After being announced shortly after Donald Trump took office in 2017, the “Plan” (modestly called “the Vision”) supposed to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was made public on January 28th. It is therefore now possible to analyse its substance in detail, deepening the reflections that have already been made on the basis of the leaks of some of its aspects. The United States had already adopted a series of decisions and measures which suggested that the definition of the parameters supposed to bring a definitive solution to the conflict would largely espouse Israeli positions: recognition of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the State of Israel, closure of the office of the Palestinian delegation in Washington, cessation of funding for UNRWA (the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees) and, most recently, recognition of the legality of Israeli settlements installed on Palestinian territory. A thorough reading of the “Plan” in all its aspects only reinforces this presentiment, as it appears that the proposals it contains support the main Israeli demands, setting aside the internationally recognised rights of the Palestinian people. Generally speaking, the “Plan” appears to enshrine the existing situation on the ground, consolidating the occupation and Oslo regime by changing its label only. In the following lines, the main aspects of the “Plan” are analysed, showing how it departs diametrically from the principles established by international law and that the creation of a Palestinian State, presented as a major step forward in the proposed solution, would only be virtual, the envisaged Palestinian entity being devoid of the essential prerogatives of sovereignty.
1. The exclusion of international law from the parameters of the solution to the conflict
In the preamble of the “Plan”, a position is taken which results in the exclusion of the whole of international law, as derived from UN resolutions and a range of other texts, as the essential basis for establishing the parameters of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It reads as follows:
“Since 1946, there have been close to 700 United Nations General Assembly resolutions and over 100 United Nations Security Council resolutions in connection with this conflict. United Nations resolutions are sometimes inconsistent and sometimes time-bound. These resolutions have not brought about peace. Furthermore, different parties have offered conflicting interpretations of some of the most significant United Nations resolutions, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. Indeed, legal scholars who have worked directly on critical United Nations resolutions have differed on their meaning and legal effect.
While we are respectful of the historic role of the United Nations in the peace process, this Vision is not a recitation of General Assembly, Security Council and other international resolutions on this topic because such resolutions have not and will not resolve the conflict. For too long these resolutions have enabled political leaders to avoid addressing the complexities of this conflict rather than enabling a realistic path to peace”.
Indeed, the rest of the Plan will no longer mention UN resolutions as a basis or justification for the proposed solutions, with the exception of a furtive reference to Security Council Resolution 242, whose Israeli interpretation, which is in favour of only a partial withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967, albeit isolated, will be adopted to justify the annexation of a substantial part of the West Bank by Israel (see below). However, any peace process as previously envisaged by the United Nations or by the United States itself was based on the need to implement resolutions 242 and 338 in order to reach a settlement of the dispute, and the International Court of Justice concluded its 2004 opinion on the legality of the Wall by stating that “any negotiated solution” for the establishment of a Palestinian state must be “on the basis of international law”. In reality, and contrary to what the “Plan” claims, the UN resolutions do indeed establish all the principles that should guide the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
– right to self-determination of the Palestinian people
– Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territories”.
– illegality of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory
– illegality of the annexation of East Jerusalem
– Israel’s obligation to withdraw from the territories occupied in the June 1967 war
– the right of all states in the region to live within secure and recognised borders
– Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes or right to fair compensation
As will be seen, the “Plan” does not apply, or even mention, any of these principles, and generally takes the opposite view in defining the criteria for resolving the main points of dispute, based on two elements that will be overriding: Israel’s security concerns and the recognition of its “valid legal and historical claims”.
2. The determination of the borders: validation of the annexation and the settlements