U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing, in an attempt to achieve a peace breakthrough in their decades of conflict with Israel.
Earlier senior US administration officials, briefing Reuters on the details of a plan the president was due to announce at the White House at mid-day, said that under Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan the United States will recognise Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank. In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated, the officials said.
The plan encompasses about 80 pages, 50 of them the political plan announced on Tuesday and 30 from an economic plan announced last July setting up a $50 billion economic revival plan for Palestinians, Jordan and Egypt. Trump promised to provide $50 billion in international financing to build the new Palestinian entity and open an embassy in its new state.
“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood into security,” the president said at a White House ceremony that demonstrated the one-sided state of affairs as he was flanked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel but no counterpart from the Palestinian leadership, which is not on speaking terms with the Trump administration.
Trump insisted his plan would be good for the Palestinians and in his speech reached out to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
“President Abbas,” he said, “I want you to know if you choose the path to peace, America and many other countries, we will be there, we will be there to help you in so many different ways.” Trump predicted the plan would create 1 million new Palestinian jobs and wipe out poverty in the group’s areas.
The American president said that ambassadors from Oman, UAE and Bahrain were present.
He asked the Palestinians to “meet the challenges of peaceful coexistence,” including cracking down on the actions of and financing for groups like Hamas.
U.S. 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.
“America cannot care about peace more than the stakeholders in the region,” Trump said, adding “all humanities” should find a way to coexist “in the holy land.”
Previous plans, he said, failed to strike the right balance. For instance, those plans proposed an Israeli exit from the Jordanian Valley.
In the briefing, it was said that Israeli leaders have agreed to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan and agreed to the map, the officials said. Israel’s agreement on statehood for Palestinians is dependent on a security arrangement to protect Israelis, they said. Israel will also take steps to ensure Muslim access to al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and respect Jordan’s role regarding holy sites, the officials said. Palestinian statehood would be dependent on Palestinians taking steps for self-government, such as respect for human rights, freedom of the press and having transparent and credible institutions, the officials said. “In doing the map it’s incredibly difficult to try to create contiguity for a Palestinian state based on what’s happened over the past 25 years so if we don’t do this freeze now I think that their chance to ever have a state basically goes away,” said one official in reference to the growth of Jewish settlements.
Palestinians leaders, however, were absent from the launch. They have long dismissed Trump as biased against them, and pre-emptively rejected his proposal.
Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, referred to it as a “hoax”. The Palestinian ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, said it was “fraud on every count”.
Trump invited Netanyahu and his main domestic opponent, Benny Gantz, to the White House this week to talk over the proposal. The Israeli politicians will face off against each other in an election on 2 March, and Washington wanted to make sure the plan would be rolled out regardless of the result. Gantz later said the plan was a “significant and historic milestone” that he would work to implement if elected.
Trump and the plan’s chief architect, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have delayed the official rollout many times since they first began developing it in 2017.
Via Reuters / The Guardian / New York Times / Middle East Eye