Venezuela have been caught in a political crisis since January 2019, with opposition leader and the National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declaring himself interim president. Under President Nicolas Maduro the economy of Venezuela collapsed, causing shortages of basic supplies which prompted 4.5 million people to leave. The political crisis needs to be resolved so that the economy and resulting humanitarian crisis can be dealt with.
President Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez who died while in presidency in 2013 following 14 years as the country’s leader. His socialist party PSUV have governed Venezuela for 20 years. In May 2018 Maduro was re-elected as president, with the opposition widely dismissing the poll as rigged. This was due to many candidates who ran against Maduro being barred from running while others had been jailed or fled the country for fear of being imprisoned. The opposition parties also argued the poll would be neither free nor fair. Under President Maduro, the economy of Venezuela collapsed leading to widespread shortages, resulting in 4.5 million people escaping the country. In December 2016 the opposition parties won a majority in the National Assembly with Juan Guaido being made leader of the Assembly. In response to this President Maduro created the National Constituent Assembly, which was made up exclusively of government supporters whose powers supersede those of the National Assembly. This move has resulted in the two bodies being in continuous dispute over issues. In January 2019 with the political crisis worsening National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on 23 January opposing President Maduro following his inauguration on January 10, 2019.
Juan Guaido, the youngest person to have been elected to lead the National Assembly, argued in a rousing speech to a crowd of supporters in January 2019, that the 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro was illegitimate, and that the presidency was vacant. He went on to state that with his role of Speaker of the National Assembly he was the only one left to lead the country out of the economic and political crisis. Following his move to declare himself interim president he was quickly recognised as the legitimate leader by the United States, Brazil and Colombia. With the nations siding with him soon growing to more than 50 countries. Guaido had the peoples vote as they believed he would ascend to the presidential palace within months. They also applauded his promise to bring in humanitarian aid to resolve the widespread shortages of basic goods.
Political Conflict Intensifies
Over the last year however, the two leaders of Venezuela have been at continuous loggerheads, with the government of President Maduro using his support from the military to prevent Guaido to carry out promises of aid. On February 23, 2019 Guaido faced his first set back, in his promise to provide the food and medical supplies for the country which had been piling up for days just over the Colombian border, after Maduro barricaded entry points, contending that the shipments are meant to humiliate and undermine him. Guaido along with volunteers, set off to bring the aid to the people of Venezuela however were met with teargas and rubber bullets, and at least three of the trucks caring aid were burned at the border. None of the shipments made it past the border blockades.
With the lack of results from Guaido the support for him began to dwindle and attendance at the rallies called in support of Guaido diminished. On April 30, 2019 Guaido made another attempt to gain more control in Venezuela with an attempt to get the armed forces who are loyal to President Maduro to switch sides. This however failed with only a few dozen soldiers joining him and resulted with the Maduro government labelling this as an attempted coup and cracking down even harder on the opposition.
Whilst the political tensions have been going on, the humanitarian crisis has continued in Venezuela, with thousands of people fleeing the country on foot every day. In April 2019, President Maduro allowed a shipment of emergency supplies in from the Red Cross. Prior to this Maduro had been denying the existence of a humanitarian crises and refused any foreign aid to enter the country with the government claiming the aid shipments are a political ploy by the United States. As well as a lack of basic supplies, the infrastructure in Venezuela has been poorly maintained. Since March 2019, a series of country-wide blackouts have been occurring. The continued political tensions have resulted in increased sanctions from the United States on Maduro, including the targeting of oil. Although the government has received sanctions from the US, the Maduro government has received continued support from Russia and China, with China offering to help rebuild the national power grid.
Renewed Political Tensions
A year after the political tensions began, the situation has escalated with renewed tension. Starting in January 2020, the Maduro government deployed police to prevent Guaido who was the National Assembly leader and opposition lawmakers from entering the National Assembly for the election of a new National Assembly leader, which Guaido was set to win. This move by the Maduro government meant they were able to elect their own candidate, pro-Maduro politician Luis Parra, into the position. In response Guaido and the opposition law makers who made up the majority of the National Assembly held their own election off-site and re-elected Guaido with a larger majority then Luis Parra had. This left Venezuela with two men claiming the presidency but also with two National Assembly leaders.
The key players in this crisis are to be seen as being the security forces, who have so far remained loyal to Maduro. Maduro has rewarded this loyalty with frequent pay increases and high-ranking military men being awarded control of key posts and industries. Talks between the government and opposition have seen no progress and continued US imposed sanctions on Venezuela and the government have not weakened President Maduro enough to see him step down from office. It can be said that the actions of the US have given Maduro a scapegoat to blame for the situation in Venezuela.
There are concerns to be heard with the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela escalating and the political situation continuing to deteriorate. The mass fleeing of Venezuelans is expected to continue. Resulting in an increased strain on the Latin American countries being inundated by the people escaping the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela; as well as on aid groups trying to support the refugees and asylum seekers. The political situation in Venezuela needs to be resolved so that the economy can be stabilised, and the humanitarian crisis can be resolved. It is likely that a resolution to the situation will only occur with the intervention of international players, through mitigation talks rather than sanctions which are likely to further escalate the current humanitarian crisis. The United States has already offered to mitigate the situation, however, with the United States supporting Guaido’s claim of presidency and putting continued sanctions on Maduro’s government other international powers may need to oversee the mitigation process.
The announcement this week of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games sets Japan up for unprecedented challenges politically, economically, logistically, and facing a public health crisis precipitated by the novel Covid-19 pandemic.
The International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government had put on the brave face for a number of weeks amid concerns for athlete’s safety, hoping to weather the storm of growing calls for the postponement of the Games due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe finally bowed to pressure from the Athletes, Sports Federations and National Olympic Committees to postpone the games until the summer of 2021.
The Olympics have avoided postponements several times previously, even following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and another attack during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The announcement of the postponement marks the first time in history the Games have been postponed owing to a public health crisis.
There will be real world implications and hurdles for the Japanese government following this decision. This will likely have political, economic and logistical ramifications for the nation of the rising sun.
Japan has spent more than 12 billion US dollars on the event. Sponsors and broadcasters have spent huge sums marketing and advertising. There are now questions being asked as to how these huge investments would be recouped.
At a time when Japan’s economy is already stumbling, the delay of the Olympics could deal a serious blow to the economy. In a report early this month, SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. projected that a cancellation of the Games would erase 1.4 percent of Japan’s economic output.
It is being wondered who will foot the bill for the additional costs of the leases and maintenance of facilities and venues.
Jiro Yamaguchi, professor of political science at Hosei University in Tokyo, muses that the postponement “could be a political burden because the government must make additional expenditures for the preparation of the Olympic Games during an economic crisis”. He further adds: “the Olympic Games might be a liability rather than a political opportunity for prime minister Abe”.
It is now left to be seen if the bets made by Japan´s prime minster Shinzo Abe that the Olympic Games would be a boost for the Japanese economy through tourism and consumption; and Japan´s public health policy in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic – would prove to be wise.
Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington recons it will be a “grand farewell a few months before Abe´s set to leave office”.
That is if all the variables at this precarious point manage to coalesce nicely in 2021.
In all of this, it must not be lost on us that the reason for the postponement of the Games was due to a public health crisis that resulted in a loss of confidence for the safety of the athletes, officials and spectators.
The narrative from sceptics is that Japan has supressed potential Covid-19 cases by deliberately under testing its population.
Gerald L. Curtis professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University reckons prime minister Abe “has been playing a kind of Russian roulette, betting that the virus won’t suddenly spike and giving the public a false sense of security by not testing large numbers of people. If his luck runs out and the virus spreads, he won’t be prime minister when the Olympics come to Tokyo next year.”
Japan is no stranger to very serious setbacks, and recovery stories. In 2011, Fukushima was the site of the Nuclear disaster following a Tsunami. Still recovering from that misfortune nine years ago, the Prefecture was supposed to be the location for the start of the Olympic Torch relay. It would have been a symbolic testament to Japan’s powers of recovery from adversity. A resource it would still have to deploy going forward given the postponement of the Olympics and the logistical hurdles that has created.
The Tokyo Olympics Organising committee has had to extend the employment of 3,500 workers for another year. These workers were due to return back in the Autumn to Corporate Sponsors from whom they were “seconded” by the Tokyo Organising Committee.
Sales of Olympic Village into Apartments would have to be re-evaluated. Renovation plans put on hold; and contracts for prospective buyers re-examined. Hotel bookings have been thrown into disarray with the postponement – potentially leaving a seismic financial and logistical void – made even worse for them by an almost certain drop in tourism from the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In the face of these multiple uncertainties, however daunting they may sound, Japan has a history, resources, human capital and resilience of rising to the occasion when the chips are down. Providing the global pandemic does not get disastrously worse in 2021, one could make a bet that Japan, against all odds, would find a way round these head winds.
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) which has been rapidly spreading across the world at an alarming rate, southern Africa, or more accurately Africa, had been waiting with bated breath for the pandemic to eventually breach its territories.
Since COVID-19 was officially reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) by China on 31 December 2019, and eventually categorised as a global emergency by WHO on 30 January 2020, the region of southern Africa has responded in varied but largely preventative measures at its respective points of entry.
Out of the reported 403 cases of Coronavirus infections in the African continent, southern Africa has 210 confirmed cases to date (20 March 2020). South Africa has confirmed 202 cases, Mauritius has reported 3 cases, Zambia has reported 2 cases, Namibia 2 cases and Eswatini has reported 1 case of COVID-19. So far in southern Africa there have been no reported deaths as a result of the infection.
Statistically speaking, the region has lagged behind the global curve for Coronavirus infections and deaths, however for southern Africa this is more than just a numbers game. This is a global crisis that has a very local impact. Without taking into account the rate of infections within the region, there has been an almost immediate economic impact that southern Africa has had to contend with as a result of COVID-19. This is a factor that is likely to continue and may spell more economic trouble for the region if the outbreak is not contained. In addition to this, it will test the preparedness of the region for coronavirus. Any inadequacies in preparedness at a local level, is likely to affect the region and its stability, therefore this is also a testing of the efficacy of regional crisis cooperation.
From the onset of the outbreak southern Africa has been vulnerable to the wider economic consequences of Coronavirus. China, the United States, the European Union and United Kingdom are all some of the region’s biggest trade partners and southern Africa has not been impervious to the almost instantaneous negative economic effects that have come with virus outbreak. Since the outbreak African airlines have reportedly lost $400m as a result of having to suspend flights from China and later other affected parts of the world such as Italy. The airlines include Air Mauritius and South African Airways among others in Africa. In South Africa on 24 February it was reported that the Rand had weakened due to lack of investor confidence caused by the rapid spread of the Coronavirus. Similarly, in Angola the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China contributed to projections of a drop in oil demand from China. In other parts of the region, especially those that have a strong reliance on tourism such as Namibia, Botswana, Madagascar and Mauritius, there were restrictions and subsequent cancellations of visas and entry for people coming from countries most heavily affected by COVID-19.
Several countries in the region, including South Africa which has the strongest economy in the area, have been struggling to stimulate their economies and any interruptions to some of the traditional streams of income through trade and investment could spell disaster for some countries like Zimbabwe that is already on the brink of economic disaster. The region had imposed some stringent measures against affected countries at the onset of the virus outbreak to prevent infiltration within its territories, and this may have delayed the outbreak of COVID-19, however the economic ramifications were felt. With the presence of COVID-19 in at least 5 countries in the region, it is likely to add further pressures to the economy as most of the fragile health services will begin to experience further strain. The economies in the region have already shown vulnerability to the outbreak before any cases of infection were reported, it is likely that the region will face further instability as a result of this as the timeframe and ability for containment is uncertain.
COVID-19 in southern Africa will test two things: the region’s preparedness and its ability to coordinate and cooperate effectively. The Coronavirus is the biggest threat to public health since the Ebola Crisis. Lessons from the Ebola, HIV , Malaria, Cholera and Measles outbreaks, as well as the world’s response to COVID-19, will all be examples the region can draw from to tailor its response to the Coronavirus. In some ways, southern Africa is in familiar territory because it is no stranger to the outbreak of contagious diseases, although it must be noted that it remains unclear how COVID-19 will behave in the region and therefore cannot guarantee sufficient preparedness. This is also taking into account that a fragile health system, as is the case in most of the countries in the region, is likely to affect the effectiveness of tackling the outbreak. There are also high numbers of the population that are affected with underlying health issues such as HIV and Tuberculosis and this stands to significantly impact how successfully Coronavirus can be contained.
A number of the health systems in southern Africa are fragile, however this is true in varying degrees within each country. One indication of this is that Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa has already declared a national disaster over Coronavirus on 18 March 2020, this despite there being no confirmed case of the virus in country. On the other hand Zimbabwe has been battling a collapsing health system where a number of Zimbabweans have been seeking medical aid in countries like Zambia, an outbreak on the scale of what has occurred in China or Italy would be disastrous. While in South Africa on 19 March 2020, President Ramaphosa announced that he would build a fence along the border with Zimbabwe to stop infected people from entering South Africa this after he had earlier declared COVID-19 a national disaster. South Africa has one of the more developed health systems in sub-Saharan Africa, however it too reportedly has a limited availability of ICU beds. A spread that follows the trajectory of China could result in a high mortality rate in South Africa. Individual countries in the region may attempt to combat the outbreak unilaterally as it has been indicated by the actions of South Africa towards Zimbabwe, however the disparity in the resilience of each country’s health system within the region may mean regional cooperation is required to combat COVID-19. How effectively southern Africa can contain Coronavirus, is not just a numbers game but a matter of regional stability and economic wellbeing.
Does eastern Europe need to increase security measures to handle mass migration?
Some countries certainly think so. Feeling threatened by both the coronavirus and the potential surge of migrants, several states in eastern Europe has increased their border security throughout February. After Turkey announced that it would no longer stop Syrian refugees from going to Europe there has been concern that a new wave of migrants will hit the region. Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed at a meeting in Sarajevo to strengthen cooperation in combating illegal migration, including better coordination; data exchange; and joint patrols. Bosnian border police chief Zoran Galic said that this cooperation was needed in addressing the growing migratory pressure on the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its neighbours. At the end of February, Croatia put up a barrier about three meters long at a border crossing with Bosnia to facilitate controls and prevent the illegal passage of migrants. Tuzson, the state secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office in Hungary, said that vigilance in protecting the border was essential, adding that patrol forces had been doubled in south of Hungary.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Sziijarto labelled mass migration a threat to humanity during a counter-terrorism conference in Vienna. He connected mass migration to at least 30 terror attacks since the migrant crisis in 2015, adding that promoting mass migration could present “a very serious threat to the whole of humanity.” Bosnian Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic has called on the EU to recognise that the migratory crisis is not only a humanitarian question, but a security crisis. He said that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there was a lack of about 1,200 border police, and that each border police officer had to patrol a 25-km stretch of land. The main problem, he said, was that 93% of aid from some EU countries is given to humanitarian organisations and only 7% to security agencies. Croatian Interior Minister Bozinovic said that there was an increase in organised crime that accompanied illegal immigration. In only the first month of 2020 Croatian police had arrested 95 human traffickers, Bozinovic said. In addition, there are significant health concerns as many migrants are exposed to respiratory infections and skin diseases as a result of poor conditions in camps.
These concerns should be recognised and addressed. However, some consider that the current state of refugees and migrants is a more pressing issue. Many of those entering Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally have been detained and ended up in camps with poor conditions. If they are not given proper shelter and medical care many will die. These countries’ views of migrants and refugees as security threats have also been criticised. The European Council on Refugees and Exiles warned that refugees “seeking protection should not be treated as a security threat, with heavy-handed military tactics and language,”. “We are alarmed at the hysterical and inappropriate language of political leaders: this is not a war; this is not an invasion.” In addition, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor warned that Hungary’s continued policy of denying foods to asylum seekers in transit zones to deter refugees was disturbing. The organisation also called on the EU to apply the infringement procedure against Hungary for its serious and repeated violations of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The way these countries handle migrants has not gone unprotested by migrants themselves. Hundreds clashed with police as they attempted to break out of a camp in western Bosnia in protest of the conditions under which they were held. There were no reports of injuries, but witnesses said they saw police detaining migrants who were shouting “stop beating us”, among other things. Many of these migrants also complained about Croatian border guards, accusing them of violent push-backs and mistreatment when they had tried to cross the frontier on earlier occasions. “The Croatian police are very, very bad. We want the border to be opened. Please don’t hit us anymore. Don’t remove our jackets, shoes and socks. They take it all,” camp resident Salam Batu told Reuters.
The desire to bolster border security has only been fuelled by the outbreak of the coronavirus. “The current wave of migrants is not a threat only with the direct risk of terrorism. Most of the illegal migrants are arriving from territories like Iran, which is also a focal point of the coronavirus,” said Istvan Hollik, the communications director of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party. “We cannot put at risk the security of the Hungarian people, so we continue to say ‘no’ to immigration and we protect the Hungarian borders.” Officials in Croatia has also cited migrants and refugees as a risk factor for further spread of the virus. These fears about the coronavirus are not helped by the strong anti-refugee sentiment that already exist in these countries.
In addition, public health experts believe that it is refugee and migrant communities that the coronavirus pose the real risk to. Dr Adam Coutts, a public health specialist at Cambridge University, said this was due to “high geographical mobility, instability, living in overcrowded conditions, lack of sanitation and WASH (waters, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, and lack of access to decent healthcare or vaccination programmes in host communities”. This also raises the concern that that the fear of coronavirus could discourage rescue attempts of migrants at sea. In addition, we have already seen anti-Chinese prejudice across the states. This may now be extended to anyone that is foreign and is considered “out-of-place” in the countries.
One expert said: “Before the enemy was the migrant, now the enemy is the migrant carrying the coronavirus.” Disease control can become an excuse for attacking the movement of migrants and refugees. There is of course genuine fear of further spread of the virus. However, some countries might use the outbreak as an excuse to crack down on immigration. The virus gives weight to the arguments of those that want national border controls tightened. For instance, the Hungarian government “indefinitely suspended access to border transit areas of asylum-seekers” according to Hungarian Prime Minister Orban’s national security adviser Bakondi. He added that “we observe a certain link between coronavirus and illegal migrants”, but provided no evidence to back this up. Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has warned that trying to restrict border security probably won’t work, and might actually hinder, the global fight against the virus. It could “interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries.”
This area has for years been the crossing point for people trying to flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Given the geographical positions of countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Hungary these migration issues will not die down any time soon. In fact, the situation will only worsen as the coronavirus spreads across eastern Europe. This could lead to a humanitarian crisis which would not only have damaging effects on migrants, refugees and these three countries themselves, but also on the region as a whole.
US President Donald Trump’s Peace plan, officially called Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of Palestinian and Israeli people or commonly known as the Middle East peace plan has caused a great amount of controversy since its unveiling on the 28thJanuary 2020. On February 1st2020, the Arab League unanimously voted to reject Trump’s plan designed to end the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Member states agreed the initiative did not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people insisting on a two-state solution based on borders prior to 1967 which includes east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of Palestine. The emergency meeting in Cairo was requested by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who pressed Arab states to take a clear stance against the US’s peace plan. States such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain which are close US allies joined other members in rejecting the proposal after initially welcoming efforts to solve the protracted conflict. The Arab league is not the only organization to reject the proposal. Following the league’s decision, the European Union, The African Union and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation have rejected either all or parts of the plan on the 4th9thand 3rdof February 2020 respectively. According to EU foreign affairs minister Josep Borrell the proposal breaks with Internationally agreed parameters adding that unresolved final status issues, which include the borders of a Palestinian state and the final status of Jerusalem, must be decided in negotiations between both parties. The EU minister warned that if implemented the plan would not go unchallenged. During the annual African Union Summit, the chairperson of the AU Commission said it had been “conceived outside of international consideration and in absence of Palestinian concerns”. South African president Cyril Ramaphosa compared the plan to elements of South Africa’s previous apartheid system. The plan was rejected by Palestinian leaders before the unveiling of the plan due to Trump’s prior policies that neglected Palestinian interests such as the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In response to the announcement of the plan the Palestinian Authority cut all ties with the US and Israel on the 1stof February 2020.
The Proposal is controversial primarily because of its political portion widely considered to favour Israel and neglect Palestinian aspirations. For instance, the plan recognises Palestinian rights to only 70 percent of the occupied West Bank and allows for Israeli sovereignty over Israeli settlements in the West Bank which, according to United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, constitutes “a flagrant violation of international law”. Over 300,000 Israeli citizens live in 121 government recognised Israeli settlements in the West Bank and roughly 200,000 live in settlements located in 12 neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem. The construction of settlements in what is widely regarded as occupied Palestinian territory began after 1967 when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip in the Six-Day War and is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In return for annexing portions of the West Bank, the plan proposes the possibility of land swaps stripping 350,000 Arab-Israeli citizens residing in 10 towns within the Israeli Triangle Zone of their citizenship. Palestinians will be given the Negev desert which is cut off from other Palestinian territories and the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be connected via a high-speed transportation link crossing under or over Israel. Moreover, Israel would be allowed to annex the entire Jordan Valley which is vital for Palestinian agriculture since it provides access to the Jordan river which irrigates 80,000 hectares of agricultural land in the West Bank. Israel regards the valley as militarily strategic.
Trump’s Middle East Plan imagines a demilitarized Palestinian state where Israel would be responsible for security at all international crossings into the proposed state with Palestinian airspace continuing to be under Israeli control. Palestine would not be allowed to have intelligence and security agreements with states and organizations Israel deems a threat to its security and the Israeli navy would be able to block prohibited weapons from entering Palestine. The plan further recognises all of Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel despite long-standing Palestinian aspirations to have East Jerusalem as their own capital. Instead the plan proposes Abu Dis, a village over 4 kilometres away from the old city, as the new capital of the envisioned Palestinian state. Under the plan refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and those of the 1967 Six-Day-War would have no right of return nor would their descendance. The return of Palestinian refugees would be subject to Israeli approval and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east created in 1949 would be terminated. Furthermore, the plan was made without any input from the Palestinians and designed by a team whose members had close ties to Israel and Israeli settlements. The team was led by Jared Kushner, Trumps son-in-law who, according to The Guardian has close family ties to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and had no expertise or prior experience pertaining to the Middle East in general. Kushner’s team included US ambassador to Israel David Friedman who has close ties to the Jewish Settler Movement in the occupied territories. Friedman has reportedly questioned the need for a Palestinian state and compared critics of Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Nazi collaborators. According to the proposal the main goal was to create a Palestinian state that lacks the ability to threaten Israel which essentially entails “the limitation of certain sovereign powers”. Hence it can be argued that the plan did not have the intention of establishing a fully autonomous sovereign Palestinian state that resembles other states in the international system.
The announcement in January sparked small, sporadic demonstrations in the West Bank cities of Tubas, Bethlehem and Tulkarem. At least 41 people were wounded in small scale clashes following the use of rubber bullets and tear gas by Israeli forces against protesters in the Jordan Valley, Tulkarem and the Al-Orub refugee camp on the 29thof January 2020. A series of security incidents in the West Bank relating to the plan followed in February. For instance, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager with Israeli citizenship during clashes in Hebron on the 5thof February. Another teenager was shot dead in Tulkarem in clashes with Israeli forces on the 7thof February. At least 14 Israeli soldiers were injured in a car ramming attack suspected to be terror related outside a night club in Jerusalem. The car was later found in a town outside Bethlehem in a town called Beit Jala, but the motorist has yet to be caught. Amid such high tensions, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians during a protest in Jenin against the demolition of a Palestinian house. Incidents have also occurred in the Gaza Strip currently governed by the armed Palestinian group Hamas. The Israeli army reported two mortar shells fired from the enclave towards Israel on the 5thof February. On the 6thof February Israeli aircrafts struck Hamas positions after Palestinians launched projectiles and explosive balloons from the Strip. Two rockets were launched from the Gaza strip on the 16thof February prompting Israel to cancel a slight easing of the blockade in Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007. The armed group Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 20 rockets from the Strip in response to Israeli forces shooting dead a Palestinian accused of planting an explosive device on the Gaza separation border. Israel carried out a number of airstrikes on what it referred to as “terrorist sites” in Gaza and near Damascus Syria. The PIJ have confirmed that two of its fighters have been killed in Syria. Tensions between Palestinians and Israeli forces are still high.
If implemented the plan could have significant security implications for the Middle East region. This could further strain what historically are sour relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Nineteen Arab league members including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the UAE currently fail to recognise Israel as a legitimate state. Seven Arab countries joined forces against Israel in the Arab-Israeli War including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan who bitterly opposed the establishment of an Israeli state in what they considered Arab territory. The very same countries were also involved in the Six-Day-War against Israel in 1967. The state of Israel survived both wars and in 1967 occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip. Thus, due to the history between Arab states and Israel as well as the continuing occupation of Arab-Palestinian territories, anti-Israeli sentiment has been historically high among Arab nations. Only Jordan and Egypt have peace treaties with Israel. The peace between Israel and Jordan in particular will likely be tested. Jordan, a kingdom where half the population is estimated to be Palestinian by origin or identity, has a complicated history with Israel. The kingdom annexed the West Bank and east Jerusalem following the Arab-Israeli War and subsequently lost the territories to Israel during the Six-Day-War. The kingdom has supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s efforts to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip despite tensions between the Hashemite monarchy and the PLO that culminated in a conflict in 1970 known as Black September. In 1994 the two nations signed a peace treaty officially ending a state of enmity between the two countries. Both states currently have some economic ties and cooperate on security and intelligence matters. In 2016, Israel and Jordan signed a deal worth ten billion US dollars which allows Israel to pump natural gas to Jordan’s national electricity company despite demonstrations in Jordan against the deal.
However, Jordan remains a supporter of Palestinian aspirations for a state of Palestine based on borders before 1967 and its king is considered custodian of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site, a situation that can be a source of tension between the Kingdom and Israel. Trumps peace plan not only burdens the current peace between Jordan and Israel but also could create instability within Jordan as Palestinians there would likely react negatively to Israel’s annexation of over 30 percent of the West Bank and demand the Hashemite monarchy take action against Israel. Other Arab states in the region, may also have to deal with a possible rise in anti-Israeli sentiment that could follow the implementation of Trump’s plan and can lead to a greater following for radical and terrorist groups. Israel itself would possibly be less secure as its own Arab-Palestinian population could experience some form of radicalisation if the annexation occurs. The situation in the West Bank and Gaza strip would likely worsen. Palestinian territories may experience another uprising putting further Israeli and Palestinian lives at risk.