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Israel and Palestine: United States’ Proposals for Peace - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:57 pm on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 5:57 pm, 27th February 2020

My Lords, I will focus on the so-called Trump peace plan, which is of course nothing of the kind. It abandons prior US policy in the region. It has nothing whatever to do with fairness to the two sides. It is constructed to reflect Israeli power on the ground and abandons the norms of international law about the non-acquisition of territory through military force. The proposals would give US approval for Israel to annex the Jordan Valley and most of Area C, amounting to about 30% to 40% of the occupied West Bank. This contrasts with the 95% or so Palestinian control of the West Bank proposed by Bill Clinton in 2000.

This plan says it will retain existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, not reduce them as international law requires. The new Palestinian state would have at least 600,000 Israeli settlers in it, all protected by the Israeli military. The involvement of the Palestinians in this plan was zero. The plan itself imposes on the Palestinians a large number of unrealistic obligations before they obtain a very small state with very little sovereignty. Israel would have “overriding security control”, with all entry and exit from the new state controlled by Israel. This Palestinian state would have no airport, Gaza would not have an independent port and Israel would control water and the electro-magnetosphere. The plan rules out any Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.

Unsurprisingly, the Palestinian leadership has totally rejected the Trump plan, seeking negotiations on a viable two-state solution based on 1967 borders, in accordance with international resolutions. The Arab League unanimously rejected the Trump proposals at its summit on 1 February and supported the Palestinian approach. Trump’s plan has been rejected by the African Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African President, has likened the Trump proposals to his country’s apartheid experience.

Many Israelis have distanced themselves from Netanyahu, and the Trump plan is not in Israel’s best long-term interests. I shall quote from an email sent to me by Breaking the Silence, an organisation of courageous former members of the Israel Defense Forces:

“We were the ones who entered Palestinian houses in the dead of night and patrolled their villages in order to create a constant ‘sense of persecution’, as we were ordered to do. We were the ones who limited their freedom of movement. We were the ones who stopped and searched children whose only crime was to live their lives. All of these things were justified for ‘security reasons’. Now that the idea of annexation is on the table, the Netanyahu Government isn’t even trying to disguise its expansionist aspirations. Now it is clear to everyone: this plan has nothing to do with security, but rather its purpose is to perpetuate Apartheid.”

This strand of Israeli opinion gets little coverage in our UK media; nor does it get much attention from the UK Government. The Government’s response to the Trump plan at the end of January was somewhat muddled, to put it kindly. They have shown little understanding that if the international community allows Israel to proceed with the Trump plan without sanctions, it undermines the Government’s own position on sanctioning Russia over the invasion of Ukraine or any other future illegal actions. When will we see a more muscular response to the Trump proposals and their lack of regard for international law? Perhaps the Minister could draw some comfort from the letter published in the Guardian today from 50 former European leaders and Foreign Ministers expressing their serious concerns about the Trump plan.