Palestine Current Policy Part 1

“US Embassy”. In other places, that text on a sign can be neutral, factual. In Jerusalem it is explosive. US President Donald Trump’s December 2017 decision to begin the relocation of the US Israel Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem raised headwinds. A peace plan signed by Trump 2020, which strongly benefits Israel, could increase the distance to a two-state solution with acceptable conditions for an independent Palestine, a state located in Asia continent defined by computerannals.

The peace outlook was bleak even before the US Jerusalem decision, in part because the Palestinians are divided. Since 2007, the West Bank and Gaza have been ruled by two conflicting Palestinian movements – the secular organization Fatah on the West Bank and the Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza. The administration of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, is internationally recognized, unlike Hamas, as a stalemate as a terrorist movement by, among others, the EU.

One of the dividing lines concerns the view of Israel. Fatah and the Palestinian umbrella organization PLO recognize and cooperate with Israel, which Hamas continues to fight. In all the years that have passed since the peace process in the 1990s (see Modern History), countless attempts have been made to start a new dialogue between the Palestinians and Israel. As a rule, the United States has acted as mediator, but following President Trump’s embassy decision and unilateral peace plan, it is difficult to fulfill that role.

Over a hundred dead in protests

The embassy sign was erected on May 14, 2018 on a building in Jerusalem that previously housed a US consulate. By then, 51 years had passed since Israel took control of the entire city, in the 1967 war. Palestinians want to see East Jerusalem as their capital in a future state, and their claims are supported by most of the world’s countries, but through the move the US has approved Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.

The embassy move coincided with Israel’s 70th birthday. The weeks before were bordered by Palestinian protests, against the Jerusalem decision and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their home areas, which since 1948 have been part of Israel. Demonstrations were held Friday after Friday from the end of March at the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Some protesters tried to storm the fence and the Israeli army received international criticism for firing Palestinians with sharp shots. Hamas was accused of inciting the protesters against Israel instead of encouraging peaceful manifestations. When the protests culminated on May 14, more than 100 Palestinians had been shot dead by the Israeli army and several thousands injured.

No Israelite was killed during the events at the Gaza border, but Israel argues that the border needed to be protected by powerful methods against intrusion. Human rights organizations turned to the Supreme Court in Israel, which gave a clear indication of the army’s handling of the events on the grounds that what took place was not peaceful demonstrations but part of the armed conflict between the parties.

Weakened hope for peace

Following Trump’s stand on Israel’s side in the Jerusalem issue, Palestinian President of the West Bank, Mahmud Abbas, announced that the US role as mediator was over. Abbas also refused to meet representatives of the US administration, calling for an international peace conference.

Previous attempts to get negotiations started, by 2014 at the latest, have failed. The most difficult issues to agree on are the status of Jerusalem, the fate of the Palestinian refugees, the Jewish settlements in occupied territory and how the area’s scarce water resources should be distributed (see Natural Resources, Energy and Environment).

The Palestinians have never given up on East Jerusalem as their capital, while Israel made the city more difficult by annexing Jerusalem in 1980, which means that Israeli law has been introduced there. According to the dominant international assessment, it is a violation of international law. Israel has also built new neighborhoods in East Jerusalem for hundreds of thousands of immigrant Jews (see Population and Languages).

Regarding the refugees, Israel refuses to recognize their right to return, but for Palestinian leaders, the right to relocate and / or receive compensation for lost property is an absolute requirement. The fact that Israel, since 1950, has a law that allows Jews worldwide to immigrate to the country (do aliyah) has diluted Palestinian bitterness.

The Jewish settlements that form a patchwork over the entire West Bank are an extremely infected issue. In 2020, the peace organization Fred now counted 132 settlements on the West Bank approved by the State of Israel. In addition, 121 illegal “outposts” were added. The Palestinians demand that the settlements be evacuated in the event of a peace settlement, while Israel only said it was ready to leave a small number. At the same time, the expansion of settlements has continued continuously. A few days after the opening of the US mission in Jerusalem, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that 2,500 new housing for Jewish settlers would be given a sign, in 30 of the settlements on the West Bank, and that plans were for an additional 1,400.

In all the heaviest issues, Donald Trump has now clearly seized the Israeli party through his peace plan, which was tabled in January 2020. The main features of the plan: East Jerusalem will invade Israel permanently (though the King of Jordan would retain a role as protector of the holy of Muslims sites). The 600,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are allowed to remain and continue to use the land they have used. No Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homes in what is today Israel. Israel retains security responsibilities all the way to Jordan’s border.

Large investments in the Palestinian economy have been under view. The United States has tried to persuade Arab states, in particular, to make investments. (The Palestinians, for their part, have urged both Arab neighbors and EU countries in the region not to support the plan.) The Americans are also reported to have approached President Abbas with the question of how the Palestinians would form a confederation with Jordan. But the US’s clear favor with Israel has not raised expectations that peace proposals from Trump could lead to a breakthrough. Security services in Israel have voiced concern that it could even pose a danger to Israel if US measures increase misery among Palestinians.

Trump’s proposal calls for the location of the Palestinian capital to Abu Dis as an alternative in Jerusalem. It is an idea that was also aired in the 1990s, but was excluded. The suburb on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem has since been expanded with an undesirable building: an Israeli concrete wall, part of the disputed security barrier around the West Bank, shuts Abu Dis from the rest of Jerusalem. President Abbas dismissed the contents of the peace plan by commenting that “neither Jerusalem nor the rights of the Palestinian people are for sale”.

Palestine Current Policy Part 1