The Trump administration on Israel and Palestine: is it a new peace plan?

We live in troubled and troubling times. Though we can, if we look, find reasons for optimism, many indicators are pointing in the wrong direction – more armed conflicts, more military spending, more arms trading. Worse, this unfolds against a seriously concerning background of long-term trends: increasingly toxic geopolitics, the crumbling of arms control and the climate crisis. The doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved 20 seconds closer to midnight; it has never been closer.

Amid the gloom, would it not be a welcome relief for a new peace vision for the Middle East to be launched, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and open the door to a new possibility of political and social progress in the region?

Yes it would. But…

My colleagues at SIPRI put me on the spot a few days back with questions about the new US initiative on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Trump administration’s peace plan, entitled Peace to Prosperity, described as “President Trump’s vision for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians”, was launched on 28 January. Here is what I  think about it. If you want what I say summed up in two words, it would be, “Not new.”

This is the kind of thing on which I would dearly love to be proven wrong.

Analytically, I see no mileage in this proposal. Virtually everything in it has already been rejected more than once by all credible Palestinian groups (that is to say, all Palestinian groups with political credibility in Palestine). One can hope that it might be the starting point for a conversation even though that is not how it has been presented. It is not a very strong hope. The lack of an even-handed approach from the US side is overwhelmingly obvious. The point was only driven home by Israel’s still-premier Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz being present at the launch while Palestinians were absent. Analysis of the prospects for progress on the basis of the plan cannot ignore that deficiency.

A couple of days ago came the headline, referencing President Trump’s son-in-law who appears to have been in charge of developing the initiative, “Jared Kushner: Mideast peace plan not dead yet.”

Which, unfortunately, tells it all.

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