US President Donald Trump is set to release his long-awaited “deal of the century” peace plan in the coming days, Trump announced on Thursday.
The announcement came after Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz to Washington, D.C. for talks.
The president said his administration will “probably” release the details of the plan prior to the meeting with the two Israeli leaders.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to a political event in Miami.
“I love doing deals,” Trump said, adding “they say peace between Israel and the Palestinians is the toughest – the toughest of any deal.”
When asked about the Palestinian reaction to the plan, Trump said he had “briefly” spoken with Palestinian officials, and they he expects them to “act negatively at first.”
“But it’s actually very positive for them [the Palestinians]. But they have a lot of incentive to do it,” he said.
Trump’s peace plan, some of which has already been promoted across the region by son-in-law Jared Kushner, is largely seen as being pro-Israeli.
Citing unnamed Israeli officials, Haaretz reported that the officials “said that the plan would promise the application of Israeli sovereignty to all existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, in addition to annexing the Jordan Valley, which would become Israel’s eastern border.”
The officials also claimed that an immediate refusal of the plan by the Palestinians — who have boycotted US-led peace talks since December 2017 — “would legitimize unilateral annexation steps,” Haaretz reported.
Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the plan would recognize a “demilitarized Palestinian state,” demand the disarmament of Hamas, and and require the Palestinian leadership to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Despite the “take it or leave it” approach of the US towards the Palestinians, the latter doubled down on their rejection of Trump’s initiatives, and denied having spoken with the US administration about the deal.
“The Palestinian ]leadership has a clear and unwavering position, rejecting Trump’s decisions on Jerusalem and other issues as well as everything that has to do with the so-called deal of the century,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson, said on Friday.
Abu Rudeineh called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, adding “we warn Israel and the American administration against crossing the red lines.”
In an interview with AFP, Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK and former head of the PLO Mission to the US, criticized Trump’s plans to only meet with Israeli leaders in Washington, saying “this is confirmation of their policy from the beginning – it is all about and for Israel.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat took to Twitter on Friday to criticize Trump’s peace efforts, saying:
“Reminder to the International Community: Israel is an Occupying Power of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders ( East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip ). Any deal, attempt or dictation that ignores this fact, will be recorded in history as the Fraud of the century.”
Reminder to the International Community:Israel is an Occupying Power of the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders ( East Jerusalem , West Bank and GazaStrip ).Any deal, attempt or dictation that ignores this fact, will be recorded in history as the Fraud of the century
— Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات (@ErakatSaeb) January 24, 2020
Since he came into office, Trump has been touting his “deal of the century” as an unprecedented effort to achieve peace in the Middle East.
The plan was expected to be released several months ago, but has continuously been pushed back due to the ongoing Israeli elections. The third consecutive round of elections will be held on March 2.
Trump’s announcement comes just days after Gantz said he was “looking forward” to the release of the peace plan, saying “I hope that President Trump will hurry and release his plan.”
Gantz had previously rejected the idea, saying the publication of the plan ahead of the elections would be an “outright intervention” in Israeli democracy, and only serve to further Netanyahu’s political agenda.
According to Haaretz, after Trump’s announcement on Thursday, Gantz was still on the fence about whether he would be attending the talks in Washington next Tuesday, over concerns that the talks fall on the same day the Knesset is set to deliberate Netanyahu’s request for political immunity from prosecution over a series of corruption charges.
Haaretz quoted Gantz’s Blue and White party as saying “The White House just came to Netanyahu’s help. As of now, we have no intention of postponing the Knesset vote next week. If necessary we will convene without Gantz and Netanyahu.”
Senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi also called out the timing of the meeting, calling it a “lethal diversionary tactic.”
Note that the 28th was the date of the Knesset's immunity vote on Netanyahu's corruption charges. Add to it Trump's impeachment issues & you have a lethal diversionary tactic at the expense of Palestinian rights & int'l law–criminality+ personal agendas=no peace. https://t.co/i5bxcMSlZO
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) January 23, 2020