin Netanyahu was present at the conference. After all, they have been friends for decades and have attended each other’s family gatherings. Moreover, Trump has always been very straightforward about the security of Israel being one of America’s priorities.
He has never tried to be impartial about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The appointment of Jared Kushner, a Jewish-American, indicated which side’s interests would prevail.
There’s more to the conflict’s history than what can be said in a short piece but here’s what it was like in a nutshell. In 1947, the UN suggested the division of territory that formerly was the “British Mandate of Palestine”. Let me repeat that: the UN advocated for the creation of a new independent Palestinian (Arab) state, covering 40% of the territory. Israel accepted the proposal and proclaimed its statehood. Arab Palestine, however, rejected the proposal. The Arab world has been trying to destroy Israel ever since. No statehood was recognised, and terrorist activities were carried out in the open.
Following the death of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian side agreed to recognise Israel and accept a solution leading to the creation of a Palestinian state on the lands inhabited by Arabs in 1967. Diplomacy called it the “two-state solution.” It would grant Palestinians roughly 22% of Palestine and a capital in part of Jerusalem.
Israel has always feared the creation of a true Palestinian state. Despite that, it agreed to Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and a mostly autonomous Gaza Strip. Israel’s goal was to delay Palestine’s statehood and to limit its size as far as possible. After all, Israelites’ experience with granting Palestinians privileges has been rough.
Israel wants a peaceful solution. The ongoing conflict is not only about land. The means also matter. Palestinians wish to employ the 1947 or the 1967 model. To put it shortly, a great multinational conference that would grant them independence, guarantee border security and solve all their socio-economic problems.
Israel, on the other hand, fears this would lead to attempts to take back the entirety of the territory that comprised the British Mandate of Palestine. The negative experience of retreating from the Gaza Strip is the source of this sentiment. Abandoned farms and businesses were supposed to be taken over by Palestinians. Instead of a Mediterranean Hong Kong, an anti-Israeli military base emerged.
The latest American plan proposes that the Palestinians keep roughly 11% of the Palestinian territory. It would indeed come down to creating territorial enclaves in Israel. Enclaves separated from Jordan and the Egyptian border and connected by bridges and tunnels. Policy experts tend to compare them to the Bantustans. Americans and Israelites retort that solid investments will pay for peace and land in a way comparable to the Marshall Plan.
Trump’s solution was rejected by Palestinians and most of the Arab World. They described it as an electoral gambit from Netanyahu ahead of the upcoming March Parliamentary elections. The proposal was criticised as being extremely biased. If the peace plan was the sole basis for dialogue, it would most likely lead to another Palestinian uprising.
Still, it is the first new peace initiative in over a decade. It is solid and all the numbers add up as far as economic aspects go. Perhaps, it is finally time to talk and put an end to the so-called primary cause of all problems in the Middle East?