President Trump continues to ponder the way forward to end the 100-years-old conflict between Arabs and Jews – as negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – stalled since April 2014 – show no sign of being resumed.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap - endorsed by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - were consigned to the graveyard of history after PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas unilaterally disbanded the Palestinian Authority on 3 January 2013.
White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner has been quoted in an off-the-record discussion saying:
"there may be no solution".There may however be a solution should Jordan and Egypt – Israel’s immediate neighbours – agree to negotiate with Israel to end the Jewish-Arab conflict.
Filling this potentially explosive negotiating void with Jordan and Egypt will require Trump to first articulate:
1. the parameters and
2. The fact-based frameworkwithin which such new negotiations should actually be undertaken
The parameters should be restricted to resolving the competing Arab and Jewish claims to sovereignty in the remaining 5 per cent of the territory of the former Mandate for Palestine – Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), East Jerusalem and Gaza – where internationally-recognised sovereignty still remains undetermined (“the disputed territories”).
Conflicting narratives paralysing previous negotiations must be replaced by Trump with a different fact-based framework underpinning any new negotiations – including:
1. Jordan and Egypt:
· signatories to peace treaties with Israel in 1994 and 1979 respectively and
· the last Arab States to occupy the disputed territories between 1948 and 1967
are the best Arab interlocutors to determine with Israel the allocation of sovereignty in the disputed territories.
2. The PLO Charter calling for the destruction of both Israel and Jordan disqualifies the PLO from participating in such new negotiations.
3. Hamas – designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel and banned in Jordan – must be excluded from these new negotiations.
4. The new negotiations are being undertaken to resolve the “Jewish-Arab conflict” that began in 1915 – not “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” that began in 1948
5. Sovereignty in the territory of the Mandate for Palestine has already been granted to Israel (17 per cent), Jordan (78 per cent) – with sovereignty in Judea and Samaria [West Bank], East Jerusalem and Gaza (5 per cent) still undetermined.
6. The Jewish people is legally entitled to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the disputed territories by close settlement under Article 6 of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter – subject to the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities living there being safeguarded.
7. Misleading and deceptive language referring to the disputed territories as “occupied territory” or “Occupied Palestinian Territories” fail to recognise that it was Jewish occupation in the disputed territories that was first abruptly ended in 1948 – after every single Jew then living there was forcibly driven out by six invading Arab armies and not allowed to return until after the Six Day War in 1967.Trump has a hard row to hoe in formulating this critical framework – but do it he must if there is to be any hope of advancing peace in the Middle East.
Such Trump-defined parameters and fact-based framework need to then be mutually agreed by Jordan, Egypt and Israel before formal negotiations can commence.
Any fanfare trumpeting yet another round of negotiations without such tripartite agreement will inevitably see those new negotiations being eventually buried alongside the graves housing the failed Oslo-Roadmap and stalled Israel-PLO negotiations.
Trump, Israel, Jordan and Egypt working together can certainly succeed where Obama and the PLO ignominiously failed.