Trump's Peace Plan: What to Look Out for When the Deal Is Unveiled

After years of preparations and leaks, the diplomatic section of the 'deal of the century' is expected to be released by Tuesday

A general view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Michmash, Sunday, January 26, 2020
Oded Balilty,AP

After years of preparations and leaks, the Trump administration’s peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians is finally expected to be officially released in the next two days.

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The economic section of the plan, with far-reaching benefits for the Palestinians, was released in June 2019 at the conference in Bahrain. At the time, it was said that the implementation of the economic part depended on the parties' willingness to accept the diplomatic portion of the peace plan. This is the section that will be revealed over the next few days.

Most of the leaks about the contents of the “deal of the century” have come from the Israeli side. As a result, they have emphasized what Israel would gain, in order to satisfy the right-wing community. For example, Israeli sources say the plan will allow Israel to impose sovereignty over the great majority of the settlements, and not just in the settlement blocs – as has been proposed in previous peace plans. 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, January 23, 2020.
POOL/ REUTERS

On the other hand, the plan is expected to include the evacuation of the unauthorized outposts, which are home to thousands of Jews. It is important to note that Israeli sovereignty over all the settlements does not mean no settlers will be evacuated from their homes, because many of them live in outposts that will not be legalized.

It also looks as if 15 settlements will not be included in the contiguous Israeli territory, and they will be defined as enclaves inside Palestinian territory. The list of these settlements may explicitly appear in the plan.

Applying Israeli sovereignty to the settlements also means that the rest of the territory of the West Bank, which accounts for most of the land mass, will be defined as belonging to the Palestinians. It is not clear whether detailed calculations of the size of these territories will appear in the peace plan documents, but it will remain a major point of contention.

A major question will be exactly how the Palestinian territories are defined. Leaks of the plan have said that during and after an interim period they will be defined a “demilitarized Palestinian state,” a ”less than state,” as it is sometimes called in Israel. The meaning is that such a state cannot establish a military and arm itself independently, and not conduct diplomatic relations either – and its borders will be supervised by Israel.

Even though it has been far from the central issues important to the Israeli public until now, the Jordan Valley has been mentioned a great deal lately as a region Israel can annex under the plan. But it seems that this will come in return for land swaps, most likely in the Negev.

The Trump administration is expected to once again offer, as part of the economic program, a land bridge between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This could represent a major challenge for Israel.

Netanyahu talks with U.S. President Donald Trump during their meetings at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019.
CARLOS BARRIA/ REUTERS

As for Jerusalem, Israel is expected to withdraw from Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which will become the capital of a Palestinian state. But the Old City and holy sites will remain under full Israeli sovereignty, and the Palestinians will be responsible for their management. Jordan will cooperate with the Palestinians on management of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It does not seem that the issue of refugees will be recognized at all – though it is possible a mechanism will be included for paying compensation.

A major aspect is the timetable for the plan. According to American officials, the Palestinians will be given a period of a few years – it seems the period will last as long as Donald Trump’s second term, if he is reelected – to change their minds and accept the plan. As a result, Israel will be asked to freeze any activity on the ground that changes the status quo. Of course, this aspect contradicts Netanyahu’s campaign promises that he intends on applying Israeli sovereignty to certain areas of the West Bank immediately after the election.