President Trump has appeared to dampen expectations that his “ultimate deal” to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict will shortly emerge.
The only clue given so far is this statement from the White House:
“What we can say is we are engaged in a productive dialogue with all relevant parties and are taking a different approach than the past to create an enduring peace deal. We are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything and we have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations. As we have always said, our job is to facilitate a deal that works for both Israelis and Palestinians, not to impose anything on them."
Israel, Jordan and the PLO each have their own reasons to be apprehensive as to the different approach that Trump might be contemplating.
The approach for the last 24 years has concentrated on implementing:
1. The 1993 Oslo Accords (Oslo) signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and
2. The 2003 Bush-Quartet Roadmap endorsed by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations (Roadmap) – agreed to by Israel – albeit with 14 reservations – and the PLOThese two internationally-sanctioned agreements sought to create a second independent Arab state – in addition to Jordan – in the territory comprised in the 1922 Mandate for Palestine.
Sovereignty in 95% of the Mandate territory had already been vested in:
1. Jordan since 1946 (78%) and
2. Israel since 1948 (17%).Sovereignty remained unallocated in just 5% of the Mandate territory – Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza (“the unallocated territories”).
Under Oslo, 40% of the unallocated territories containing 95% of the Arab population living there are currently under PLO or Hamas administration – whilst 5% are under Israel’s administration in the remaining 60%.
The Roadmap’s attempt to convert Oslo’s achievement into a “three-state” subdivision of the Mandate territory has failed.
Offers by Israel in 2000/1 and 2008 to cede its claims to sovereignty in more than 90% of the unallocated territories were rejected by the PLO – which demanded 100%.
The idea of territorial swaps was unsuccessfully floated by President Obama.
Negotiations to create this third state – suspended since April 2014 – appear dead and buried.
Trump’s different approach from these past failures could lead him to revisiting the following viewpoint enunciated by Ronald Reagan on 4 September 1980 – when seeking election as President:
“Israel and Jordan are the two Palestinian states envisioned and authorized by the United Nations. Jordan is now recognized in some 80% of the old territory of Palestine. Israel and Jordan are the parties primarily authorized to settle the future of the unallocated territories in accordance with the principles of the mandate and the provisions of Resolutions 242 and 338.”President Reagan after his election however adopted a different stance when declaring on 1 September 1982:
1. The United States would not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and would not support annexation or permanent control by Israel.
2. Self-government by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza in association with Jordan offered the best chance for a durable, just, and lasting peace.Israel rejected this proposal. The PLO refused to allow Jordan to negotiate on its behalf.
An amalgam of Reagan’s 1980 and 1982 positions could break the current negotiating stalemate by proposing that:
1. Jordan be allocated sovereignty in areas of the West Bank and Gaza agreed with Israel and
2. Jordanian citizenship be granted to the entire Gazan and West Bank Arab populations.There is no substitute for a solution based on history, geography, demography and international law.