Without a basis for negotiation around which both sides feel they can come to the table, peace will remain elusive.
Yesterday, at an East Room gathering, President Trump, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unveiled his administration’s plan to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As promised at the outset of his remarks, the approach represents a vision “fundamentally different from past proposals.” The event itself—with the plan unveiled by U.S. and Israeli leadership—presented a visual that underscored this difference, and the challenge this plan faces if it is to chart a course to peace.
The United States is set to propose an economic plan for Israel-Palestine, spearheaded by Jared Kushner, on 25 and 26 June in Bahrain, where Gulf Arab states will discuss the troubled Palestinian economy.
It seems that Jared Kushner, one of the principal architects of the so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has finally discovered the European Union. In his role as a senior adviser on the Middle East to US President Donald Trump, Kushner has recently faced a series of setbacks – among them the recalcitrance of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israeli politics’ descent into almost unprecedented political chaos. In response to these problems, Kushner made what looked to be a hastily arranged trip to Brussels on 4 June, meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
Once more, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 is taking center stage. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas insisted during his speech before the recently concluded Arab League Summit in Jordan that the initiative is the only solution on the table; asserting that it will not be changed or even tweaked. But why is this initiative, which was put forward by Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, now infused back into the already congested Middle East political discourse, despite the fact that Israel has rejected it repeatedly and the United States has shown little interest in enforcing it?
In March 2002, the initiative, composed of a few sentences, was proclaimed at an Arab League Summit in Beirut, Lebanon. Less than half of the Arab leaders participated in that conference. Head of the PA and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the late Yasser Arafat, was not allowed to attend. Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, had Arafat placed under house arrest in Ramallah. Sharon told Arafat that if Israel was to allow him to leave he would not be allowed back. Arafat died two years later, amid allegations that he had been poisoned.
If recent press reports are to be believed, the United States will soon present Israeli and Palestinian negotiators with a framework agreement – a non-binding proposal that would begin to sketch out an elusive middle ground between both sides. Yet, some six months into a nine month window dedicated to achieving a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this only serves to highlight the lack of progress achieved so far.
Despite widespread warnings that time is running out for a two-state solution, even President Obama remains sceptical that a final status agreement will be reached in the foreseeable future. In the absence of any tangible prospects for advancing discussions on final status issues, the US President has lowered expectations, describing current US efforts as merely intending to “push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us”.