Analytical Briefings

Gaza and the West Bank – Israel: How not to plan for peace

By 07/02/2020 No Comments

Key sectors: all

Key risks: war on land; political violence; terrorism; protests; strikes; demonstrations

On 6 February an Israeli soldier was wounded in a drive-by shooting attack near the Jewish settlement of Dolev in the West Bank. This followed a single-person shooter attack on an Israeli border guard in the Old City of Jerusalem on 5 February, and came just hours before 12 Israeli soldiers and two others were injured when a car, believed to be driven by a Palestinian man, rammed into a crowd in central-West Jerusalem.

Concurrently four Palestinian men in the West Bank were shot and killed by Israeli troops in 24 hours during violent clashes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently cancelled a planned political statement in order to hold emergency security briefings with Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and other military intelligence officials.

The dramatic upsurge in attacks can be directly linked and has been explicitly attributed to the US’s Middle East ‘peace’ plan announced on 28 January. US President Donald Trump announced the plan while standing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House alongside the architects of the plan, Jared Kushner, David Freidman and Jason Greenblatt, all senior White House officials.

The plan recognises most Israeli settlements in the West Bank and grants Israel security control over the Jordan Valley, essentially legitimising Netanyahu’s election promises to annexe West Bank territory. Nonetheless, other propositions included a four-year freeze on new West Bank settlement construction and a Palestinian state, albeit with severe restrictions and preconditions, connected by a road which would link the Gaza Strip with the West Bank.  The plan was pre-emptively denounced by the hundreds of thousands of protesters who poured into the streets across West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas leader Isma’il Haniyah and other countries globally.

Thus the plan appears to have backfired on multiple fronts, including but limited to Netanyahu and Trump. For Netanyahu this sudden decline in security is both blessing and curse before Israel’s election in March, the third in 11 months. The US have also permanently damaged efforts to mediate this long-running conflict and lost more ability to engage with other pressing regional dynamics. Over the short term a lockdown and curfew in the West Bank and a highly noticeable IDF presence appears likely.

Longer term the plan explicitly recognises the annexation process which has, for all practical purposes been occurring without being made official – to recognise annexation is the first step towards engaging with it. Secondly the plan may have re-galvanised the Palestinian cause – nascent towards remediation between the PA and Hamas, noted in 2019 have accelerated. A rare meeting between Palestinian factions, including Hamas was held the same day. Long overdue Palestinian elections not seen since 2006, toward which loose pledges by Abbas and Palestinian factions have been made may also be expedited.

Nonetheless, what is altogether concerning is that over the 72 years since the creation of Israel, multiple ‘peace’ and Palestinian state plans have been proposed and rejected. Each time, territory proposed for Palestine is after a decade reminisced, given the continued erosion of Palestinian rights and said territory. Thus worryingly in ten or 20 years with hindsight and the continued erosion of Palestinian territory on its current trajectory, this rejected plan may look like a rosier alternative than what is and will likely be, dreams of any Palestinian statehood, should current trends continue.