From negotiation to imposition: Trump’s Israel-Palestine parameters

Comparing the US “peace plan” for Israel-Palestine with ECFR’s own work on future parameters illuminates how Donald Trump is departing from longstanding international consensus positions.

Conceptual map of the State of Israel under the Trump peace planDonald Trump’s “parameters” for a final deal between Israelis and Palestinians focus on the final status issues that have been at the heart of past rounds of negotiations: future borders, the status of Jerusalem, security arrangements, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. In a number of respects, the US plan marks a radical break from past visions for a two-state solution and previous final status parameters. It also marks a new approach: whereas past US efforts have sought merely to delineate the contours for a future agreement, Trump’s team has swung fully behind the most maximalist Israeli demands in order to impose an agreement on the Palestinian side.

During the summer of 2016, a European government tasked the European Council on Foreign Relations with leading a Track II initiative to devise a new set of final status parameters in light of the existing international positions at that time. Its mandate was to develop new parameters that took into account the increasing divergence in Israeli and Palestinian positions, corresponded with established European Union policy positions and international law, and could receive endorsement from the Obama administration. The ECFR initiative was supported by a working group of experts and former officials from Europe, Israel, Palestine, the United States, and neighbouring Arab countries.

The working group’s language and ideas fed into US deliberations around what would become UN Security Resolution 2334 and were reflected in the final status parameters outlined by John Kerry in December 2016. The group chose to expand only marginally on existing positions in order to identify zones of agreement, while leaving final details to be negotiated by the parties.

In contrast, the Trump team has gone into much greater depth – producing a 181-page document – with a view to imposing final terms. In doing so, however, the US has significantly moved the goalposts in Israel’s favour. ECFR working group members had at the time expressed their concern about such an approach, warning that handing free ‘wins’ to the Israeli leadership would encourage it towards yet more right-wing and unilateral tendencies.

The exercise below is an attempt to distil the “Trump parameters” from an otherwise extensive US document that at times can be difficult to digest given its length, structure, and style. This necessarily omits the minutiae of the plan that Palestinians would have to meet in order to be granted US and Israeli statehood recognition, including with regard to negotiation modalities and the extensive conditions.


The US plan deliberately distances itself from international law and existing UN Security Council Resolutions, whose determinations have informed past parameters. It is worth noting that, despite the US assertion that there are conflicting interpretations of the relevant UN resolutions, in particular 242, in reality only Israel opposed the international consensus interpretation. Moreover, it ignores subsequent resolutions, including 2334, which have resolved any suggested ambiguities.

The Trump parameters speak of a realistic two-state solution and the need for equal rights through two states. During ECFR’s drafting process, such language was considered important in order to safeguard the rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel while still taking into account Israeli (and US) demands for recognition of Israel’s Jewish character. But the US proceeds to redefine what such concepts mean in practice. This reframing becomes clear in the subsequent parameters, but is already reflected in the clauses affirming that any Palestinian state will be allowed only self-administration under limited sovereignty, and endorsing the continuation of Israeli security control over Palestinian territory.

Comparison of Trump parameters and those produced by the ECFR working group

ECFR Parameters

Two States, Mutual Recognition, Peace

The Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the State of Israel (“the parties”) will reach agreement on a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, committing to the mutual recognition of the two states, Israel and Palestine. The agreement will be consistent with the UN Charter, and based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 465 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), 1850 (2008), the 1991 Madrid principles, including land for peace, and agreements previously reached by the parties, starting with the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 and subsequent ‘Oslo’ agreements.

With the conclusion of an agreement, the objective of two states for two peoples, as envisaged in UN General Assembly resolution 181 (1947), will be fully implemented: Israel as a nation state of the Jewish people and all of its citizens, and Palestine as a nation state of the Palestinian people and all of its citizens, each state enjoying national self-determination, mutual recognition and peace, and fully respecting equal rights for all their respective citizens.

The agreement will be considered as ending the conflict and resolving all outstanding claims of the parties. The agreement will be consistent with the vision put forward in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, subsequently endorsed by the League of Arab States, and will pave the way to the establishment of secure and peaceful relations between the Arab States and Israel.

Trump Parameters

A realistic two state vision

Different parties have offered conflicting interpretations of some of the most significant United Nations resolutions, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. This Vision is not a recitation of General Assembly, Security Council and other international resolutions on this topic because such resolutions have not and will not resolve the conflict.

This Vision creates a realistic Two-State solution in which a secure and prosperous State of Palestine is living peacefully alongside a secure and prosperous State of Israel in a secure and prosperous region. It provides the Palestinians, who do not yet have a state, with a path to a dignified national life, respect, security and economic opportunity and, at the same time, safeguards Israel’s security.

This Vision aims to achieve mutual recognition of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and the State of Palestine as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, in each case with equal civil rights for all citizens within each state.

This Vision is security-focused, and provides both self-determination and significant economic opportunity for Palestinians. A realistic solution would give the Palestinians all the power to govern themselves but not the powers to threaten Israel. This necessarily entails the limitations of certain sovereign powers in the Palestinian areas such as maintenance of Israeli security responsibility and Israeli control of the airspace west of the Jordan River.

During the negotiations the parties should conduct themselves in a manner that comports with this Vision, and in a way that prepares their respective peoples for peace.

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement will end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and end all claims between the parties. The foregoing will be proposed in (i) a new UN Security Council resolution, and (ii) a new UN General Assembly resolution.


The US vision completely does away with the international belief that the pre-June 1967 borders should form the basis of a Palestinian state. It accepts that Israeli settlements and outposts – which have no validity under international law – should be accepted as faits accomplis.

By opposing the evacuation of Israeli settlements, and accepting that even settler outposts – which are illegal under Israeli law – can remain in place under Israeli sovereignty, the US is envisaging territorial transfers to Israel far in excess of anything that had previously been considered by either Israeli or Palestinian negotiators. Israel’s retention of roads connecting Israeli enclaves deep in Palestinian territory, and the matrix of control that comes with it, will assure the continued fragmentation of the Palestinian state.

The description of potential Israeli territory given to a future Palestinian state in exchange is also significant. While ECFR parameters call for equal land swaps, Trump mentions only that these should be reasonably comparable in size. As ECFR’s drafting group warned, a vague reference to the nature of land swaps could be used by Israel as a justification for annexation, expansion, and continued unreasonable demands. Trump’s terminology also allows Israel to give lower-value land in exchange – such as the desert areas near the Egyptian border.

In another serious departure from previous parameters, including those of ECFR, the Trump parameters give the whole Jordan Valley to Israel (around 30 percent of the West Bank). This seriously reduces the size and viability of a future Palestinian state. By preventing a future Palestinian state from having direct contact with neighbouring countries, made to rely instead on Israeli-controlled border crossings, the vision further strengthens Israel’s control over a future Palestinian state and its external relations.

In addition, Israel is allowed to claim Palestinian territorial waters, removing Palestinian access to vital resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone, including fishing rights and the Gaza Marine natural gas.

The Trump parameters introduce further Palestinian concessions not previously envisaged. It gives Israeli courts jurisdiction over disputes relating to private property rights and allows Israel to play a direct role in Palestinian territory adjacent to its security wall. Based on current practice, this could allow Israel to enforce demolition orders against Palestinian structures in this area on the pretext of security.

By indicating that Palestinians living in areas that will fall under Israeli control will become Palestinian citizens, the plan provides Israel with a mechanism to absorb Palestinian territory without having to assume responsibility for its Palestinian inhabitants. In another far-reaching move, it also opens the doors to the territorial transfer of some 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel to a future Palestinian state.

Comparison of Trump parameters and those produced by the ECFR working group

ECFR Parameters

Two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine; based on the 4th June 1967 lines, with mutually agreed and equal [1:1] land swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for the two states and their respective capitals in Jerusalem. The territorial integrity, contiguity and viability of the Palestinian state will thereby be ensured. A permanent corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza will be established; this will not form part of [1:1] land swaps.

Trump Parameters

Peace should not demand the uprooting of people – Arab or Jew – from their homes.

Approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory, and approximately. 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory. Land swaps will provide the State of Palestine with land reasonably comparable in size to the territory of pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza.

The Jordan Valley, which is critical for Israel’s national security, will be under Israeli sovereignty. The State of Israel will retain sovereignty over territorial waters, which are vital to Israel’s security and which provides stability to the region.

Two access roads will be built for the benefit of the State of Palestine that will be subject to Israeli security requirements. These roads will enable Palestinians to cross the Jordan Valley to the border crossing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A tunnel will connect Gaza to the West Bank [tk1]

The security barrier will be realigned to match the new borders.

The Conceptual Map has been designed to demonstrate the feasibility for a redrawing of boundaries in the spirit of UNSCR 242. The drawing of borders pursuant to the Conceptual Map shall be without prejudice to individual claims of title or rights of possession traditionally litigated within the Israeli judicial system.

The Palestinian population located in enclaves that remain inside contiguous Israeli territory but that are part of the State of Palestine shall become citizens of the State of Palestine and shall have the option to remain in place unless they choose otherwise. They will have access routes connecting them to the State of Palestine. They will be subject to Palestinian civilian administration, including zoning and planning, within the interior of such Palestinian enclaves. They will not be discriminated against and will have appropriate security protection. Such enclaves and access routes will be subject to Israeli security responsibility.

The Israeli population located in enclaves that remain inside contiguous Palestinian territory but that are part of the State of Israel shall have the option to remain in place unless they choose otherwise, and maintain their existing Israeli citizenship. They will have access routes connecting them to the State of Israel. They will be subject to Israeli civilian administration, including zoning and planning, within the interior of such Israeli enclaves. They will not be discriminated against and will have appropriate security protection. Such enclaves and access routes will be subject to Israeli security responsibility.

Although each party will be in charge of setting zoning rules and issuing building permits in their own countries, zoning and planning of the State of Palestine in the areas adjacent to the border between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, including without limitation, the border between Jerusalem and Al Quds, will be subject to the State of Israel’s overriding security responsibility.

The Vision contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the [Israeli] Triangle Communities [Kafr Qara, Ar’ara, Baha al-Gharbiyye, Umm al Fahm, Qalansawe, Tayibe, Kafr Qasim, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia] become part of the State of Palestine. In this agreement, the civil rights of the residents of the triangle communities would be subject to the applicable laws and judicial rulings of the relevant authorities.


The Trump parameters grant all of Israel’s demands relating to Jerusalem. This will come under full Israeli sovereignty, along with Muslim holy sites. By granting the right for Jews to pray on the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) it is breaking with the (pre-2000) status quo – a de facto arrangement between Israel and Jordan (in its capacity as Muslim custodian) which played an important role in preserving relative peace in Jerusalem since 1967. The status quo has been eroding over past years leading to repeated flare-ups of violence. The right of worship is an extremely contentious issue, and removing status quo arrangements in such a unilateral manner will likely provoke further violent clashes between Jewish and Muslim worshippers. By contrast, ECFR’s parameters called for special arrangements to be agreed by the sides, reflecting the established status quo.

The capital offered to Palestinians would not be located in Jerusalem and instead encompass outlying Palestinian areas located to the east of Israel’s security barrier. It does, however, meet an Israeli desire to divest itself of the Palestinian area of Kafr ‘Aqab and the impoverished Shuafat refugee camp, which are currently located in Jerusalem’s Israeli-drawn municipality (but physically separated from the city by Israel’s ‘security barrier’).

Comparison of Trump parameters and those produced by the ECFR working group

ECFR Parameters

The capital of both Israel and Palestine will be in Jerusalem.

The agreement on borders, based on the June 4, 1967 lines, will stipulate the two parties’ sovereignty in Jerusalem.

With regard to the Old City and the sacred sites, special arrangements or a special regime as agreed by the parties may be established to guarantee the religious, historic and cultural integrity of Jerusalem’s holy and historic sites, and to further guarantee freedom of worship and freedom of access to sites held sacred by Jews, Christian and Muslims based on the established status quo.

The equities of all stake holders – including the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and indigenous and faith communities – will be rigorously protected.

Trump Parameters

The physical barrier [West Bank Wall] should remain in place and should serve as a border between the capitals of the two parties.

Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel, and it should remain an undivided city. The sovereign capital of the State of Palestine should be in the section of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier, including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and could be named Al Quds or another name as determined by the State of Palestine. Neither party shall encourage or support efforts by other countries or persons to deny the legitimacy of the other party’s capital or its sovereignty.

Freedom of access to all religious sites of all faiths in both states should be agreed to and respected by the parties. The State of Israel and the State of Palestine should enter into an access agreement to ensure freedom of access to and prayer rights at all religious sites within the State of Palestine and the State of Israel. A list of such holy sites should be compiled during negotiations between the parties.

This Vision would allow the Arab residents of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, beyond the 1949 armistice lines but inside the existing security barrier to choose one of three options: Become citizens of the State of Israel; Become citizens of the State of Palestine; Retain their status as permanent residents in Israel.


As highlighted by ECFR’s parameters, a future agreement should take into account the security needs of Israelis and Palestinians. They allow for a transitional and limited Israeli security presence but are clear that final arrangements must bring an effective end to Israel’s occupation and respect Palestinian sovereignty. During the drafting process, ECFR group members made clear that any language should avoid making Israel the arbiter of Palestinian progress and thereby allow it to maintain its military occupation permanently. Instead it envisages a role for the international community in monitoring the compliance of both sides.

Trump’s parameters take a diametrically opposite position. They frame security interests as an exclusively Israeli requirement that takes precedence over Palestinian sovereignty and rights. This in effect sanctions open-ended Israeli military control over Palestine. It also allows Israel to determine the extent to which Palestinians have complied with the security requirements and reverse the easing of restrictions (similar to Israel’s current practice towards Gaza). The parameters also suggest a possible Jordanian role in supporting security in Palestinian territory. This could be interpreted as an attempt to push Jordan to assume greater responsibility over Palestinians, as a first step towards confederation – an idea often pushed by right-wingers in Israel.

Comparison of Trump parameters and those produced by the ECFR working group

ECFR Parameters

Agreed security arrangements must be robust enough to prevent terrorism, stop the infiltration of weapons, and provide effective border security. These security arrangements will respect the sovereignty of Israel and Palestine and be predicated on the full and phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces from all of the territory of the Palestinian state.

The Palestinian State will be non-militarised.

The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces, according to a reasonable, limited and agreed timeframe, should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility within the sovereign territory of the Palestinian state. 

The international community shall assist the parties, including with the option of an international force, to help ensure effective implementation and monitoring of this agreement.

Trump Parameters

Upon signing the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, the State of Israel will maintain overriding security responsibility for the State of Palestine, with the aspiration that the Palestinians will be responsible for as much of their internal security as possible, subject to the provisions of this Vision. [full israeli contol]

The State of Palestine shall be fully demilitarized.

The State of Israel will work diligently to minimize its security footprint in the State of Palestine according to the principle that the more the State of Palestine does, the less the State of Israel will have to do.

The State of Israel will maintain at least one early-warning stations in the State of Palestine which will be run by Israeli security forces. Uninterrupted Israeli security access to and from any early-warning station will be ensured.

As the State of Palestine meets and maintains the Security Criteria, the State of Israel’s involvement in security within the State of Palestine will be reduced. The criteria for Palestinian security performance are generally outlined in Appendix 2B.

Should the State of Palestine fail to meet all or any of the Security Criteria at any time, the State of Israel will have the right to reverse the process [leading towards Palestinian statehood recognition by the US]. The State of Israel’s security footprint in all or parts of the State of Palestine will then increase as a result of the State of Israel’s determination of its expanded security needs and the time needed to address them.

The State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will discuss to what extent, if any, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan can assist the State of Israel and the State of Palestine in connection with security in the State of Palestine.


The Trump parameters fully do away with the possibility of even a limited right of return to Israel in line with ECFR’s parameters. They also place restrictions on the ability of refugees to move to the state of Palestine, including by giving Israel a veto over returnees. Nor are host countries given much say in the matter, besides potentially receiving international assistance funds.

Whereas ECFR’s parameters envisage the dismantling of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees only after its functions have been superseded by new arrangements, the Trump parameters state that this should happen immediately following the signing of an agreement, risking a disruption to the delivery of basic services. Taken together, the US vision is likely to provoke a severe backlash in refugees camps and host countries.

Finally, the Trump parameters introduce the subject of reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. ECFR’s group felt that such a reference would not be appropriate in a text relating to Israeli-Palestinian peace since this is clearly an issue to be dealt with between Israel and relevant Arab states and would complicate securing Arab backing for a final Israeli-Palestinian deal.

Comparison of Trump parameters and those produced by the ECFR working group

ECFR Parameters

The resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue will recognise the suffering and injustice experienced by Palestinian refugees, resolving their plight in an agreed, just, and fair manner consistent with this two state agreement.

To this end, a number of options for the future permanent place of residence of refugees will be agreed and implemented.

Israel will provide a number and modality for refugee absorption and resettlement within Israel as part of this overall agreement.

Palestinian refugees will be entitled to citizenship in the State of Palestine in accordance with the laws and policies of that state.

Absorption and rehabilitation in host countries, and resettlement in third countries will be at those countries’ sovereign discretion and will be coordinated by the UN within the context of this agreement.

An international commission will be established to implement all aspects of the agreement reached by the parties, including a mechanism of compensation and rehabilitation for Palestinian refugees, including where relevant for host countries. Israel will contribute an agreed sum to this mechanism.

UNRWA will continue to carry out its responsibilities until those are superseded by the full implementation of all aspects of this agreement.

The full implementation of the above constitutes the fulfilment of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948).

Trump Parameters

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement shall provide for a complete end and release of any and all claims relating to refugee or immigration status. There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel.

To be eligible for any refugee rights under the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, individuals must be in Registered Refugee status by UNRWA, as of the date of release of this Vision.

This plan envisions three options for Palestinian refugees seeking a permanent place of residence: Absorption into the State of Palestine (subject to the limitations provided below); Local integration in current host countries (subject to those countries consent); or the acceptance of 5,000 refugees each year, for up to ten years (50,000 total refugees), in individual Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries who agree to participate in Palestinian refugee resettlement (subject to those individual countries’ agreement).

The United States will work together with other countries to establish a framework for the implementation of such options, including taking into account current host countries’ concerns and limitations.

The rate of movement of refugees from outside Gaza and the West Bank into the State of Palestine shall be agreed to by the parties and regulated by various factors, including economic forces and incentive structures, such that the rate of entry does not outpace or overwhelm the development of infrastructure and the economy of the State of Palestine, or increase security risks to the State of Israel. This rate of movement should be adjusted, as appropriate, with the passage of time.

It must be stressed that many Palestinian refugees in the Middle East come from war torn countries, such as Syria and Lebanon that are extremely hostile toward the State of Israel. To address this concern, a committee of Israelis and Palestinians will be formed to address this issue and to resolve outstanding disputes over the entry in the State of Palestine of Palestinian refugees from any location. The rights of Palestinian refugees to immigrate to the State of Palestine shall be limited in accordance with agreed security arrangements.

Upon the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, Palestinian refugee status will cease to exist, and UNWRA will be terminated and its responsibilities transitioned to the relevant governments. Part of the Trump Economic Plan will go toward the replacement of refugee camps in the State of Palestine with new housing developments in the State of Palestine. Thus, the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement will lead to the dismantling of all Palestinian refugee camps and the building of permanent housing.

The US will endeavor to raise a fund to provide some compensation to Palestinian refugees. Such funds will be placed in a Palestinian Refugee Trust to be administered by two trustees appointed by the State of Palestine and the United States.

The Jewish refugee issue, including compensation for lost assets, must also be addressed. Additionally, the State of Israel deserves compensation for the costs of absorbing Jewish refugees from those countries. A just, fair and realistic solution for the issues relating to Jewish refugees must be implemented through an appropriate international mechanism separate from the Israel-Palestinian Peace Agreement.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Senior Policy Fellow

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