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U.S new Middle East Peace Plan and its implications for regional security

Conflicts between Israel and Palestine have persisted for many decades. Various peace processes have been initiated by politicians and diplomats but failed. Recently, the U.S has started a new “version” of the Middle East Peace plan with the hope that it will settle the disagreements and open up a bright future. However, the plan is said to drive the two countries into further crisis.

Unsettled bottlenecks

In 1917, after winning the war with Turkey, British Empire occupied the Middle East, including the region of Palestine and made the Balfour Declaration, promising to support the establishment of the Jewish State on this land (consisting of the entire territories of present Israel and Palestine). This has triggered the Zionism movement as the Jews began to repatriate from all over the world. Concerning about the return of the Jews, since 1920, the Arabs began to launch attacks, starting the prolonged conflicts between the two races.

With an attempt to curb the bloody conflicts, in 1947, the UN passed the Resolution 181 calling for the partition of Palestine into Jewish State (accounting for 56% of land) and Arab State (accounting for 43%). Jerusalem, the holy land of the three big religions, namely: Jew, Muslim, and Christianity, was put under a special international supervision. However, the UN judgment didn’t please the Arabs as in their reasoning; the Jews are the late comers but enjoyed larger territory. After Britain’s withdrawal from the region on 14 May 1948 and the Jew Provisional State Council declared the Israeli Independent State, the Arabs living in the Palestine region and in other Arabs states began to start wars and other medium and small-scaled conflicts to demand for equality. However, these wars and conflicts just made it easy for Israel, with the U.S support, to widen their occupied land. After the 6-day war in 1967, Israel widened their territory to more than 7,000 square km, including a vast land on Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and despite international opposition, they declared Jerusalem as their forever capital in 1980.

After a number of conflicts, in 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat declared the independence of the Palestine State which was soon recognized by the international community. Yet, it was hard for Palestine to define their territory. In their Declaration of Independence, the Palestine State did not mention their territory as defined by the UN in 1947 or the remaining land after the war with Israel in 1967. Palestine State also declared Jerusalem as their capital although at that time the city was totally under Israel’s control. This is the reason why Israel, the U.S and their allies didn’t accept the existence of the Palestine State.

Peace process might be most successful in the 1990s. After the first Gulf War, Israel recognizes PLO as the legitimate representative for Palestinian people while Yasser Arafat accepted the existence of Israel. On 13 September 1993, the two sides signed an agreement on the limited autonomy of Palestinian people in the West Bank of Gaza Strip. 5 years later, on 23 October 1998, in the mediation of the then U.S President, B. Clinton, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a  “land-for-peace” agreement known as the Wye River Memorandum. Accordingly, Israel would withdraw 60% of its troops out of Gaza (not including the residential areas of the Jews and nearby areas) and Jericho town in the West Bank which had been occupied by Israel in the 6-day War. In return, Palestine recognized the existence of Israel, accepted to counter terrorism and prevent violence. Nevertheless, controversy over the ownership of Jerusalem remained a big barrier to the hatred of the two sides despite President George Bush’s effort to initiate the Middle East Peace Plan in 2003. As a consequence of the failures of the peace process, Palestine’s violence waves against Israel escalated while Israel strengthened suppression of Palestinian people and widened the residential areas of the Jew in the occupied land, driving the “century conflict” in the Middle East into deadlock.

Palestinian people protesting against the U.S new Peace Plan (Photo: AFP)

U.S adding fuel to the fire

Inheriting the mission of predecessors, upon his presidency in 2017, President Donald Trump assigned Jared Kushner – the White House senior adviser, Jason Greenblatt – President’s special envoy for Middle East Peace and David Friedman – US Ambassador to Israel, to design the new Middle East Peace Plan called “Deal of the Century”. Contrary to the expectation of the international opinion, Washington’s new plan is said to be a “death bell” for the Middle East peace. According to analysts, the plan is nipped in the bud because its designers didn’t focus on settling the key issues in the Israel – Palestine conflict, namely: the foundation of the two states Palestine and Israel, and that instead of seeking political solution they tried to approach the matter from economic aspect.

To defend for their position, on 25 June 2019, U.S kicked off the first phase of the Plan with Bahrain Economic Conference entitled “Peace to Prosperity”. The Plan is aimed for four main goals, including: doubling Palestinian’s GDP; creating over 1 million jobs; reducing unemployment and poverty rates for Palestinian people. The White House senior advisor said that to implement the Plan, according to prediction, donors and investors will contribute an amount of about USD 50 billion in a time span of 10 years.  In particular, USD 28 billion will be allocated for Palestine’s territories, including West Bank (occupied by Israel) and Gaza, 7 billion for Jordan, 9 billion for Egypt and 6 billion for Lebanon. Beside, among the 179 business and infrastructure projects planned, there is a transportation corridor project worth at USD 5 billion connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

However, the conference was severely objected by Palestinian Authority that strongly supports for a political solution. In addition, the leaked documents of the US Department of State reveal that Washington is in favor of Israel. According to the information quoted on some major newspapers in the Middle East, the Plan would include three parties, including: Israel, PLO, and the Islamic Movement of Hamas. State of Palestine will be called the “New Palestine” and founded in the West Bank and Gaza excluding the residential areas of the Jew. Jerusalem will not be divided but shared by both Israel and “New Palestine” as a common capital under Israel’s control. Notably, the draft plan said that the “New Palestine” would not maintain its military but only police – the only force being lightly armed. Instead, the “New Palestine” will sign a defence agreement with Israel and put itself under Israel’s security umbrella. When the agreement is signed, Hamas will be disarmed. All of its weapon will be submitted to Egypt. Its leader will be compensated and paid monthly salary by Arab states. The U.S will cut all financial support to any sides attempting to deny or violate the agreement, etc.

According to analysts, through the plan, the U.S wants to combine peace, development with the recognition of Arab states of Israel. Palestine is forced to accept the status quo of “autonomy” instead of “sovereignty” which they have long been fighting for. As such, Washington is approaching the issue in favor of their interest and their strategic ally. This is understandable when three architects of the Plan are Jew originated and have close relations with Israel. In particular, David Friedman and Jared Kushner for many years, through their family charity, have called for donation for the Jew’s inhabitation in the West Bank. Jason Greenblatt used to study in a Jew school located in a neighbourhood near Jerusalem in the 1980s. Besides, in August 2018, in an attempt to force Palestine to accept the plan, U.S cut all its support for The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and cut off nearly USD 200 million for humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mentioning Washington’s moves, recently Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said: U.S is probably proposing a plan aiming at Palestine’s surrender not a peace plan; all proposals made by the U.S show that Washington doesn’t care for the legitimate rights of Palestinian people as well as international laws and consensus.

Meanwhile, the UN has long backed for the “two-state solution" in which Israel has to withdraw from the land they have occupied illegally. If this matter is not solved, there would be no solution for the conflict between Israel and Palestine. U.N Secretary General Antonio Guterres doesn’t hesitate to say that the important thing in the Middle East process is to promote peaceful effort toward “two-state solution". In other words, financial support and economic backup for Palestine’s revival and development belong to the latter phase of the process.

The “Deal for the Century” is doomed from the start and hard to make any breakthrough for the Middle East peace process. It isn’t built on the balance of interest of the involved parties but aims at the calculations of the U.S and its ally and may trigger a new crisis in a region of instabilities. Let conclude with the words of William J.Burns, President of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former U.S Deputy Secretary of State: the White House’s announcement of the “Deal of the Century” will be a eulogy for the “two-state solution" that international community has pursued.

Quynh Duong – Le Huu Tuyen


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