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2020-01-29 15:34:501 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
Donald Trump finally revealed his Middle East peace plan on Tuesday, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and as expected, it's seen as much more beneficial to Israelis than Palestinians. It is not expected to go anywhere with Democrats and Palestinians already panning it.
Trump's proposal, that was engineered by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, gives Israel much of what they have been fighting for through several decades, though he explained it as a potential solution to the years of unrest in the Middle East. Palestinian leader support wasn't even sought for the most part. Yet, Trump described it as the best Palestinians could hope to get, while standing next to Netanyahu.
"Today's agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own," said the president. "After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity they will ever have."
Israel, under this plan, would be granted license to incorporate Jewish settlements and have security on land Palestine is currently occupying. Netanyahu has plans to annex the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley, possibly as soon as this weekend, according to a government official. It could actually increase tensions in the region, all the while being done with support from the Trump administration.
Palestinians are being given a four-year window to start negotiating for a smaller, weaker version of statehood than what was proposed in the past by previous U.S. presidents. However, it's still more than they have now and more than what it was assumed Trump would be offering in his plan.
"My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides," he said in his announcement. "A realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security."
He and Netanyahu celebrated the release of the plan as a historic moment and believe it elevates the two of them as leaders. "I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems," said Trump.
The plan would see the West Bank and Jerusalem remapped and offer Palestinians a pathway to statehood if it passes a set of tests. But no Palestinians even attended the event that Trump believes will solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dates back to 1948. However, Trump said he did send a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, asking him to consider the plan.
Trump vowed, "President Abbas, I want you to know that if you choose the past to peace, America and many other countries will — we will be there."
Abbas met with other factions who are often fighting, including Hamas leaders, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Islamic Jihad. He referred to Trump's plan, which is often referred to as the "deal of the century," as the "slap of the century."
“Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said. “Our rights are not for sale.” He promised to not abandon the fight for true independence, even for the $50 billion investment fund Trump's proposal promised. "Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale," he said. "Our rights are not for sale."
Two neighboring states, Egypt and Jordan, that have made peace with Israel didn't have any representatives at Tuesday's event, while United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain did.
Additionally, some Arab countries were upset about how the Trump plan was announced. An Arab official who had been involved in previous meetings with a team led by Kushner said no Arab reps were allowed to see the final version of the plan before the unveiling. The White House placed calls to Arab capitals over the weekend, but it seemed to be aimed at not allowing leaders to dismiss the proposal before considering it, according to the official.
"Where this has failed, badly is in coordination and pre-briefs," explained the official. "This is a case of the White House dictating a mostly Israeli vision of a way ahead and not settling it in advance. The 'Art of the Deal' appears lacking in this case."
Trump also took the opportunity of standing next to the Israeli leader on Tuesday to brag about the actions he's taken to help Israel, including recognizing Jerusalem as the country's capital. That was the point that Palestinians walked away from trying to make peace. They have not been back.
"Therefore, it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn't be fair," Trump announced on Tuesday. "Now, don't clap for that, okay? But it's true. It wouldn't be fair. I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be."
However, after his speech finished, mosques in the West Bank and East Jerusalem broadcasted readings from the 33rd chapter of the Koran that includes the line, "Do not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites." Small groups of protesters were throwing rocks, and there was also video of burning vehicles sand rockets being fired near the northern checkpoint that controls access from East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu promised to talk to Palestinians if they come to the table and thanked Trump, calling him the finest friend Israel has ever had. "Rather than pay easy lip service to Israel's security and simply shut your eyes, hope for the best, you recognized that Israel must have sovereignty in places that enable Israel to defend itself, by itself," he said.
"Previous presidents of both parties successfully maintained the respect of both Israelis and Palestinians for the United States' role as a credible player in difficult negotiations," read a letter to Trump from a group of 12 Democratic senators, led by Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). "Your one-sided actions have made that impossible. It is clear that this latest White House effort is not a legitimate attempt to advance peace. It is a recipe for renewed division and conflict in the region."
Kushner said in a Tuesday CNN interview that his and his father-in-law's plan does "a great deal" for Palestinians but that it was not conciliatory. If it's rejected, "they're going to screw up another opportunity, like they've screwed up every other opportunity that they've ever had in their existence."
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