I believe one of the UK’s major foreign policy objectives must be to support peace in Israel and Palestine, via the creation of a viable Palestinian state. This is both an ethical and a security objective, and also a reflection on the UK’s troubled history in the region. Unfortunately, I believe President Trump’s so-called peace plan – released last month – takes us further away from this. It is just not possible to take this proposal seriously.
The key features of the plan are that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would largely remain, and a new Palestinian state would receive territory near Gaza to compensate for this loss. Gaza and the West Bank would be linked by a tunnel. Land swaps will almost certainly be a part of any real settlement, but this is effectively just the demands of the Israeli side with the Palestinians getting very little in return.
This plan seeks to formalise illegal annexation of Palestinian territory, while putting the whole of Jerusalem in Israeli territory.
Most of all, the form of Palestinian statehood offered raises questions about how sovereign it would be. It appears Israel would be in effective security control of the territory the state would occupy. The issue of Palestinian refugees (i.e. the children and grandchildren of the refugees from the 1948 war) is not really addressed either.
Unfortunately, the Government have welcomed this plan. I spoke in the House on this recently raising my serious concerns that this ‘plan’ is one-sided, reductive and carries the risk of increasing not reducing violence from extremists while condemning the Government’s parroting of US lines.
Any peace which isn’t a compromise risks making this conflict longer and even more painful. The extreme voices on both sides make this issue worse not better, and countries like the US should resist those voices rather than support them. The only sensible basis for peace is through genuine peace talks. A real two state solution based around the 1967 borders will have to be the starting point for that.