Shirola: Palestinians should reconsider adamant rejection of Trump’s Middle East peace plan

Wesley Shirola, Assistant Opinion Editor

The Trump administration finally unveiled its Middle East peace plan on Tuesday after over two years in the making. The plan, which had been delayed several times, is meant to represent a solution to the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It gives Israelis much of what they have always sought while also giving Palestinians a path to nationhood under specific terms that was immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.

While far from perfect, Trump’s plan provides a useful starting point for civilized negotiations between the two groups after President Barack Obama’s was rejected by Israel and President George W. Bush’s largely failed to materialize. Such negotiations could yield a compromise more satisfactory to Palestinians. As such, they shouldn’t have turned down the peace plan so quickly.

In a highly celebratory reveal ceremony of the so-called “Deal of the Century” on Tuesday, President Donald Trump was accompanied on stage by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Today Israel is taking a giant step toward peace,” Trump said.

Palestine, on the other hand, boycotted the event. Abbas dismissed the plan from abroad. “We say a thousand times: no, no, no to the deal of the century,” Abbas said. “We rejected this deal from the start and our stance was correct.” This was a grave mistake.

To appreciate the extent of the hostilities surrounding the Middle East peace plan and why Palestinians should reconsider their adamant rejection of the plan, it is first necessary to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself. The conflict is one that has gone on for nearly a century primarily because of a dispute over land.

It all started after WWI when Britain took control of an area of land known as Palestine after the ruler of that part of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, was defeated.The area was inhabited by both a Jewish minority and an Arab majority. The international community eventually gave Britain the job of establishing a “national home” in this land for Jewish people. This caused tensions to boil, as both groups claimed ownership of the land. For the Jewish people, however, it was, importantly, their ancestral home.

The Jewish population in the area would steadily grow, and then massively expand post-WWII as many Jews fled Europe after the Holocaust. The conflict almost came to an end in 1947 when the United Nations voted for Palestine to be divided into two separate states, one Jewish and the other Arab, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. The Jews, for their part, accepted the plan. The Arabs, though, rejected it outright.

War broke out between the two groups in 1948, which ended with Israel gaining additional territory. After this Arab-Israeli war, Palestine was divided into three parts: The State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and the Gaza Strip. Smaller wars that led to only small changes in territorial possessions continued throughout the next few decades.

The next significant war, the Yom Kippur War, broke out in 1973 when Egypt and Syria initiated a blitz attack on Israel as a result of Israel’s occupation of two disputed territories: the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The fighting had ceased by the end of the year, but the war didn’t officially end until 1979 with the signing of President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Accords which bound Egypt and Israel in a peace treaty.

By no means was the conflict over, however. An increase in violence and uprisings among the Palestinians began shortly thereafter and still continues today. The first intifada occurred in 1987 consisting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Tensions were once again calmed in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords which established a plan for the Palestinians to self-govern as well as relations between the newly founded Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government. A second, more violent, Palestinian intifada began in 2000. More violence between Israelis and Palestinians occurred in 2015, at which point Abbas, the then and current Palestinian Authority President, declared that Palestine would cut ties with the Oslo Accords.

The United States has been trying to bring peace to the region for years, where many have been killed and thousands have been injured. The Trump administration has made it a top priority and the Middle East peace plan has the ability to make it a reality.

The plan, which Trump calls a “win-win opportunity for both sides,” is arguably the Palestinians’ best chance at statehood to date, considering the failures of Obama’s and Bush’s plans. As part of the plan, the U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over territory that the plan envisions as comprising part of Israel, as well as make a Palestinian capital on the outer edges of eastern Jerusalem, where the U.S. would open an embassy. Furthermore, the plan claims to increase the size of the current Palestinian territory. Most importantly, it will give Palestinians the opportunity to establish their own individual state, comprising over 15 percent of what the Palestine Liberation Organization deemed “historic Palestine.” Finally, the plan would name Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital.

It’s the latter of these two points that most upsets Palestinians and, based on the history between the two groups, this is certainly understandable. If a group believes all of a disputed land to be theirs, but another group believes all of it to be theirs, it is certainly rational that a group be unhappy with a plan that gives it only a fraction of said land.

But a compromise is a compromise. Even if one finds the plan to be skewed toward Israel, rejecting the plan outright is not the answer. Instead, the Palestinians should come to the negotiation table and renegotiate the plan until both sides are satisfied.

I foresee no future scenario where Palestine will have a more favorable opportunity to become an internationally recognized state and legally own some of this land. Any peace plan, whether this one or the next, will by its very nature involve compromise. As such, the Palestinians should be prepared to compromise, whether by accepting the current proposal as is or offering to negotiate. There is absolutely no reason to drag this deadly conflict out further. The Palestinians must quickly reconsider their decision to avoid negotiations at the cost of peace in the Middle East. If they don’t, they will likely forever remain in second place.

Wesley Shirola is a Weinberg junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.