What is Trump’s Middle East peace plan?

International community expresses concern over rumoured rejection of two-state solution

Netanyahu Trump
Donald Trump with Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel last year
(Image credit: Kobi Gideon/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East will “likely stop short” of endorsing full statehood for the Palestinian people, according to reports.

For two years, Trump has talked about “a secret plan” to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, often referring to it as “the deal of the century”, without giving specifics or even a vague timeframe for implementation, The New Yorker reports.

This month alone, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has faced questioning by four different congressional committees over the plan, but “did his best to reveal as little as possible” about the details of it, the BBC says.

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However, Pompeo’s history of dismissive comments regarding a two-state solution and the legal rights of Palestinians has sparked concerns over the stance that the White House is preparing to take on Palestine, particularly in the wake of an election victory for Israel’s strongman Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal opponent of an independent Palestinian homeland.

This week, several former high-ranking European politicians penned an open letter claiming that Trump’s approach was “gambling with the security and stability of various countries located at Europe’s doorstep”.

What has Trump promised?

In November 2016, shortly after his election victory, Donald Trump was asked by reporters about the prospect of securing an effective peace deal in the Middle East. “A lot of people tell me… it’s impossible,” he replied. “I have reason to believe I can do it.”

However, although Trump’s attention has long been captured by the Israel-Palestine question, his stance on the issue has been described as “one-sided” by The Guardian.

His two most controversial moves in this arena so far have drawn criticism from the international community by carrying out a campaign pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the divided city which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their own. Then, last month, he signed a proclamation officially recognising the disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory, marking a dramatic departure from decades of American policy.

Beyond this, Trump has been frugal with his words regarding his master plan. ABC News reports that it could be rolled out as early as this month, while others speaking to Reuters say the proposal would not be revealed until after Netanyahu forms his new coalition government.

Israeli news organisation I24 reports that the plan “has only been seen regularly by four members of the delegation appointed by Trump to avoid any leaks”, and that “American allies, including the Israeli government, have also been kept in the dark”.

Will there be a two-state solution?

NBC News reports that while under questioning on Tuesday, Pompeo “repeatedly declined to answer” whether a two-state solution was still US policy, and appeared to dismiss the prospect entirely at one point.

“I would argue that millions of man-hours have been spent to try and build out a two-state solution,” Pompeo said. “It hasn’t worked to date.”

He also pledged that Trump is intent on “making life better” for Palestinians, but stopped short of expressing support for “full and equal political and legal rights” for them, even under a one-state solution.

So what will be in the plan?

Pompeo’s comments have sparked concern among experts that the US plan may facilitate illegal expansion by Netanyahu. USA Today reports that the Israeli PM made an “eleventh-hour appeal to his right-wing base by explicitly committing to pursue annexation of West Bank territory after the elections” just three days before voters went to the polls.

The New Yorker posits that Trump’s plan will likely “call for enormous Palestinian concessions, which the Palestinians will almost certainly reject”, and that this in turn will “allow Netanyahu to operate without constraint, and either continue to manage the status quo or make good on his intimations of annexation”.

In a letter sent to The Guardian, the European Union and its governments, former EU leaders called on Europe to reject any plan that does not create a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with Jerusalem as the capital for both countries.

“Unfortunately, the current US administration has departed from longstanding US policy,” it said, adding that the White House had also “demonstrated a disturbing indifference to Israeli settlement expansion” in the West Bank.

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