President Donald Trump released his Middle East peace plan last Tuesday, a move that enraged many Palestinians. While he calls it the “deal of the century,” Palestinians weren’t a part of the planning process. Followed quickly on Friday by several additions to the controversial travel ban, the United States has lost its ability to be a neutral arbiter in the Middle East, if we ever were one. Looking at the Middle East peace plan and the updated travel ban, it is clear that the Trump administration, and America in general, has proven that we have no business trying to broker peace in the region.
The original travel ban applied to seven majority-Muslim countries. Trump’s updated ban includes Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea and Kyrgyzstan. All but Myanmar have large Muslim populations. Sudan and Tanzania were also initially targeted for the ban, but instead have lost access to a program that gives green cards to immigrants. Both Sudan and Tanzania are also made up by large Muslim groups. Most of the countries are part of the Middle East, and most are predominantly Muslim. While pretending to negotiate a peaceful two-state solution neutrally, the Trump administration sends a clear message that they perceive Muslim populations to be dangerous and that they are to be controlled. This only hurts our credibility when it comes to negotiating with Palestine.
For better or for worse, America is currently the dominant power on Earth, both militarily and economically. So, what do Middle Eastern countries get from American hegemony? A plan that only serves to further strip them of their rights. Two major concessions were given to the Israelis right off the bat: Israel will now control a unified Jerusalem and will maintain their settlements in the West Bank. America condoning this land grab by Israel means abandoning any pretense of neutrality we had in these negotiations. Under this deal, Palestine will not have a standing military. How can they trust us? Why should they? Think in practical terms — how does this help? Whatever your opinion is on the Middle East conflict, Trump has further alienated half of the people that he needs for the solution to work. Is that any way to go about this?
One thing that Palestinians did get out of this deal was a four-year “land freeze,” in which Israel promised to stop settlement construction. But because Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can’t keep a promise for more than five minutes, we won’t see it happen. He told reporters that his cabinet would vote on Sunday, Feb. 2, on a “unilateral annexation of the strategically important Jordan River Valley and all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Israel would then be allowed to violate the terms of the deal without so much as an objection by the United States, as history has shown.
According to the United Nations, there have been 5,558 Palestinian fatalities from 2008 to 2020 due to Israeli occupation. During the same time, there have been 248 Israeli fatalities. That should really tell you all you need to know. Who’s the victim here, and who’s the oppressor? Almost a quarter of the Palestinian deaths were children. That statistic is less than 10 percent for Israelis. It is not Israel who should be gaining from this deal, and if America showed any kind of impartiality about this, we would see that, too.
So what, concretely, would Palestine get if they signed on to this deal? According to The New York Times, “Trump promised to provide $50 billion in international investment to build the new Palestinian entity.” There are two problems with this. One, we just saw an example where Netanyahu immediately backed away from a promise made, so why would Trump be any different? Second, the money is mainly coming from Arab nations. The United States isn’t giving up much of anything here, and neither is Israel. I’m not against the idea of giving financial aid to Palestine, but due to Western bias against them, there is no reason for Palestinians to rely on this money.
This horrible plan was foreshadowed when Trump moved the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. While I wouldn’t argue that America has ever been a neutral party in the Middle East, this plan is the final nail in the coffin for the United States ever being placed in that position. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rightfully rejected the plan and all other diplomatic ties to the United States and Israel. Our actions have consequences around the world, and if we are serious about long-term peace in the region, we should just get out.
Michael Levinstein is a senior double-majoring in political science and economics.