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

Japan should tread on the right path for peace in the Middle East
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Journalist

March 12, 2020
The United Nations Security Council avoided taking the vote on the United States’ unique initiative for solving the Palestinian issue presented by President Trump at the White House in January, thus dodging the subject while leaving it to the players to continue negotiating. This peace initiative, which President Trump entrusted to his Jewish American son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is disguised to tentatively acknowledge “The Two-State Solution”, which recognizes Palestine’s independence. However, it is a humiliating initiative to the Palestinians. The Old City of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians have long coveted as their capital would be under the complete sovereignty of Israel and it tells them to regard Abu Dis, outside of the West Bank Barrier surrounding the Old City as Jerusalem.

Pertaining to the whole West Bank of the Jordan River which takes up the main part of the occupied territory, the Trump-Kushner initiative officially published a map where the valley downstream of the Jordan River to the Dead Sea (30% of the West Bank) is incorporated into Israel. In the negotiations since the 1993 Oslo peace accords when Israel and Palestine embarked on “the historic agreement”, discussions such as narrowing down the range of settlements adjacent to Israel’s inherent territory (around 10% of the West bank) and provision by Israel of alternate sites within the Jewish settlements developed by Israel in the occupied territory have been the main points of negotiation between the two sides and arbitration by the United States. Looking back at what has been going on, one could say that the Trump initiative is a groundbreaking handout for Israel.

As for the remaining 70% of the land, which is left for Palestine, Israel’s sovereignty would be recognized for the Jewish settlements, which are scattered as enclaves within. According to President Abbas of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, their territory would be perforated like Swiss cheese, totally different from what the UN has preached as “contiguity and viability” and the guidelines of past US administrations. “Neither the Jews nor the Palestinians would be asked to leave,” said President Trump. What is he talking about? Can he see what is happening in reality: allowing illegal settlements, land grabs, edging into the West Bank Barrier and evicting the Palestinians? Or is he turning a blind eye?

The initiative of letting Israel take over the Jordan Valley was first advocated by acting Prime Minster Allon of the then Labor government soon after the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza. Its main aim was to separate the Palestinians from the neighboring Arab countries like Jordan and confine them inland, so as to ensure Israel’s security. Since then, the Interim Self-Government Arrangements after the 1993 Oslo peace accords categorized the valley as a so-called C zone which was to be controlled by the Israeli army. Even at the Camp David negotiations mediated by the Clinton administration in the summer of 2000, the Israel government led by the Barak administration suggested that Israel would want to “lease” the valley in order to keep armed forces there, and Prime Minister Olmert, the predecessor of the current Netanyahu regime explicitly stated that Israel would not take over the valley and that it would be returned to the Palestinians.

In 2006 when Prime Minister Koizumi was in Prime Minister Olmert’s Israel during a tour in the Middle East, he unveiled a plan to construct an agricultural products-processing factory funded by the Japanese government in Jericho in the West Bank, and to export the products to the oil-producing countries in the Gulf by land via the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. While a part of the plan came true, Mr. Shimon Peres, the then Israeli President, ardently called for transporting the seawater from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Dead Sea, which is at more than 400 meters below sea level, a part of which will be desalinated so that it can be shared among the three nations: Israel, Jordan and Palestine. With this initiative, he repeatedly stated that he’d like to make the Jordan valley “a valley of peace” based on reconciliation and cooperation. Despite that, not only has the Palestinians’ access to the valley has remained ungranted, but this time, the new initiative is causing a stir by offering the valley to Israel.

In Israel, there will be a legislative election and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who finds himself in a dire predicament with the corruption issues, is struggling to stay in the office. The announcement of President Trump’s initiative for solving the Palestinian issues at this particular point in time seems designed to provide covering fire for Mr. Netanyahu and to win votes from the evangelical Christians in the US to support his own reelection. It is hoped that Japan, for its part, keeps its sound judgment and sense of balance, and treads on the right path for peace in the Middle East peace without being sidetracked.

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

平山 健太郎 / ジャーナリスト

2020年 3月 12日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japan should tread on the right path for peace in the Middle East