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15 May 2017

Trump's Middle East visit: Palestine hopes for freeze on settlements

As the world eagerly anticipates President Trump's upcoming visit to the Middle East, Palestinian officials hope that US-led peace talks would make Israel stop settlement construction.

The revelation was made by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, after a meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan.

Trump had previously expressed his desire to broker an Israel-Palestine peace deal.

Could Trump seal the deal?

In context

Can Trump successfully broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal?
What are these settlements?


What are these settlements?

The settlements refer to communities set up by Israel in territories acquired in its victory in the Six Day war (1967), including East Jerusalem and West Bank.

According to statistics from Peace Now, an Israeli organization, West Bank and East Jerusalem have 131 and 12 settlements, inhabited by 3,85,000 and 200,000 settlers respectively.

Numerous peace talks have collapsed over bitter disagreements on these settlements.


What is the bone of contention?

Israeli settlers hold that the land was given to the Jews by God. They further prefer to stay on because of economic benefits in the form of government subsidies.

Palestinians argue that settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem make their territorial claims for a future state impossible. Their freedom of movement is further affected through numerous Israeli checkpoints meant to keep militants out.

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US efforts at brokering peace

Peace negotiations

US efforts at brokering peace

US Presidents have consecutively made attempts to broker peace since Jimmy Carter initiated the Camp David talks in 1978, involving both Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

While significant breakthrough was achieved in the Oslo Agreement (1993) brokered by President Clinton, the deal fell through as it wasn't acceptable to organizations including Hamas.

The last round of talks brokered by President Obama fell through in 2014.


What lies ahead for Trump?

Trump had earlier asked Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to "hold back on settlements for a little bit".

Israel had further conveyed its willingness to make painful concessions for peace, although it might be unwilling to let go of East Jerusalem, making a breakthrough very likely.

Moreover, any agreement is bound to fail without domestic actors including Israeli settlers and Palestinian rejectionist groups on board.

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