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Palestinian leader reacts to Trump's Middle East Peace Plan

A historic new step towards a two-state solution is taken without Palestinian support

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Days after the announcement of the Trump administration’s long-awaited Middle East Peace Plan, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas labeled the deal ‘the slap of the century’, halting intelligence sharing agreements with U.S. security agencies.

President Trump christened the new Peace Plan as the ‘Deal of the Century’ while Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed the 180-page agreement with the deal's architect Jared Kushner.  This move is likely to strengthen Trump’s right-wing Christian voter-base in the run up to the next Presidential election this winter.

The three key points of the plan concern the new political proposals which Kushner previously feared would cause controversy leading to the three-year delay in the announcement.

Firstly, following this new proposal, Israel would retain the city of Jerusalem as their sovereign capital. While a future state of Palestine would keep a few neighbourhoods in the Eastern City, the deal effectively assumes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. This follows Trump’s shock announcement in May 2018. He had asserted his intention to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 478 and the wider international community.

This move would further cement Israel’s control over the city of Jerusalem which contains some of the holiest landmarks to both Islamic and Jewish world. In 2019 the al-Aqsa Mosque administrated by Jordan denied entry to Israeli Jews, causing outrage. For some, this will extend Israeli rights to work in holy sites throughout the city.

Secondly, the borders between the West Bank and Israeli would be redrawn. The 'conceptual map' reflects a 'land swap' of Palestinian land in the West Bank for territory in the Israeli Negev Desert, which is expected to receive vast economic investments from the U.S. should the deal be accepted.

Current Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, despite the Israeli President's promise to annex the territories for Israeli citizens. The plan to exchange land with an added investment of $50 billion in the new Palestinian territories would resolve many pressing legal issues. The proposal has worried some in the international community as the deal echoes the Guantanamo Bay agreement between the U.S and Cuban. Nonetheless, it is universally viewed as an imperialist arrangement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election this March, has promised to annex the Jordan River Valley which Israel captured during the 1967 war. For years, there have been concerns that the lack of formal control over this territory could leave Israel permanently open to invasion by its neighbours.

The third element of the Peace Plan is the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian State. It is designed to avoid Palestine from becoming a potential security threat to Israel. The Peace Proposal reads “the State of Palestine will not be able to develop military or paramilitary capabilities inside or outside of the State of Palestine.” This aspect of the plan is likely to have been conceived as a precursor to joint-military agreements between Israel and Palestine. However, it has resulted in the Palestinian Authority cutting security sharing intelligence that is vital to U.S terrorist monitoring in the region.

The Middle East Peace Plan follows a natural trend that has been established over the last 70 years. This would result in more concessions from Palestine and greater security for Israel. Arab-Israeli peace process always rests on diplomacy and this process will result in a meaningful statehood for Palestine. In place of sovereignty, the Trump administration has offered $50bn of investment. This reiterates his 'America first' attitude in foreign policy.

It is unlikely for the Palestinian Authority to accept this deal as it is does not fit with the PA’s objectives. Last Saturday, the Arab League unanimously rejected the plan. The Palestine leader said “I will never accept this solution”. This is not a surprising move as many regard this as a regression in the peace process.  An acceptance would mark a hollowing out of the Palestinian State.

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