Editor’s Note: Part of this analysis appeared in the January 29 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in no doubt. January 28, 2020, would be as historic an occasion as May 14, 1948, the day Israel declared independence and was recognized as a state by then-US President Harry Truman.
President Trump’s new plan for the Middle East, unveiled on Tuesday, gives Israel the green light to annex all settlements in the West Bank, along with the Jordan Valley. These moves are conditional on nothing; they are happening. Israel’s tourism minister has said that a vote on annexation will take place “within a matter of days.”
And whatever political or personal motivations might have driven Trump and Netanyahu to embrace this plan at this particular time, the occasion is significant.
Trump tweeted a map of his vision of what the future on the ground looks like in terms of territory, overturning years of international consensus on what a future Palestinian state might look like.
Trump’s plan would shrink the amount of territory in the West Bank left for a future Palestinian state by recognizing Israel sovereignty over the settlements within it, as well as the Jordan Valley – the eastern-most part of the West Bank. Apart from a short border with Egypt, the future Palestinian state would be completely encircled by Israel.
The plan would also create new pockets of Palestinian territory south of Gaza, near the Egyptian border.
Trump’s proposals deliver a hard blow to the rule of law in international relations, where the annexation of territory acquired by force is prohibited.
Israel has been denounced time and again at the United Nations for breaking international law. On Tuesday, more than 50 years after Israel captured the West Bank and built settlements there, the US swept all that condemnation of Israel into irrelevance.
But while Trump described his proposal as a “realistic two-state solution,” Palestinian leaders swiftly rejected the plan, which caters to nearly every major Israeli demand and mandates the contested city of Jerusalem as the “undivided” capital of Israel.
Trump “actually helped Israel being pushed off the cliff towards apartheid, full-fledged apartheid, because what Israel will have to erect now is simply bantustans,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told CNN, referring to the lands set aside for black South Africans during that country’s apartheid era.
And even if Trump’s plan was discarded by a future US administration, the Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley will make it much more difficult for another Israeli government to trade off territory with the Palestinians under a future peace agreement.
Here are some key points of the plan:
- All Israeli settlements in the West Bank will be annexed to Israel. (Trump says the deal’s division of territory does not require anyone to move.)
- In addition, the Jordan Valley, which Israel says is critical for its security, to also be under Israeli sovereignty.
- Jerusalem is to be the “undivided” capital of Israel.
- Religious sites to remain accessible to all faiths. The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, a key religious site in Jerusalem, to remain under Jordan’s custodianship. All faiths should be permitted to pray there.
- The capital of the future State of Palestine to be in an area located immediately east and north of the wall that surrounds part of Jerusalem. It could be named al-Quds or any other name as determined by the future State of Palestine.
- Hamas is to be disarmed and Gaza and the entire future Palestinian State to be demilitarized.
- Creation of “a high-speed transportation link” between the West Bank and Gaza, “crossing over or under the State of Israel’s sovereign territory.”
- Requirement that both sides recognize the State of Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people and the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
- Israel is not to build any new settlements on areas that are not envisioned to be its sovereign territory under the plan for four years.