What is Trump's plan for Muslims

Middle East conflict: Israeli army reinforces troops in West Bank after attack

The latest developments

Israel has been able to normalize relations with the Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. But there is still no sign of a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

The latest developments

  • After an attack on three Israelis, the Israeli army increased its presence in the West Bank. The military announced this on the night of Monday (May 3rd). According to him, the trio was shot at from a vehicle at an intersection south of the city of Nablus on Sunday. According to media reports, one of them was critically injured and another was seriously injured. The assassin (s) escaped, an army manhunt is underway. Earlier, Israeli soldiers had shot at a Palestinian woman in the southern West Bank who, according to the army, had approached them with a knife. She died from her injuries, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. On Friday night, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the postponement of a parliamentary election planned for May 22nd in the Palestinian Territories. Since then, concerns about new violence have grown. Abbas justified the postponement with the conflict with Israel over Jerusalem. The Islamist Hamas had sharply criticized the postponement of the election.
  • Israel's air force has attacked several targets in the Palestinian Territory in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Fighter jets and helicopters had attacked, among other things, a production facility for weapons operated by the Islamist Hamas and a tunnel for smuggling weapons, the military announced on Friday night (April 16) via Twitter. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip had previously fired a rocket into Israeli territory. In the border town of Sderot, warning sirens wailed on Thursday evening (April 15) at the end of Israeli Independence Day, reported the Israeli army. A city spokesman said there were no injuries or property damage.
  • After rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army attacked targets of the ruling Hamas there. The military announced on Monday morning (18th January) that fighter planes had fired at tunnel construction sites, among other things. Any terrorist activity targeting Israeli territory is considered very serious. Israel blames the Islamist Hamas for all incidents in the coastal area. According to the army, two rockets had previously been fired from there and fell in the sea near the city of Ashdod.

What does Trump's Middle East plan envisage?

The American President Donald Trump announced right at the beginning of his term in 2017 that he would present a plan for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After many delays, his son-in-law and Middle East representative Jared Kushner finally presented a proposal in January that the White House celebrated as the “Plan of the Century”. But the plan was practically exclusively based on Israeli interests and was categorically rejected by the Palestinians.

The Trump plan provides for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. The capital is supposed to be nominally East Jerusalem, but actually in the suburb of Abu Dis. Most of the city, including the old town annexed by Israel in 1980 and the Arab quarter, is to remain the “undivided capital of Israel”. This would also leave the Temple Mount with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock under Israeli control.

The Trump plan also provides for the annexation of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The strategically important Jordan Valley is also to come under Israeli sovereignty. The future Palestinian state would thus become a patchwork of unconnected areas. To compensate, the Palestinians are to receive two exclaves in the desert on the border with Egypt as well as financial aid to build up their economy and to create jobs.

Less room for Palestinians in the West Bank

How have the reactions been to the Trump plan?

While the plan was enthusiastically welcomed in Israel, it otherwise met with practically unanimous rejection. The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah was not included in the discussion and rejected the plan in advance. The Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip also firmly rejected him. After the plan was announced, clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli security forces broke out for days.

Not only Israel's enemies Iran and Syria condemned the plan, the Arab League also sharply criticized it. Jordan and Lebanon warned Israel against annexing parts of the West Bank as it would run counter to a two-state solution and a just peace. UN Secretary General António Guterres also warned that annexation would be a serious violation of international law. Only Bahrain and the Emirates have signaled support for the plan.

How did you come to an agreement with Bahrain, the Emirates and Sudan?

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had been building ties with Israel behind the scenes for years. Your ambassadors also attended the White House presentation of the Trump Plan in January. The American government plans to sell state-of-the-art weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates, as the Democratic Committee Chairman, Eliot Engel announced at the end of October 2020. In view of the discussion in Israel about the annexation of parts of the West Bank in June, the Emirati ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba, warned that such a step would prevent the normalization of relations.

In August, however, the Emirates and Israel surprisingly announced that they would normalize their relations. In return for the Emirates' recognition of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to put his annexation plans on hold. In September Bahrain announced that it would also establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Trump celebrated the agreements brokered by his administration as a “peace deal”. On September 15, the foreign ministers of the two Arab states, together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, signed various agreements in the garden of the White House, with which peace, the establishment of diplomatic relations and the "full normalization" of relations were agreed. On September 18, Israel and Bahrain signed a communiqué formalizing diplomatic relations.

After the Emirates and Bahrain, Sudan also announced normalization of relations with Israel on October 23. The White House had previously announced that Trump had informed Congress of his intention to remove Sudan from the notorious American list of state supporters of terrorists. In return, Sudan had agreed to compensate American terrorist victims and their families. Sudan, with its predominantly Muslim population, has so far - like many Arab countries - no official diplomatic relations with Israel. Especially since the overthrow of the autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, Khartoum has been trying to improve relations with the international community.

What is the meaning of the agreements?

The Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan are the third, fourth and fifth Arab states to recognize Israel after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). The agreements are not a peace agreement in the strict sense of the word, as the two Gulf states never waged war against Israel. The normalization of their relations is the continuation of a long-term development which, according to media reports, also included an expansion of intelligence cooperation against Iran.

With the recognition of Israel, the Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan give up the principle of "land for peace" defined in the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002. According to this principle, there can only be recognition by the Arab states if Israel accepts a Palestinian state. The Palestinians, Iran and Turkey condemned the agreements as "treason". Saudi Arabia announced that it would continue to adhere to the "land for peace" principle.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly traveled to Saudi Arabia in late November 2020. At that time, according to Israeli newspapers, he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the city of Neom.

What has characterized Trump's Middle East policy so far?

The Trump administration has been one-sidedly behind Israel from the start and broken the consensus of Western Middle East diplomacy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv at the end of 2017. She no longer sees the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as a violation of international law. It recognized Israel's annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and closed the Palestinian mission in Washington.

In the Gaza Strip, the relocation of the embassy led to weeks of protests. From the perspective of the Palestinian leadership, Washington has lost all credibility as a mediator. They refused any further cooperation, whereupon the USA cut the aid funds. Trump's policies have also met with criticism in Europe and the Arab states. Brussels continues to adhere to the two-state solution and warns that Trump's Middle East policy is not helping to end the conflict.

What are the roots of the conflict?

In 1947, the UN General Assembly decided to split the then British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, with Jerusalem to be placed under UN administration as a separate unit. The Jews were granted over half of the area, although the Arab population was almost twice as large as the Jewish. The Arab states rejected partition and refused to accept a Jewish state.

The Jews, on the other hand, agreed to the plan, and on May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel. On the very night of the founding, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq declared war on the young state. However, Israel was able to defend its territory and expand it significantly by 1949. Over 700,000 Palestinians were displaced or fled the fighting. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli troops also occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Sinai, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

What about the occupied territories today?

Today around five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants live in the occupied territories and neighboring countries. Apart from Sinai, which was later returned to Egypt, Israel continues to occupy the territories it conquered in the Six Day War. In 2005 the settlements in the Gaza Strip were evacuated. The area has been under Hamas rule since 2007, but Israel controls the external borders in the north and east as well as access from the sea.

The Jewish settlements in the West Bank have been systematically expanded for years. The first settlements across the Green Line emerged immediately after the Six Day War in 1967. The Green Line marks the 1949 armistice line and has been the official border between Israel and the Occupied Territories since 1967. To protect against assassins during the second Intifada, Israel secured part of it with a wall. This barrier wall is highly controversial because it extends far into Palestinian territory in many places.

Today the West Bank is a colorful patchwork of Jewish settlements and areas under the control of the Palestinians. According to the Oslo Agreement of 1993, the A-Zone is administered by the Palestinians alone. B areas are under Israeli-Palestinian community administration. The C areas, in which Israeli settlements are located, are controlled by Israel. The freedom of movement of the Palestinians is severely restricted by the barrier wall, checkpoints and connecting roads between the settlements.

What are the main points of contention?

The right of the five million or so Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to Israel and the Occupied Territories is a central point of contention in the Middle East conflict. Israel rejects this because it would make the Jews a minority. Settlement construction is also controversial. According to the Israeli peace organization Peace Now, 427,800 Jewish settlers now live in a good 250 officially recognized settlements and tolerated outposts in the occupied West Bank and 215,000 Israelis in the annexed eastern part of Jerusalem.

Both sides also claim Jerusalem as the capital of their state. The city is considered holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, as central religious sites such as the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount with the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located there. The mosque and Dome of the Rock are administered by a religious authority overseen by the Jordanian government. Israel exercises security control over the area. There are always disputes about access.

What does two-state solution mean?

The two-state solution is an approach to the conflict that provides for “two states for two ethnic groups”. The UN resolution of 1947 provided for the creation of two states. So an independent Palestinian state was planned across the Jordan. Where exactly the limit should be has been a matter of dispute for decades. The Palestinian side now insists on the armistice line that existed until the Six Day War as a border. Israel is not ready to give up the territories completely.

In the last few decades, various attempts to implement the two-state solution have been unsuccessful, including at the Oslo Conferences in 1993 and 1995 and at Camp David in 2000. With the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Autonomous Administration was founded as a first step towards a separate state. but the implementation of the plan later came to a standstill. The last failed attempt at a two-state solution was the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2013-14.