Israel-Palestine: The New US Peace Deal

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place on 27 February 2020 in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Baroness Tonge (Non-affiliated) that “this House takes note of the United States’ proposals for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, announced on 28 January”.

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The Trump administration launched its plan to bring peace to Israel and Palestine on 28 January 2020. Speaking alongside Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump claimed his proposals could ensure a lasting settlement that would bring peace, security and prosperity to both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the deal as did his main political rival in Israel, Benny Gantz. However, the Palestinians have rejected the deal. Palestine later broke off all contact with the American and Israeli administrations in protest.

The deal proposes a ‘two-state’ solution aimed at creating viable states of Israel and Palestine. However, observers have questioned this characterisation on several grounds. These include the potential nature of sovereignty that would be afforded to the Palestinians, the control and future of Jerusalem, and other issues long central to the peace process, such as the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees. Territorially, the deal proposes to grant Israeli sovereignty over controversial Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as land in the Jordan Valley. In return, the Trump administration has proposed an expansion of Palestinian territory elsewhere, notably in the desert region east of the Gaza Strip, as part of a controversial programme of ‘land swaps’ between the two peoples. This Palestinian territory would remain undeveloped for four years to give the Palestinian side time to negotiate and to meet several conditions to acquire a form of sovereignty over the areas it would administer. These conditions include the disarmament of militant groups like Hamas, the renunciation of violence and the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

International reaction to the proposals has been mixed. Representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman all attended President Trump’s launch of the peace plan with Israeli officials. Others such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have offered a qualified welcome to the proposals, welcoming US efforts and expressing hope they will provide a basis for negotiation. However, other regional actors such as Iran and Turkey have condemned the proposals outright, calling them a betrayal of the Palestinian people. The UK Government has been receptive to the plan, with the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, welcoming the initiative as a way of getting both sides around the negotiating table.

  • Lords Research Briefing LLN-2020-0059
  • Author: James Tobin
  • Topics: Middle East

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