Standing next to the smiling Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, former President of US, Donald Trump announced a 181-page Middle East plan, dubbed as “the deal of the century,” to cheers and applause in January 2020. It was a cruel sham. Palestinian leaders were conspicuous by their absence from the launch, having pre-emptively rejected the proposal, citing flagrant bias. Anyway, no Palestinian leaders were consulted on Trump’s Middle East plan, nor were they invited to the launch.
The on-going Israeli-Palestinian military conflict has proved that Trump’s Middle East plan has joined the ranks of many failed deals of the century, starting with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The 181-page “deal of the century” essentially proposed:
- Redrawing the boundaries to incorporate the vast majority of illegal Israeli settlements in West Bank into Israeli territory and annexing the Jordan Valley;
- Recognizing “Al Quds” (Arabic name for Jerusalem) as the capital of a future State of Palestine while also, in contradiction, recognizing Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel;
- Requiring that the future State of Palestine to remain fully demilitarized; and
- Denying the internationally-recognized Right of Return to Palestinian refugees.
The city of Jerusalem is sacred to many religious traditions, including the Jewish religious movement of Judaism, Christianity and Islam which consider it a holy city. Since last week, the world has been witnessing a mayhem in the Middle-East, which stemmed from clashes at the most sensitive place in Jerusalem — the revered plateau site of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the iconic golden Dome of the Rock.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most neglected conflicts by the international community. After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, the British took control of the area known as Palestine. The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority. Tensions between the two peoples grew when the international community gave Britain, after World War II, the task of establishing a “national home” in Palestine for the persecuted Jewish people.
In 1947, the United Nations voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. This partition plan mandated 53% of the land to the Jewish-majority state (Israel) and 47% to the Palestinian-majority state (Palestine). That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side. After two deadly wars in 1948 and 1967 with its Arab neighbours, Israel had taken up 78% of the historical Palestine. Palestinian territory shrank to 22 per cent — consisting of Gaza Strip and some 40% of West Bank. In the last 50 years, the Israeli government has transferred between 600,000 and 750,000 Jewish Israelis to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in at least 160 settlements and outposts, as per some reports. In 2007, Hamas, an anti-Israel military group, took over Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority controls close to 40% of West Bank today.
The cycle of mutual terror and suffering must not be allowed to continue by the international community. Jews and Arabs living side by side can and would do better. For that to happen – both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities should have statesman-like leaders and there should be a non-partisan and honest mediation effort by the international community.
Benjamin Netanyahu is a hawkish leader, who de- facto rejects the UN-backed two-state solution, supports annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and shows discriminatory attitude towards Israeli Arabs. Mahmoud Abbas is a discredited figure who presides over the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is an oppressive, aggressive militant organization that depends on Qatar and Iran for military support, rejects Israel’s right to exist and evidently has no qualms about using its own people as human shields to advance its claim to Palestine’s leadership.
Both sides need fresh leaders, infused with a vision for peace. The United Nations needs to lead fresh international efforts in order to solve the long-standing conflict which has been consuming the lives of innocent people for more than seven decades.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
The author is an alumnus of IIM, Ahmedabad and a retired senior corporate professional.