Trump to unveil ME peace plan | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:17 AM, January 29, 2020

Trump to unveil ME peace plan

Palestinians, Jewish settlers mobilise against the move

US Proposals

  • Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem 
  • Jerusalem will be Israel’s undivided capital
  • West Bank settlements to be part of the Jewish state
  • Palestinian territory to be more than doubled 
  • Four-year freeze on new Israeli settlement 

 

US President Donald Trump unveiled the long-delayed US-Israeli plan yesterday amid repeated rejections by Palestinians.

“Today, Israel has taken a giant step toward peace,” Trump said as he announced the plan at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, saying he also sent a letter about it to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“My vision presents a win-win solution for both sides,” he said, adding that Israeli leaders have said they will endorse the proposal, which is referred to as the Middle East peace plan. 

Before the proposal was announced, Palestinians called it dead on arrival, saying it was an attempt to “finish off” the Palestinian cause.

Abbas was expected to make a statement.

Trump’s initiative, whose principal author is his son-in-law Jared Kushner, follows a long line of efforts to resolve one of the world’s most intractable issues. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Palestinians have refused to engage the Trump administration and denounced its first stage - a $50bn economic revival plan announced last June.

The plan announced yesterday more than doubles the territory currently under Palestinian control, although it also recognises Israeli sovereignty over major illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, something to which the Palestinians will almost certainly object.

The plan calls for a four-year freeze in new Israeli settlement construction, during which time details of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated, according to the Trump administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump’s announcement. However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four years.

The officials added that the plan calls for the creation of the State of Palestine. It was previously unclear whether the plan would abandon the two-state solution.

Trump said Jerusalem will remain Israel’s “undivided capital”. But he also said under the plan, Eastern Jerusalem would serve as a captial of a State of Palestine. He did not elaborate.

Trump had already recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas immediately rejected the US proposal yesterday.

“We reject this deal. We won’t accept any substitute for Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told AFP.

Sami Abu Zhuri, another official of Hamas, said Trump’s statement was “aggressive and will spark a lot of anger”.

“Trump’s statement about Jerusalem is nonsense and Jerusalem will always be the land of the Palestinians,” he told Reuters news agency. “The Palestinians will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a Palestinian land.”

Earlier yesterday, thousands of Palestinians rallied in the besieged Gaza Strip to protest the expected plan.

Netanyahu meanwhile said it was a “historic day” and thanked Trump for his proposal. He said if Palestinians agree to the plan, Israel will be willing to negotiate “right away”.

Netanyahu’s election rival, Benny Gantz, who was also in Washington, DC, this week said he too supported the plan.

“The president’s peace plan is a significant and historic milestone indeed,” Gantz told reporters on Monday.

Palestinians have previously said the United States cannot be an honest broker for peace in the region, accusing it of pro-Israel bias.

In addition to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration has also slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

The Trump administration in November reversed decades of US policy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer regarded Israeli settlements on occupied West Bank land as inconsistent with international law.

US officials said they were braced for initial Palestinian skepticism but hoped that over time they will agree to negotiate. The plan places high hurdles for the Palestinians to overcome to reach their long-sought goal of a state.

It remains to be seen also how Israel responds, given the pressures its right-wing prime minister, Netanyahu, faces going into his third attempt at re-election in less than a year.

Both Trump and Netanyahu face political challenges at home. Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last month and is on trial in the Senate on abuse of power charges.

Yesterday, Netanyahu was formally indicted in court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Both men deny any wrongdoing.

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