Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Trump Administration and the Middle East Peace Proposal
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist

April 19, 2018
President Donald Trump made an official statement that the US embassy in Tel Aviv will move to Jerusalem in May this year, when Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding. The President also expressed his intentions of attending the relocation ceremony in person. It was a devastating betrayal for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, who had placed their faith in the United States as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process.

Until now, the United States had refrained from exercising its veto against the United Nations resolution that declared Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem as illegal and invalid, leaving the status of East Jerusalem to be decided by talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. President Trump has ignored even such guidelines that successive US administrations had followed over the years.

The Trump administration has said it will present an original proposal for future peace between Israel and Palestine, but the Palestinian side is expecting a proposal that would be highly unacceptable. Rather, they suspect the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking to use the Palestinian refusal as an excuse to call a general election as a way out of the tight spot in which he finds himself due to bribery allegations against him.

The US government has said its proposal is yet to be finalized, and that the Palestinian side should avoid speculation. However, Saeb Erekat - a veteran negotiator of the Palestinian National Authority who has dealt with the Israeli side for many years - has summarized the outline of the US proposal in a report and submitted it to a committee of Fatah, the major political party of President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the report, the US plan envisages establishing a Palestinian “state” with provisional borders covering the entire region of Gaza and less than 40 percent of the region on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Meanwhile, most of the Jewish settlements scattered across the region will be left intact, thereby undermining the continuity of Palestinian territory. The Israeli military will be deployed at key positions in the valleys along the Jordan River and on high ground along the ridgelines of its west bank. As before, the final authority on maintaining security throughout the West Bank will remain with the Israeli military. The “provisional state” of Palestine has been called “State Minus” by Prime Minster Netanyahu. It is perhaps an indication that Palestine will never be granted full sovereignty.

As for the capital of Palestine, the US plan suggests Abu Dis, a village that lies within an area controlled by the Palestinian Authorities outside the eight-meter high separation barrier built by the Israelis that surrounds the city areas. Make that your capital and call it “Jerusalem” - that seems to be the US position.

Originally, the Arab consensus on Palestinian peace, as proposed by Saudi Arabia, was to establish a Palestinian state demarcated along borders that existed before the Third Arab-Israeli War of 1967 – the 1949 Armistice border – with some additional changes based on an exchange of territory, and East Jerusalem as its capital. This was to be followed by normalization of relations between Israel and all the Arab countries including the state of Palestine.

However, the civil war in Syria and expanding influence of Islamic State (IS) have caused dramatic changes in the Middle East political landscape, moving Israel closer to Sunni Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia through exchange of information on terrorists. This is what lies behind the heavy silence that has fallen upon Sunni countries regarding the latest Jerusalem issue. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have been weighed down by a strong sense of fatigue, and protests against the US embassy’s move to Jerusalem have been much more subdued than expected.

As the outlook for Palestinian peace remains dim, Japanese Foreign Minister Kono Taro visited the region at the end of last year. He met with leaders from both sides and stressed the Japanese position of upholding the “two-state” solution and seeking continued negotiations between Israel and Palestine on the status of East Jerusalem – a position that is distinctly different from that of the United States. Kono also expressed Japan’s willingness to mediate, including providing a location for the talks.

For now, Japan must wait until the right opportunity presents itself. In the meantime, Japan should offer words of encouragement and continuous financial support to the Palestinians, who have seen significant reductions in US aid, and the Kingdom of Jordan, which is reeling from the side-effects of the stalled peace talks. And as it lies in wait, Japan should maintain its unwavering position on issues such as the “two-state” solution and seeking an honorable deal for the Arab side with respect to East Jerusalem.

Kentaro Hirayama is a former Executive Commentator of the NHK.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎 / ジャーナリスト

2018年 4月 19日

トランプ政権は、イスラエル、パレスチナ間の今後の和平の形について、米国独自の提案を近く発表するとしているが、パレスチナ側は到底受け入れられる内容ではないと見ている。むしろネタニヤフ政権がパレスチナ側の拒絶を口実として総選挙に打って出て、首相自身にかけられている収賄疑惑の苦境を切り抜けようとしていると疑っている。トランプ政権側は、米国の独自案はまだ決まっておらず、パレスチナ側は憶測を避けるべきだとしている。しかし、イスラエル側との交渉を長年担当してきたパレスチナ自治政府のエレカット(SAEB EREKAT)氏は、米国案の骨子を次のような報告書にまとめアバス議長の主流政党ファタハの委員会に提出している。

それによると米国案は、パレスチナ側にガザの全域とヨルダン川西岸の40%足らずの地域で、暫定的な境界線を持つ「国家」を発足させるが、点在するユダヤ人入植地の大部分はそのまま残り、パレスチナ領土の連続性は損なわれる。ヨルダン川沿いの峡谷や、「西岸」の稜線に沿った高台の要所にはイスラエル軍が展開。西岸全体の最終的な治安維持は従来通りイスラエル軍が権限を持つ。ネタニヤフ首相は、こうしたパレスチナの「暫定国家」を「STATE MINUS」という言葉で呼んでいる。完全な主権は与えないということだろう。



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