Oslo vs. Trump’s Vision: How U.S. Mideast Plan Differs From Its Predecessors

From the way it was created and the way it was unveiled to the actual content, these are the major differences between the new peace plan and previous ones

David B. Green 

The map of Israel and Palestine as proposed in Donald Trump's peace plan.
The map of Israel and Palestine as proposed in Donald Trump’s peace plan.

When you peel away the significant differences in the way the Trump peace plan was compiled and presented to both sides, how do its actual provisions shape up next to predecessor frameworks for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, such as the Oslo Accords?

Of course, the way the new plan was assembled and announced at the White House on Tuesday could not fail to have an impact on the way it would be received among Palestinians and Israelis. In the former case, the response was complete derision.skip – Peace to Prosperity: The Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan – click to downloadIN FULL: Trump’s Middle East peace plan – click to download

How, then, does “Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People” – as the full, 181-page text of the Trump plan is called – propose dealing with the major issues of contention, and how does it compare with the terms of Oslo?

First, the Oslo plan was a “declaration of principles,” worked out in secret by Israeli and Palestinians negotiators, and meant to serve as the framework for a staged peace plan that would be negotiated and implemented incrementally by the sides within five years.

The gradual nature of the process was intended to allow for the development of trust and goodwill, in the hope that when the time came to deal with the most sensitive issues – in particular, the status of Jerusalem and the future of the Palestinian refugees, as well as the question of Palestinian statehood – the sides would already have enough at stake to insure they would be able and willing to make the necessary compromises to complete the deal. Obviously, they never got to that point.

However, one indication of where the Oslo framework might have ended up can be seen in the so-called Clinton Parameters of December 2000, negotiated as the second intifada raged, and never implemented. They are significant because they were accepted in principle by both then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who just a half year earlier had failed to reach agreement on final-status issues at the ill-fated Camp David summit.

The Trump plan aims to offer answers to all of the pressing issues, and states a priori that at the end of the process there will be a State of Palestine in place next to the State of Israel. However, whereas Oslo may have left too many crucial issues to the end, the Trump plan – written in extensive detail by the U.S. administration in conjunction with the Israelis, with no Palestinian participation – is apparently being offered to the latter on a “take it or leave it” basis.

It leaves little for the two sides to negotiate, even if the Palestinians were willing to do so. Furthermore, since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already agreed to the terms of the plan, and says he wants to begin implementing parts of it immediately, it is not clear that the drafters really care about a Palestinian response.

Here’s how Oslo and the Clinton Parameters compare with Trump’s “Vision” on the major issues…

Borders

The Trump plan does not accept the principle (as presented in UN Security Council Resolution 242) of Israel’s pre-1967 borders serving as the starting point for negotiations. Instead, it aspires to allow “approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank [to be] … incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory, and approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank [to be] … incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory.”

It imagines all of the Jordan Valley being annexed by Israel, and for no settlements to be uprooted, with the “vast majority” of them being annexed and incorporated “into contiguous Israeli territory.”

For the Palestinians, the contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank, and the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, as well as between Palestinian enclaves created within the West Bank, would be provided by “access roads” and other “first-rate infrastructure solutions (including tunnels and overpasses).”

In the Oslo Accords, the question of borders was to be part of the permanent status negotiations that were due to take place during the five-year transitional period. Following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995 and the election of Netanyahu the following year, the final borders were never agreed upon by both sides.

The Camp David talks included an Israeli proposal to secure the Jordan Valley on a long-term lease and to annex a reported 13 percent of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but, as noted, the meeting ended with no agreement.

Settlements

The Trump plan also calls for “land swaps,” by which Israel would compensate the Palestinians with territory from within sovereign Israel that would be equivalent to the West Bank lands to be annexed by Israel. As an example of Israeli land that could be relinquished, the Trump plan explicitly proposes, “subject to the agreement of the parties,” the transfer of the Arab “Triangle communities” in central Israel to the future Palestinian state. (It’s not clear whether the agreement of the citizens living in those communities would be required for them to be disenfranchised by Israel.)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaking after a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, January 22, 2020.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaking after a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, January 22, 2020.Majdi Mohammed/AP

The plan also includes Israeli territory along the southern border with Egypt being transferred to the Palestinians for the establishment of a “high-tech” manufacturing zone and a residential and agricultural area. These would be linked to the Gaza Strip by a road.

The Oslo Accords stated that negotiations would take as a starting point UN resolutions 242 and 338, which called for a return of Israel to the pre-1967 borders. In his final speech to the Knesset before his death, Rabin spoke of major clusters of Jewish population in the West Bank being incorporated into Israel, with the rest of the West Bank and all of Gaza becoming part of Palestine, which he imagined as “less than a state.”

In the Clinton Parameters, which both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to tentatively, between 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank, and all of the Gaza Strip, would revert to Palestinian sovereignty, with settlement blocs and 80 percent of the settler population remaining under Israeli control.

Jerusalem

According to the Trump plan, Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel, with the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods currently situated beyond the West Bank security barrier (e.g., Shoafat refugee camp, Abu Dis) becoming the Palestinian capital. Access to the city’s holy sites, including Temple Mount, would be available to all, and the current supervision by Muslim authorities over their holy sites (principally, Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock) would be maintained. The plan does not propose dismantling the security barrier.

Oslo left the future of Jerusalem to be negotiated by the parties as a final-status issue.

Security

Under the Trump plan, Palestine would be “fully demilitarized” – both the West Bank and Gaza, where Hamas would have to be disarmed – and Israel would maintain responsibility for the state’s external security. Palestinian security forces would be responsible principally for “public order, law enforcement, counterterrorism … [and] border security.” Israel would maintain the right to monitor border crossings, “to confirm that no weapons, dual-use or other security-risk related items will be allowed to enter into the State of Palestine.”

President Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, January 28, 2020.
President Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, January 28, 2020.Alex Brandon/AP

The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C, which although intended to be a temporary arrangement until a final agreement was negotiated, are still in place today. In Area A, the towns are nominally under full Palestinian control; in Area B, Palestinians oversee control of civilian affairs while Israel is in charge of security; and Area C, where most of the settler communities reside, is under full Israeli control.

According to the Clinton Parameters, Israel was to maintain a “temporary” presence in the Jordan Valley, and three permanent early-warning stations along the Jordan border, with the Palestinians controlling their own airspace.

Refugees

The Trump plan states explicitly that there shall be no Palestinian “right of return,” and that no refugees will be absorbed into the State of Israel. Rather, solutions for the refugees would have to be found within Palestine or other states in the region. The plan speaks vaguely of an American intention to “endeavor to raise a fund to provide some compensation to Palestinian refugees,” while calling for a mechanism to be created to compensate Israel for the money it spent over the years in absorbing Jewish refugees from the Arab and Muslim world following its declaration of statehood.

Refugees were another critical issue the Oslo Declaration of Principles left for future resolution. According to the Clinton Parameters, though, Israel was to recognize in principle the “moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people by the 1948 war, and the need to assist the international community in addressing the problem,” while the Palestinians were to waive their demand for an unlimited right of return.

Economic development and trade

The Trump plan places an emphasis on economic factors and imagines an international effort to raise $50 billion for investment in the Palestinian state during its first decade. It also speaks of Palestinians being able to use Israel’s Mediterranean ports of Ashdod and Haifa, although neither Gaza nor the West Bank have direct access to those cities. There is no mention, however, of either a seaport or airport in Gaza. The Palestinians would have the right to continue farming in the Jordan Valley, though this land would now be part of sovereign Israel, and they would have the right to use the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba.

The Paris Protocol of 1995 was an agreement incorporated into the Oslo Accords that proposed an Israeli-Palestinian customs union. In 1998, Yasser Arafat International Airport opened in Gaza (it was destroyed by Israel three years later, during the intifada), and there were plans to enlarge the Gaza seaport.

There were other attempts this century at bringing the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. But while the efforts of President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, were not deemed worthy even of mention in the Trump plan, another effort is recognized: the Arab Peace Initiative, first proposed in 2002 and reconfirmed five years later. 

The Trump plan writes that “the involvement of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Arab Peace Initiative increased the number of potential peace partners and introduced important concepts into the peace process. Much appreciation is owed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its role in the creation of the Arab Peace Initiative, which inspired some of the ideas contemplated by this Vision.”

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