WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has released his long delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, promising “a new dawn,” but angry Palestinians called it biased and deserving to go in the “dustbin of history.”
Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House’s East Room, Trump said on Tuesday that his plan could succeed where decades of previous US attempts to intervene had failed.
“Together we can bring about a… new dawn in the Middle East,” Trump said to an enthusiastic audience that included throngs of Israeli and Jewish American guests — but apparently no Palestinian representatives.
They are flat out rejecting the plan, which grants Israel much of what it has sought in decades of international diplomacy, namely control over Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital, rather than a city to share with the Palestinians. The plan also lets Israel annex West Bank settlements.
Trump praised Israel for taking “a giant step toward peace” with the plan, which lays out a vision for future Palestinian statehood if a series of strict conditions are met.
These include requiring the future Palestinian state to be “demilitarized,” while formalising Israeli sovereignty over settlements built in occupied territory.
The US president, who was followed at the podium by Netanyahu, painted a future where some USD 50 billion in investments would eradicate the misery gripping Palestinians today, while allowing Israel never “to compromise its security.”
Criticizing previous US diplomatic efforts as overly vague, Trump noted that his version was 80 pages long and contained a map depicting the proposed future neighbouring states.
However, the Palestinians angrily rejected the entire plan.
“This conspiracy deal will not pass. Our people will take it to the dustbin of history,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said.
Trump promised a “contiguous” future Palestinian state, addressing the current situation where Israel controls broad territory separating the two main population centers of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
But the map showed the West Bank remaining riddled with Jewish settlements linked to Israel and only a long road tunnel connecting the area with the seaside Gaza Strip.
The plan makes clear that Israel is free to annex its settlements on Palestinian lands right away.
On the flashpoint issue of Jerusalem, Trump said Israel should retain control over the city as its “undivided capital,” Trump said. At the same time, the Palestinians would be allowed to declare a capital within occupied East Jerusalem, he said.
The Hamas Islamist movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, said it could never accept compromise on Jerusalem being capital of a future state.
The announcement came as both Trump and Netanyahu fight for their political futures.
Trump is in the midst of an impeachment battle over his alleged abuse of power and he faces a difficult reelection in November.
Netanyahu was formally indicted on three corruption charges Tuesday after he abandoned an attempt to seek parliamentary immunity.
His right-wing Likud faces a neck-and-neck race with rival Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party in a month. But he is expected to benefit from the high-profile partnership with Trump.
Netanyahu called the proposal “the deal of the century” and said to Trump “you have been the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” Trump said he had written to Abbas to enlist his support.
“I explained to (Abbas) that the territory allocated for his new state will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years,” Trump said. “This could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who authored the plan behind the scenes but had minimal contact with Palestinian negotiators, was similarly blunt, telling them not to “screw up this opportunity.”
“I think that they will have a very hard time looking at the international community in the face, saying they’re victims,” he told CNN.
Trump’s plan triggered immediate condemnation on the streets of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with demonstrations expected to continue through the week.
Thirteen people were wounded in the West Bank in clashes with the Israeli army, the Red Crescent said.
There was also anger from Israeli hardliners. Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich, from the far-right Yemina union, said his party “won’t under any conditions agree to recognition, whether explicit or implicit, of a Palestinian state.”
The ambassadors from three Arab nations – Oman, the UAE and Bahrain – were at the White House, providing some evidence of Trump’s claim to have growing support around the region.
But international reaction was at best cautiously positive.
Saudi Arabia said it “appreciates” Trump’s efforts and called for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Russia, a growing force in Mideast politics, sounded skeptical.
“We do not know if the American proposal is mutually acceptable or not,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies.
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said the bloc would “study and assess” the US proposals, while Germany’s foreign minister said “only a negotiated two-state solution, acceptable to both sides” would work.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called it a “serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort.”
Among the strongest foreign condemnations were from Turkey, which branded the plan “stillborn” and Iran, which called it “doomed to fail.”
How the world is reacting to Trump’s Mideast plan
Paris – US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan has prompted a lukewarm response from Europe and the UN, and a furious rebuke from key Muslim countries who denounced it as betrayal of the Palestinians.
Here are some of the reactions from around to the world to the plan, which had already been resoundingly rejected by Palestinian leaders before Trump launched it on Tuesday alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinian Authority
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who has taken part in previous US-led peace talks with Israel but stayed away Trump’s proposal, vowed that “this conspiracy deal will not pass”.
He pledged to “resist the deal in all its forms” after meeting with various Palestinian factions in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “Our people will take it to the dustbin of history.”
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said the bloc will “study and assess” Trump’s proposals on the basis of its commitment to a “negotiated and viable two-state solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Germany, the EU’s most powerful player, echoed Borrell’s point by calling for a balanced approach.
“Only a negotiated two-state solution, acceptable to both sides, can lead to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.
Britain, which is leaving the EU on Friday and has long had a special relationship with Washington, gave the warmest reaction.
“This is clearly a serious proposal, reflecting extensive time and effort,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Trump to discuss the plans.
Downing Street said the proposal “could prove a positive step forwards”.
The United Nations said it remains committed to a two-state solution based on the borders in place before the 1967 war, when Israel seized the West Bank and Gaza.
“The position of the United Nations on the two-state solution has been defined, throughout the years, by relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions by which the Secretariat is bound,” said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Russia said it would study the plan and called on Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly to find a “mutually acceptable compromise.” Introducing a note of doubt, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said: “We do not know if the American proposal is mutually acceptable or not. We must wait for the reaction of the parties.”
Turkey, a strong advocate of the Palestinian cause, condemned the plan.
“The United States’ so-called peace plan is stillborn,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “This is an annexation plan aimed at killing a two-state solution and extorting the Palestinian territory.”
Iran, which does not recognise Israel and has been in a confrontation with the Trump administration, denounced the plan as a threat to regional stability.
“The shameful peace plan imposed by America on the Palestinians is the treason of the century and doomed to fail”, the Iranian foreign ministry said.
Lebanon’s Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah, which Washington calls a terrorist group, said the plan represented an attempt to “wipe out the Palestinian people’s rights”, adding that the “shameful move… could not have been made without the complicity and betrayal of a certain number of Arab regimes.”
The United Arab Emirates, which sent its ambassador to Trump’s announcement alongside Netanyahu despite not recognising the Jewish state, praised the plan.
“The plan announced today offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework,” the UAE embassy in Washington said on Twitter.
Egypt called on “the two concerned parties to undertake a careful and thorough examination of the US vision to achieve peace and open channels of dialogue”.
The foreign ministry added that negotiations should aim for “a comprehensive and just peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state”.
Jordan’s foreign ministry said that an independent Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders was “the only path to a comprehensive and lasting peace”. (AFP)
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