Trump unveils US-Israeli plan amid Palestinian rejections

 

Palestinians have said long-delayed proposal, which is referred to as the Middle East peace plan, was dead on arrival.

 

Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan [Mandel Ngan/AFP]

Trump’s US-Israeli plan announcement: Why now?

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

“Today Israel has taken a giant step towards peace,” Trump said as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood by his side.

“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.

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Jerusalem ‘undivided capital’

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 50-page political outline 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 capital of a State of Palestine. He did not elaborate on what he meant by eastern Jerusalem.

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

Palestinians take part in a protest against the US Middle East peace plan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Sami Abu Zhuri, a Hamas official, 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 on Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians rallied in the besieged Gaza Strip to protest the expected plan.

Netanyahu meanwhile said on Tuesday 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”.

Honest broker?

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 and recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.

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.

The plan comes as Trump and Netanyahu face political issues at home.

Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last month and is on trial in the Senate on abuse of power charges. Netanyahu faces corruption charges and an national election on March 2, his third in less than a year. Both men deny wrongdoing.

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.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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