7 PM | Old faultlines new west Asia | 4th February 2020

Context: President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan.

More in news: President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East plan, “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People.”

West Asia:

https://www.mapsofworld.com/asia/maps/western-asia.jpg
  • West Asia includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
  • West Asia or the Middle East routinely makes headlines due to a complicated array of security challenges.
  • The West Asian region has a vibrant history and influential political and economic ties across the Asia-Pacific, including with the United States.
  • West Asia remains a vital source of energy and remittances for many countries across Asia, and its importance has grown as the challenges it faces increasingly involve other parts of the world.
New West Asia or New Middle East: The term “New Middle East” was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the “Greater Middle East.” The term and conceptualization of the “New Middle East,” was subsequently heralded by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Israeli Prime Minister at the height of  the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon.The term and conceptualization of the “New Middle East,” was subsequently heralded by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Israeli Prime Minister at the height of  the Anglo-American sponsored Israeli siege of Lebanon. Note: This map of New West Asia is not official. However, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers. It has been causally allowed to surface in public, maybe in an attempt to build consensus and to slowly prepare the general public for possible, maybe even cataclysmic, changes in the Middle East.               

 

What are the issues at stake?

Of all the conflicts in the Middle East, that between Israel and the Palestinians has been the most intractable. Although the two sides signed a peace accord in 1993, more than a quarter of a century on they are arguably as far apart as ever.

  • Jerusalem: Both Israel and the Palestinians hold competing claims to the city. Israel, which occupied the formerly Jordanian-held eastern part in 1967, regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians insist on East Jerusalem – home to about 350,000 of their community – as their future capital
  • Palestinian statehood: The Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israeli prime ministers have publicly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel – but not what form it should take.
  • Recognition: Israel insists that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of it as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, arguing that without this Palestinians will continue to press their own national claims to the land, causing the conflict to endure. The Palestinians say what Israel calls itself is its own business, but to recognise it as the Jewish state will discriminate against Israel’s Arab population of Palestinian origin, who are Muslims, Christians and Druze.
  • Borders: Both sides have fundamentally different ideas as to where the boundaries of a potential Palestinian state should be. The Palestinians insist on borders based on ceasefire lines which separated Israel and East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza between 1949 and 1967. Israel says those lines are militarily indefensible and were never intended to be permanent. It has not said where borders should be, other than making clear its own eastern border should be along the Jordan River.
  • Settlements: Since 1967, Israel has built about 140 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 121 outposts – settlements built without the government’s authorisation. Settlements are considered illegal by most of the international community, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians say all settlements must be removed for a Palestinian state to be viable. Mr Netanyahu has vowed not only to never to uproot any settlements but to bring them under Israeli sovereignty.
  • Refugees: The UN says its agencies support about 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle east, including the descendants of people who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces from what became Israel in the 1948-49 war. Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says they are not entitled to, noting that such a move would overwhelm it demographically and lead to its end as a Jewish state.

The Proposed Plan: The ‘peace plan’, which had been in the pipeline since Trump took over, was announced by Trump alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the deal as “unworthy of consideration”. The Trump plan seeks to address most of the contentious issues in the conflict such as the border of Israel, status of Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements on the West Bank, land swap between Israel and Palestine, Israel’s security concerns and the status of the city of Jerusalem. 

The Highlights of the proposed plan are:

  • Israel would be allowed to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley. 
Map showing Donald Trump's plan for a State of Palestine
  • Though US says that the plan will help in doubling the Palestinian territory and provide a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem, but the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the plan would give Palestinians control over 15% of what it called “historic Palestine”.
  • Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided capital. The Palestinians insist East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
  • It has been suggested that no Palestinians or Israelis will be displaced from their homes, as the Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will remain intact.
  • At present Jordan runs the religious trust that administers the key holy site in Jerusalem (known to Jews as the Temple Mount and al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims). Israel will work with Jordan to ensure the status quo of the site governance.
  • Israel would freeze further settlement activities on the West Bank and all the territories will remain open and undeveloped for four years (time for negotiations). During this period, the Palestinian Authority should dismiss its current complaints at the International Criminal Court against Israel and refrain itself from taking further actions. It should also crack down on “terrorist” groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. 

Status of Jerusalem:

  • Both Israel and the Palestinians make non-negotiable claims over Jerusalem. The plan says Jerusalem will not be divided, and it will remain “the sovereign capital of the State of Israel”.
  • The capital of Palestine can occupy far-flung eastern neighbourhoods lying beyond “the existing security barrier”, which can be renamed Al Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
  • According to the plan, “Jerusalem’s holy sites should be subject to the same governance regimes that exist today”, and “should remain open and available for peaceful worshippers and tourists of all faiths”.
  • During the 1967 war, Israel seized control of East Jerusalem, which has Temple Mount, home to the Western Wall, the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock.
  • To Israel, Jerusalem is its undivided capital, and the US moved its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv in May 2018 — but very few countries recognise it as such. The UN has condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem.

International Reaction:

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed the deal as “unworthy of consideration”.
  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt welcomed President Trump’s efforts and called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations.
  • Jordan said the only path to peace was to establish an independent Palestinian state, based on pre-1967 boundaries, while Turkey’s foreign ministry dismissed Mr Trump’s proposals as an “annexation plan” aimed, it said, at killing a two-state solution and stealing Palestinian land for money.
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the Palestinians to give the plans “genuine and fair consideration and explore whether they might prove a first step on the road back to negotiations”.

India’s Stand:

  • A day after US President Donald Trump announced his new “peace plan” for the Middle East, India asked Israel and Palestine to engage with each other, including on Trump’s proposals.
  • India has been consistently supportive of the Palestinian cause. India has also called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
  • India reiterated its view that the final status issues should be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties and be acceptable to both.

Conclusion:

The plan says it has the “potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over 10 years”, and could “fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza”. It includes constructing essential infrastructure including “high-speed transportation links” between the West Bank and Gaza, promoting private sector growth, upgrading education, and improving the healthcare sector and the overall quality of Palestinian life. Both Israel and Palestine needs to engage with each other to resolve the issues for a greater good.Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/old-faultlines-new-west-asia-6249451/

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