Geopolitics

Trump Peace Plan Divides Middle East

President Donald Trump announced his long-awaited peace plan between Israel and Palestine last week alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In terms of a functioning peace deal, it was dead on arrival with the Palestinians noticeably absent from any negotiations or planning.

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the deal a conspiracy after the plan was announced and said in a televised address, “I say to Trump and Netanyahu: Jerusalem is not for sale, all our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain. And your deal, the conspiracy, will not pass.”

 

Further than just rejecting the deal, the Palestinians cut ties with both Israel and the United States, including all security ties.

 

Likely the Americans and Israelis knew this peace deal was never about getting an actual workable solution on the table. For the Trump White House, it reconfirms their ardent support for Israel, and likewise, for Israel, it secures the United States as a strong supporter.

 

Furthermore, it allows both the Americans and Israelis to push the boat out a bit further and see how America’s regional partners in the Middle East react to a provocation against Palestine.

 

Divided and Slow Response

 

While the Palestinians were quick to reject the deal, many of its traditional defenders were slow to respond.

 

Even worse in the eyes of the Palestinians than a slow response, ambassadors from Bahrain, the UAE, and Oman were all present at the unveiling of the peace deal.

 

Israel has been re-establishing relations with several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, in recent years in what many view as a concession on the part of both sides in order to tackle the perceived threat of Iran. Netanyahu also made Israel’s first official state visit in decades to Oman to meet the former Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said.

 

Palestine’s allies in the region have increasingly adopted a more delicate balancing act between protecting the rights of the Palestinian people and appeasing America for economic benefits.

 

Egypt, both and American ally and staunch defender of Palestine, offered a muted response directly after the announcement calling for “a careful and thorough examination of the US vision” rather than a full-throated defence of Palestine.

 

Jordan, a country with 2 million Palestinian refugees, also is largely dependent on American aid and closed a deal with Israel at the beginning of 2020 that will supply the country with Israeli gas.

 

While many in Jordan protested the gas deal and the proposed Israel-Palestine peace plan, prior to the announcement of the deal Jordanian King Abdullah II said, “I’ve had numerous discussions with President Trump on this issue. I think he understands what is needed to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.”

 

Palestine is increasingly being squeezed out as its Arab defenders opt to forgo staunch defence in favour of keeping their economy going aided by American and Israeli business.

 

The silver lining for the Palestinians is that while the support from allies was slow, it has finally come on this deal as the Arab League called to reject the deal. But, thanks to economic incentives and the hawkish stance of many in the region against Iran, the peace deal is another chink in the armour of the Palestinian people, and one that sets the table for future struggles.

 

Palestinian Defence

 

While Palestine might not be too pleased with the speed, both the Arab League and The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on all its members to soundly reject the American deal.

 

The Arab League met in Cairo, Egypt at the behest of the Palestinians, and it announced it rejected the deal as it “does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.”

 

Later, the 57-member OIC held a summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and said in a statement that all member states should not engage in or cooperate with the American administration in regards to the plan.

 

The OIC spans much more than just the Arab region and includes several non-majority Muslim countries. Noticeably absent from the summit was Iran, who claimed its officials were barred from entry to the meetings.

 

Despite the multiple rejections of the deal, key players have given credit to the Americans, including Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry.

 

In a press release directly after the peace deal was announced, the Saudi foreign ministry said, “the Kingdom appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan… and encourages the start of direct peace negotiation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, under the auspices of the United States.”

 

The press release does clarify that all negotiations should achieve the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” but the mixed messaging, followed only later by a rejection of the deal, spells trouble for the future of Palestine.

 

Reports said Saudi King Salman called the Palestinians to reassure their commitment to Palestinian rights, but the public acceptance of the Americans’ work tells us much about the current triangulation of the Saudi government.

 

Trump’s peace deal may have never got off the ground, but it has exposed weaknesses in the Arab alliance in regards to protecting Palestine, and it shifted the conversation to its side.  While much of the world has condemned the deal, Palestine does appear to be in an increasingly difficult position in which its allies have to choose between the protection of their rights and the pursuit of more business ties.  At this stage, it looks like its Arab partners are willing to sacrifice increasingly more for short-term economic benefits.