An Israeli border policeman scuffles with a Palestinian man during a protest near Ramallah, West Bank. CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters

Editorial: Peace plan fizzles

  • February 7, 2020

Returning from a recent visit to the Holy Land, Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon compared the Palestinian territory of Gaza to a prison.

“Having been in prison ministry for some time, I can tell you it’s easier to visit a prisoner in one of our Canadian prisons than to get into Gaza and get out,” he said.

Now we have Donald Trump dangling a get-out-of-jail card in front of the beleaguered people of Gaza and the West Bank. He has tabled a deeply flawed peace plan to end a 70-year conflict. But, unfair as it is, Palestinians may have to live with it.

On Jan. 28, Trump announced his long-awaited proposal for Middle East peace. It read as if it were drafted by Israeli’s foreign ministry. The president called it a path to peace but it was widely interpreted as a my-way-or-the highway edict that calls on Palestine to swallow its pride, cough up big chunks of the West Bank and all but walk away from Jerusalem.

The proposal was roundly condemned by Palestine’s political classes. But that was expected. Less expected was contempt for the plan expressed by the region’s Church leaders.

“This plan will bring no solution but rather will create more tensions and probably more violence and bloodshed,” said a statement from the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

The Vatican has long supported a two-state solution that provides security for Israel, sovereignty for Palestine and protection for the region’s Christians. The Trump plan more or less ticks those basic boxes. It fizzles, however, in several important areas, particularly in its failure to acknowledge Palestine’s just land claims and the right recognized by the United Nations for Palestinian refugees to return to homes lost in past wars.

For these slaps to Palestinian dignity, the Trump plan offers a modified Palestinian state, more than $60-billion for reconstruction, a high-speed rail link connecting Gaza and the West Bank and an end to Israel’s illegal practice of erecting settlements on Palestinian territory. 

Is the proposal fair? Hardly. But should it be rejected? The only people qualified to answer that are the people who have been suffering for decades.

The situation in Palestine is dire. With an economy teetering on collapse and poverty and unemployment levels in blockaded Gaza above 50 per cent, Palestinians are basically being told to capitulate or continue to suffer. They are pawns in a Mideast game to calm a region reeling from conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and threatened by Iran. 

Trump’s plan is far from the two-state solution envisioned by the Vatican and others. But Palestinians are in no position to negotiate anything better and they lack allies to take on this fight for the little guy.

The ordinary Palestinian people deserve more, but they also deserve peace. The Trump plan suggests they can’t have both. 

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