In May this year the Israeli newspaper Israel Heyon published details of a document leaked from the Israel Foreign Ministry. It appears to be an outline of a proposal by President Trump’s emissary Jared Kushner to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, the so-called “Deal of the Century”. The following discussion, based on an English version of the text from the Turkish news agency AA, comments upon the main points of the leaked document, concluding that it could be the basis of the first real breakthrough in resolving the conflict since 1967.
A tripartite agreement will be signed between Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas. A Palestinian state called “New Palestine” will be established in the West Bank and Gaza, with the exception of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Within one year, democratic elections will be held and a government of New Palestine will be elected. The border between Israel and new Palestine will be open to passage of citizens and goods, as is the case with friendly countries.
What is this new Palestine? There already is a State of Palestine, recognized by a majority of the Member States of the UN. There is no need for another one. But Palestine would benefit from a new government, and also needs a constitution. There is no need to wait for a year: that should start now. Having an open border between the two states will be essential in eliminating the present apartheid-like system between the two peoples. Presumably both states will insist on their right to control immigration, and that the open borders will not apply to changes of residence.
The West Bank:
The settlement blocs as they are today will remain in the hands of Israel. The areas of the blocs will grow according to the area of the isolated settlements that will be added to them. The Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control. New Palestine will be given two new routes to Jordan with crossings under its control.
According to the Agreement, the Palestinian state will be established in all the West Bank, except for the areas of the settlement blocs, which will be under Israeli sovereignty. Those areas will be increased to include the isolated settlements, further reducing the area of the Palestinian state.
Why should Israel have the Jordan Valley? They say they need it for their security. But they have a peace treaty with Jordan: Jordanian forces are not going to cross the river and invade Israel. The Jordan Valley is part of the West Bank, an occupied area from which Israeli forces must withdraw under UN Security Council Resolution 242. It should be included in the Palestinian state.
Implicit in the proposal is an end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. Israel justifies the occupation on the false grounds that the West Bank is disputed territory with no legal sovereign. By signing the agreement they would be recognizing the sovereignty of the Palestinian state within the area allocated to it, and would be required to withdraw its forces from that area. That should be made explicit in the document.
If Israel wanted to create more settlements, they would have to squeeze them inside the area of the existing settlements.
With the settlements surrounded by Palestinian territory, and an open border between them, there will be plenty of opportunities for the settlers and Palestinians to interact. The hope is that they will lead the way towards the friendship between the two states that the Agreement describes.
The hated separation barrier created illegally by Israel runs mainly in Palestinian territory and the Palestinians would have the pleasure of demolishing it. The direct crossings between Palestine and Jordan would enable the Palestinian refugees to return to Palestine via Jordan without involving Israel.
Will not be divided and (will be) shared by Israel and the new Palestine, and will be the capital of Israel and the new Palestine. The Arab inhabitants will be citizens of the new Palestine. The Jerusalem Municipality will be responsible for all areas of Jerusalem except education… Jews will not be allowed to buy Arab homes, and Arabs will not be allowed to buy Jewish homes. No additional areas will be annexed to Jerusalem. The Holy Places will remain as they are today held.
Since both States have declared Jerusalem to be their capital, shared sovereignty and shared administration have always been the obvious solution. The suggestion that the existing Israeli Jerusalem municipality will continue to run the city makes no sense for a shared capital. Applying ethnic-religious identities to buildings seems rather weird, but if it is necessary to keep the peace, so be it.
Accepting the existing arrangements for the Holy Places is a bad idea There have been several serious incidents of Jewish-Arab conflict at the Temple Mount – Haram al-Sharif. Control of the Holy Places should be in the hands of an international commission of authorities from the three religions, who would have a police force to maintain order.
Egypt will lease new land to Palestine to construct an airport and factories and serve the commercial and agriculture sectors without allowing Palestinians to reside on this land. A seaport will be added within 5 years. All the borders of the Strip will be open to the passage of goods and workers to Israel and Egypt. There will be a road bridge, 30m above the ground, linking the West Bank and Gaza.
It is made clear here that the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza will be ended.
The elevated road bridge is a horrible idea, apartheid in concrete and steel. See below for a much better way to link the West Bank and Gaza.
A defense agreement will be signed between Israel and the new Palestine in which Israel will guarantee the new Palestine from all external aggression and the new Palestine will pay Israel for this protection.
Perhaps the United States would guarantee Palestine against aggression from Israel? Seriously, the Arab states have said they will recognize Israel if it has a peace agreement with Palestine. Iran has said it will accept it. There would be no motive for external attacks against either Palestine or Israel, except perhaps from Lebanon and Syria, to expel Israeli forces from their territory. Here’s an idea: have a peace conference between Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria and sort everything out .
Palestinian leaders and their supporters have been very suspicious about the Trump administration’s attempt to solve the Israel-Palestine problem with a “Deal of the Century”, and justifiably so. The Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti put it like this:
Everything they’ve done, and everything they’ve declared, shows they are trying to kill the two-state solution and the rights of Palestinians to have a state of their own. They advocate sustaining occupation and apartheid.
It certainly looked like that previously, but the leaked document gives a very different impression. In its second sentence it firmly declares that “A Palestinian state will be established in the West Bank and Gaza”. The final sentence of the document says that “If Israel refused to sign the deal, the U.S. would cease all financial support”. This is a serious effort to resolve the conflict.
Reaction to the leaked document from Palestinians and their supporters has been very negative. One well-respected commentator has said that:
New Palestine would exist as a series of discrete cantons, or Bantustans, surrounded by a sea of Israeli settlements, now to be declared part of Israel.
This is the reverse of what is proposed. Only the actual territory of the discrete settlement blocks will be under Israeli sovereignty; all the territory of the West Bank outside the existing settlement blocs will be under Palestinian sovereignty.
Another well-respected commentator has characterised the leaked document as:
Israel gets all the goodies, Palestinians screwed.
In fact all the goodies are for the Palestinians:
A sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza, with an end to the West Bank occupation and the Gaza blockade.
The opportunity to demolish the separation barrier.
The return of the refugees into Palestine via Jordan.
Free movement across the borders into Israel and Jordan.
A shared Jerusalem as their capital.
Agricultural and industrial territory in Sinai.
An airport and a seaport.
50bn+ dollars of investment in Palestine, according to the economic part of the “Deal of the Century”.
Peace with Israel?
The big negative for the Palestinians is that Palestine will not include all of the West Bank, to which they certainly have both a moral and legal right. There is no possibility that Israel would ever agree to evacuate the settlements. However, there is a possibility that Palestine could receive territorial compensation for the land in the West Bank taken from them in 1967, and also for the land taken from them in 1948-49.
Justice for the Palestinians and viability of the Palestinian state.
For almost 20 years there has been an international consensus: that the Palestinian state should be established in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem. This would leave the Palestinians with 22% of former Palestine. Israel will have the other 78%. The State of Israel was declared in 1948 ‘within the frontiers’ of the UN partition plan, 55% of former Palestine. In the 1948-49 war Israel acquired by military conquest a further 23% of the territory of former Palestine, and incorporated it de facto into the state, in violation of international law. This ‘stolen land’ included the Arab towns of Acre, Ashkelon, Jaffa, Nazareth, Ramle, Lydda and Beersheba. During the attempted peace conference at Lausanne in 1949 President Truman sent a very strong letter to Ben-Gurion demanding that Israel give the Arabs territorial compensation for the stolen land. (He also protested against the refusal to allow the refugees to return.)
With the current populations of Jews and Arabs within former Palestine being roughly equal, and with 5 million Palestinian refugees with a right to return, a deal restricting the Palestinian state to 22% of former Palestine would be a monstrous injustice to the Palestinian people, would leave them living at an uncomfortable population density, and could not possibly lead to a viable and contiguous Palestinian State. They need much more territory than that.
Land is available in the Negev. Despite Israeli government attempts to ‘Judaize’ it, the population density is still low. Give half of the Negev to Palestine. Then each state will have about half of former Palestine. Create a border that would give Palestine a contiguous territory from the West Bank to Gaza and Egypt.
Summary of suggested modifications to the document.
Replace “New Palestine” with the State of Palestine.
Jordan Valley to be allocated to Palestine, not Israel.
Require Israeli forces to withdraw from territory allocated to Palestine
Replace the existing Jerusalem Municipality with a joint administration.
The Holy Places to be administered by an international commission of authorities from the three religions.
Omit the elevated road between the West Bank and Gaza.
Allocate land in the Negev to create a viable and contiguous Palestine.
I never thought I would say such a thing, but, with the territory in the Negev, and the other modifications I have suggested, this document could become the Deal of the Century and the first real breakthrough in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict since 1967.
About the author.
Dr. David Gerald Fincham is a retired academic scientist from the UK, now researching and writing about the relationships between religion, science, and the achievement of a more peaceful world. His website is religion-science-peace.org. He is a contributing writer to Mondoweiss.net.