Trump leaps into Middle East fray with peace plan that Palestinians denounce
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed creating a Palestinian state as part of a Middle East peace plan, drawing Palestinian condemnation for imposing strict conditions and agreeing to let Israel maintain control of long-contested West Bank settlements.
Trump announced his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace at a White House event with embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing at his side. It includes what Trump called a four-year freeze by Israel on new settlement activity.
Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, the plan he advanced favoured Israel, underscored by the absence of Palestinians from Trump’s announcement.
It seemed unlikely to immediately advance Israeli-Palestinian talks that broke down in 2014, but the plan was called “an important starting point for a return to negotiations” by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and Egypt also offered encouraging statements.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, mocked what Trump has called the “deal of the century,” describing it as the “slap of the century.”
Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at pro-Israel policies such as moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is sought by the Palestinians.
Trump set in motion a four-year timeline for Palestinians to agree to a security arrangement with Israel, halt attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas and set up governing institutions in order to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in Abu Dis, a part of east Jerusalem.
That too poses a potential problem for Palestinians.
Abu Dis is a West Bank village just east of the Israeli municipal boundaries for Jerusalem. Palestinians living in Abu Dis are cut off by a high concrete Israeli security wall and checkpoints.
Palestinians reject any proposal that does not envision a Palestinian capital in all of East Jerusalem, which includes the walled Old City.
Trump’s plan says that barrier should serve as a border between the capitals of the two states, adding that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided, sovereign capital.
“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security,” Trump said.
‘JERUSALEM IS NOT FOR SALE’
Abbas, speaking to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said: “Jerusalem is not for sale, our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain and your deal, the conspiracy will not pass.”
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, one of the architects of the plan, told Reuters Television the Palestinians “look quite foolish” for immediately rejecting the plan and should take some time to consider “a very strong opening offer.”
“If we feel like there is a good-faith chance or a desire on their side to come with a counter-proposal, we’ll figure out the right forum to engage in it to bring about a solution,” he said.
Before the Trump announcement, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza City and Israeli troops reinforced positions near a flashpoint site between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank.
Critics say both Trump and Netanyahu have been intent on diverting attention away from domestic troubles. Trump is going through an impeachment trial, while Netanyahu was formally indicted in court on corruption charges on Tuesday. Both men deny any wrongdoing.