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President Trump's Middle East peace plan
The Wall Street Journal
Felicia Schwartz and Michael R. Gordon
January 28, 2020 7:54 pm ET
January 29 4:54 am AEST
Dov Lieber in Tel Aviv contributed to this article
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration unveiled its long-delayed Middle East peace plan, giving Israelis much of what they have long sought, including allowing for immediate expansion of territory, while providing Palestinians a path to nationhood but under conditions they instantly rejected.
"Today Israel is taking a giant step toward peace," President Trump said Tuesday at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at his side. Some Israeli goals, such as annexing the Jordan River Valley and permanently setting its eastern border, may advance as soon as this weekend, when Mr Netanyahu plans to ask his cabinet for approval to move ahead.
The White House released its peace plan for the Middle East, including a map of the proposed Palestinian state. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan. "We say a thousand times, no, no, no to the deal of the century," Mr Abbas said, referring to the plan. "We rejected this deal from the start and our stance was correct."
The Trump proposal requires many more concessions from the Palestinians than from the Israelis. Israel has agreed to a four-year freeze on expanding settlements in areas that might make up the core of a Palestinian state, while the Palestinians consider whether to accept terms set by the plan, including demilitarization and Israeli control of all security arrangements from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.
Trump administration officials cast the design as the best the Palestinians could expect given Israel security requirements. US officials are calculating that Arab pressure could eventually prompt the Palestinians to go along. Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain attended the rollout, and Egypt and the U.A.E. issued statements in support. "Egypt calls on the two relevant parties to undertake a careful and thorough consideration of the US vision to achieve peace and open channels of dialogue, under US auspices," the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
In a cautious statement on Twitter, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said the kingdom "encourages the start of direct peace negotiation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, under the auspices of the United States…" Jordan, however, took aim at one of the principle elements of the Trump plan by warning against "unilateral Israeli measures such as the annexation of Palestinian lands." The Trump administration unveiled a plan Tuesday for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The plan included 'conceptual' maps that set aside more land for a Palestinian state, but allows Israel to immediately begin annexing Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley.
Qatar hadn't issued any statement as of Tuesday evening. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani on Tuesday. Important elements of the plan have now been set in motion in a way that ensures substantial Israeli territorial gains regardless of what the Palestinians say or whether the plan is approved by other world powers or the United Nations.
The Palestinian Authority cut ties with the Trump administration after the US in 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but Mr Trump called on it to engage now that the blueprint has been unveiled. "There's nothing tougher than this one," Mr Trump said, referring to brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mr Trump has said he wants to help Palestinians economically, and the plan vows to help marshal $50 billion in economic investment over 10 years if the Palestinians agree to its terms. The incentives, part of an economic portion of the Mideast plan released last year, aim to double the Palestinian gross domestic product, slash Palestinian unemployment rates now at almost 18% in the West Bank and 52% in Gaza, and cut the Palestinian poverty rate in half, US officials assert.
The plan was criticized by some Middle East experts as a ploy to boost Messrs Netanyahu and Trump domestically while failing to narrow the deep-seated differences between Palestinians and the Israelis. Mr Trump faces an impeachment trial while Mr Netanyahu has been charged with bribery.
The blueprint outlines an Israeli-US consensus on the most sensitive issues of the conflict — Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees — that had until now been left for so-called final-status negotiations. The plan grants Israeli sovereignty over all Jerusalem — which includes the Old City in East Jerusalem — a move the Palestinians have long rejected.
It allows the Palestinians to establish a capital in the outskirts of the city east and north of the separation barrier that Israel constructed in East Jerusalem in 2005-06 following the second intifada (uprising) in 2000.
Arab residents of Jerusalem could choose to become citizens of Israel or of the new Palestinian state. Alternatively, they could remain permanent residents of Israel without becoming citizens of either state. Regarding borders, the Palestinian footprint would more than double, to include about 80% of the West Bank, US officials said. Land swaps between Israel and Palestinians would be used to enlarge Gaza, which also would be connected to the West Bank by high-speed rail. The "Triangle Communities" — Arab towns inside of Israel southeast of Haifa — could become part of the future Palestinian state under the plan.
Israel would get about 30% of the West Bank, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, including the Jordan Valley and the Jewish settlements there.
Mr Netanyahu pledged to act immediately to expand Israel's borders, telling reporters Tuesday that he seek a cabinet vote on annexation Sunday.
On refugees, the plan rejects the right of return to land for Palestinians who left their homes after Israel's creation in 1948. It says refugees can be absorbed into the Palestinian state, integrate into host countries or be resettled in regional countries who agree to take them. The plan also supports the creation of a fund to compensate some refugees.
The Palestinians must meet strict political and security conditions set by the plan to satisfy requirements for forming a state. Most of those requirements have been rejected by Palestinians in the past. For instance, during the four-year negotiation period, the plan requires that they refrain from taking action against Israel in the International Criminal Court and dismiss their current claims.
They also must halt payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails and to families of Palestinians killed while attacking Israelis or resisting Israel's control of the Palestinian territories. Palestinian officials have argued that such funding is a social benefit that compensates for Israeli oppression and helps prevent families from radicalizing further.
The demands made of the Palestinians are all the more difficult given the divisions in their ranks. Hamas, considered by Israel and the US to be a terrorist organization, controls the Gaza Strip after multiple failed reconciliation efforts with the Palestinian Authority, which controls the Palestinian parts of the West Bank. To satisfy the terms of Mr Trump's blueprint, Hamas would need to yield control of Gaza, which then would be demilitarized.
In recent years, Hamas's leadership has said it would accept the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders — even though individual Hamas members continue to call for Israel's destruction.
US Ambassador to Israel Mr Friedman described the arrangements as a huge advancement and a "realistic two-state solution" — one that "mitigates many of the risks that were never solved in past negotiations."
Former Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a partner for peace, defiantly rejecting efforts by Benjamin Netanyahu's government to sideline the veteran leader.
Mr Olmert, Mr Netanyahu's centrist predecessor who led Israel from 2006 to 2009, met Mr Abbas in New York hours after the Palestinian leader went before the UN Security Council to denounce US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan. The former prime minister did not criticise Mr Trump's plan, which paves the way for Israel to annex much of the West Bank, but said any future negotiations needed to involve Mr Abbas, 84, who is considered a moderate.
"He is a man of peace, he is opposed to terror, and therefore he is the only partner that we can deal with," Mr Olmert said with Mr Abbas at his side. "It will take some time but these negotiations will take place, and the partner of Israel to these negotiations will be Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority," he said. Hinting at Mr Netanyahu's political woes, Mr Olmert said: "Who will be the partner on the Israeli side? We will know later this year."
Mr Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005, called Mr Olmert "my dear friend" and said he wanted to "extend my hand to the Israeli people". "We want to achieve peace through peaceful means and negotiations," he said. "We are against and do not want violence."
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, had warned Mr Olmert against meeting Mr Abbas, who Mr Netanyahu's government accuses of inciting unrest. Mr Danon told the Security Council that the Palestinians needed a new leader, saying Mr Abbas was unable to consider the "realistic" Trump proposals. Mr Olmert "is endorsing diplomatic terrorism against Israel. It is shameful," Mr Danon said.
Mr Olmert is close to Mr Netanyahu's centrist rival Benny Gantz, who went neck-and-neck with the Prime Minister in two inconclusive elections last year, with a third vote scheduled for March 2.
Mr Olmert, who spent 16 months in prison on corruption charges after leaving office, said that he was not speaking for Mr Gantz. But the former member of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party said he was convinced the Israeli right wing could not form government. "The majority of the Israelis are not on the right-hand side, refusing to negotiate and demanding the annexation of the territories," Mr Olmert said.
Brandishing a map of a future Palestine as laid out by Mr Trump, Mr Abbas denounced it as a "Swiss cheese" deal that would give the Palestinians only a "fragmented state" without control of their airspace, sea or East Jerusalem.
"Who among you would accept such a state?" he said as he warned that Israel would create an "apartheid" situation if it moved ahead with annexation. "I would like to say to Mr Donald Trump that his plan cannot achieve peace and security as it cancels international legitimacy. It cancels all the rights of the Palestinians. "This does not meet the aspirations of a two-state solution. If you impose peace, it will not last."
The Palestinians have sought to rally international support against the plan, which Mr Trump unveiled alongside Mr Netanyahu on January 28.
But, in a setback, the Palestinians dropped plans for a vote on a resolution on Tuesday that would have denounced the proposal. Diplomats said the US had put heavy pressure, including threats of financial repercussions, on Security Council members.
Tel Aviv: Israel's opposition leader splintered his political party to pursue the formation of a unity government, a move that creates a path for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend his tenure after three elections in one year. Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz stepped forward to become parliamentary Speaker on Friday AEDT, pivoting towards Mr Netanyahu's right-wing bloc and shattering his own base of support from a broad political spectrum.
"These are not usual days and they require unusual decisions," Mr Gantz said shortly after being elected Speaker of the Knesset. "I intend to promote in every way possible the creation of an emergency unity government. I will not compromise the values voted for by more than one million citizens. Mr Netanyahu knows this very well."
Mr Gantz won 74 votes in favour of his candidacy, including from Mr Netanyahu's Likud party and the rest of his right-wing bloc. Many members of his Blue and White alliance didn't show up to vote and split away from the party.
Mr Gantz's move dissolves the 61-seat bloc that he had cobbled together to recommend him to form a government last week, which opposed Mr Netanyahu in the 120-seat Knesset. A disagreement over whether Mr Netanyahu could serve while facing indictment on corruption charges stood in the way of the embattled Prime Minister's efforts to extend his tenure through three inconclusive elections.
The move will likely extend Mr Netanyahu's time in power as he awaits trial. That trial is set to begin in May. Mr Netanyahu denies wrongdoing. As Israel's longest-serving prime minister, Mr Netanyahu has earned the nickname "The Magician" for his ability to outmanoeuvre political opponents. He appeared to do so again by striking an agreement with Mr Gantz to back away from a plan that would have seen Blue and White put forward a speaker candidate whom Likud said would be a deal breaker in ongoing coalition discussions.
"Gantz was faced with two problems — the first was the cohesion in his own party and the second was his inability to go back to the electorate having, in reality, failed to overcome Netanyahu three times," said Jason Pearlman, a former adviser to President Reuven Rivlin. "This isn't a long-term solution but it gives him the space to negotiate a broader unity government with a much better hand. For Netanyahu, this is a massive win."
As Israel's MPs left the voting floor, those in Mr Netanyahu's camp smiled, bumped elbows and wished Mr Gantz good luck. Others who voted against him didn't look at the new Speaker. Two of Blue and White's leaders, Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon, submitted a request to the Knesset ahead of the vote to bump Mr Gantz's 15-seat faction from Blue and White and keep the name for their own factions, which comprise 18 seats.
Mr Gantz, a former general, entered politics in late 2018 and formed the Blue and White alliance with the aim of ousting Mr Netanyahu from power. However, Blue and White struggled through the series of recent elections to form a government. Under pressure to avoid a fourth election and end political bickering amid an expanding corona-virus outbreak, Mr Gantz opted to co-operate with his rival.
Several members of Mr Gantz's party opposed any arrangement that would rely on the support of the Joint List, which largely represents Israel's Arab citizens and is the third-largest party in the Knesset, with 15 seats. As Speaker, Mr Gantz has control over what legislation advances, and parliamentary committees. That gives him some leverage as he negotiates a government with Mr Netanyahu. He said he would make sure the body worked for all of Israel's citizens, Jews and Arabs.
Blue and White had originally aimed to seize control of the parliament and begin passing legislation that would block Mr Netanyahu from serving a fourth term while under indictment, as well as control committees to oversee Mr Netanyahu's response to the new coronavirus.
Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival have agreed to form a coalition government, ending months of political paralysis and averting what would have been a fourth consecutive election in just over a year. Mr Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz signed the power-sharing agreement after weeks of negotiations for what they termed a “national emergency” government meant to steer the country through the coronavirus outbreak.
Although Mr Netanyahu repeatedly came up short in three elections over the past year, the coalition deal returns the long-serving leader to the prime ministership, defying critics who predicted his downfall and restoring his reputation as a political wizard. It means he will almost certainly remain in office for the duration of his upcoming trial on corruption charges. The deal calls for a three-year period, with Mr Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first half, and Mr Gantz taking the job for the second half. Mt Gantz’s Blue and White party will control several senior government ministries, including defence.
The agreement delivers Mr Netanyahu a significant boost as he fights to hold on to power while fending off corruption charges. His party will gain influence over judicial appointments. The deal also requires the approval of both parties on key appointments including the attorney-general and the state prosecutor — granting Mr Netanyahu veto power over the officials who hold sway over his legal fate. “I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel,” he tweeted.
After March 2 elections left both men short of a required parliamentary majority, they agreed to try to form a unity government because of the burgeoning coronavirus crisis. The talks stalled several times, reportedly over Mr Netanyahu’s personal legal problems, sparking concern that they would plunge the country into new elections. The deal required major compromise by both men. During three bitter campaigns over the past year, Mr Gantz and Blue and White vowed never to serve in a government under Mr Netanyahu so long as he faced a slew of corruption charges. After 11 years as Prime Minister, Mr Netanyahu agreed to step aside and allow Mr Gantz to take the job, if the coalition manages to survive long enough.
“We prevented a fourth election,” Mr Gantz tweeted. “We will protect democracy. We will battle corona and we will worry about all the citizens of Israel.”
While the government was ostensibly formed to deal with the pandemic, which has killed more than 175 Israelis and ravaged the economy, negotiations revolved largely around Mr Netanyahu’s corruption trial, set to start next month. Main sticking points included his demand to have more say on judicial appointments, which could play a role if his case eventually reaches the Supreme Court.
Mr Netanyahu wanted a guarantee he would not be forced to resign after Mr Gantz takes over as prime minister. Israeli law requires all public officials, with the exception of the prime minister, to step down if charged with a crime. For Blue and White, that meant assurances that Mr Netanyahu wouldn’t topple the government before Mr Gantz becomes prime minister.
The deal could clear the way for Mr Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex large parts of the West Bank after July 1. Mr Gantz has raised concerns about the plan, which is bitterly opposed by Palestinians and much of the international community. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the deal, saying it would wreck hopes of peace. “The formation of an Israeli annexation government means ending the two-state solution and the dismantling of the rights of the people of Palestine,” he tweeted.
London: The Palestinian Authority President has declared an end to security co-operation with Israel and the US in response to imminent threats of Israeli annexation of Arab territories in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of commitments made under the Oslo peace accord, including the security co-operation that has helped to keep the Palestinian Authority in power while dramatically curtailing the extreme violence of the intifada years.
“The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine are today no longer bound by all agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments, and by all the commitments derived from those understandings and agreements, including those relating to security,” he said in Ramallah. “From now on, the Israeli occupation authorities must bear all responsibilities and commitments towards the international community as an occupying power.”
The PLO voted to end co-operation with Israel and the US in 2018 but had left it up to Mr Abbas to decide when to implement the move. His fiery speech followed the agreement of Israel’s new coalition government that allows Israeli sovereignty to be extended over Palestinian territories as early as July. In January, the Trump administration gave its blessing to Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in its “vision for peace” blueprint.
Palestinian officials insisted that Mr Abbas’s declaration was genuine, although there were mixed messages over whether any such order had been conveyed to the Palestinian forces who co-ordinate with Israel on security in the West Bank. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security services, said that representatives had attended the meeting and absorbed Mr Abbas’s message to cease co-operation immediately but no formal instruction to that effect had been issued. Were such co-ordination to be annulled, Israeli forces would have to police any violence that erupts in the West Bank in reaction to annexation moves. It is also unclear how the PA could continue to operate without day-to-day co-ordination with Israel, including revenue transfers.
Annexation lay at the heart of the agreement struck between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, allowing them to create a coalition that will spare Israel a fourth election in a year. Mr Netanyahu, who will remain Prime Minister before the role rotates to Mr Gantz, secured a promise his coalition partner would not block any moves towards annexation. It is unclear, however, whether Mr Netanyahu actually wants or intends to go ahead with annexation or is simply seeking to create a crisis that will relieve political pressure from his right-wing allies. He campaigned for their support on a promise that he would move forward with annexation.
That pressure increased further after the Trump administration endorsed annexation of the West Bank, removing one longstanding obstacle. Extending the Jewish state from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean is a long-held goal of messianic Christian Zionists that make up a key part of Mr Trump’s domestic base.
Maintaining a barbaric strangle hold over a ghetto that is GAZA would drive anyone to fight back. Palastinians have occupied much of the disputed lands for centuries. Israelie fighters took most of it back by force. The Palastinians are doing no less. There has to be some truth and balance on reporting about this complicated issue.
The truth is, Israel accepted UN partition peace and borders on day one, the Palestinians rejected it then & continue to reject it all now.
The PA claims it all as “indivisible Arab land” while Hamas claims it as “sacred Islamic WAQF not to be negotiated”.
The border between Gaza & Egypt is controlled by Hamas and Egypt
nothing to do with Israel.
They can come and go as Egypt and Hamas allow over that border.
“ Barbarism “ &“ stranglehold “ by Israel while thousands of tons of supplies go to Gaza via Israel not Egypt?
While thousands of Palestinians get world leading medical care in Israel instead of Egypt or Jordan ?
European leaders said to implore Netanyahu not to advance annexation
The Times of Israel
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Several European leaders reportedly sent personal letters to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days asking him not to push ahead with plans to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank. “I ask you, in a spirit of friendship, that your new government not take unilateral action [in the West Bank]. Such a move would destabilize the Middle East,” French President Emmanuel Macron told Netanyahu, according to a report aired Tuesday on Channel 13. “Only dialogue with the Palestinians and a just and balanced solution will provide Israel with peace, security and stability.” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and their Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte reportedly sent Netanyahu letters expressing similar sentiments.
Several European nations are currently considering ways to deter Israel from moving forward with its declared intention to apply sovereignty to the entire Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank — territory much of the international community wants to see become a Palestinian state — and how to punish it if it ignores their warnings and carries out the annexation, according to the report.
According to the coalition agreement on which Israel’s new government was founded, Netanyahu can bring the annexation plan to a vote in the government and the Knesset as soon as July 1, as long as it’s done in full coordination with the US. The administration of US President Donald Trump has vowed to recognize Israel’s annexation as long as Jerusalem does it on the basis of the peace plan issued by Washington earlier this year.
According to the network, Palestinian leaders are concerned that leading Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf states, have reacted with seeming indifference about the prospect of annexation. While Jordan has threatened to review its ties with Israel over the annexation plans, most other Arab states have made little fuss.
Citing an unnamed Palestinian source, Channel 13 said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, having severed security ties with Israel, may resort to still more dramatic measures if Israel presses ahead with unilateral annexation, including dismantling the PA. Last week, Abbas announced the end of security cooperation with Israel in reaction to the annexation plans, in what was seen as his most extreme move yet to attempt to thwart Israeli intentions to claim sovereignty over areas the Palestinians seek for their future state.
On Monday, Netanyahu reportedly told lawmakers from his Likud faction that he was sticking to plans to begin the annexation process on July 1, rebuffing domestic and international pressure against the move.
Among the most outspoken opponents of the annexation plans has been the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who in recent weeks released several statements condemning the annexation plans, causing much chagrin in Jerusalem. Borrell spoke with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi Tuesday, but surprisingly did not highlight the bloc’s vociferous opposition to Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.
A readout of the conversation provided by Borrell’s office quoted him reaffirming the EU’s wish to “continue working with the new Israeli government in a constructive and comprehensive way, in the spirit of the longstanding friendship that binds the EU and Israel together.” Ashkenazi and Borrell had “an honest and open exchange of views on a broad range of bilateral and regional issues,” the readout continues, without elaborating.
The EU’s foreign policy czar “underlined the EU’s unequivocal commitment to the security of the State of Israel, which is not negotiable for the EU” and reaffirmed the union’s intention to “address jointly issues of mutual interest and concern and to work with Israel to promote global peace and security and to contribute to building trust, in particular in the region and the immediate neighborhood.”
The fact that the readout did not explicitly mention annexation is to be seen as an indication of the union’s “willingness to engage” with the new Israeli government, an EU source told The Times of Israel. The source added, however, that the EU’s position on annexation “is abundantly clear.”
Last week, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem slammed Borrell’s “megaphone diplomacy” after he repeatedly warned Israel against annexation. “Israel and the EU share history, values, interests, opportunities and both face threats. It is regrettable that once again, the security of Israel, a key partner of the EU, and the threats that Israel face, were not mentioned at all and were not given the centrality that they should be in such a message,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat said at the time. “This ‘megaphone diplomacy’ is not a substitute for intimate diplomatic dialogue and will not advance the role the EU is seeking to fulfill.”
On May 18, Borrell had issued a brief statement that largely focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the need for a two-state solution, the importance of international and Brussel’s “grave concerns” over Jerusalem’s supposed plan to unilaterally annex the Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank.
“The two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the future capital for both States, is the only way to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the region,” Borrell declared. “In this vein, we note with grave concern the provision – to be submitted for approval by the Israeli cabinet – on the annexation of parts of occupied Palestinian territories. “We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to International Law,” he said.
The statement was issued in Borrell’s name because there was no consensus on it among the EU’s 27 member states. According to several sources familiar with the matter, Hungary, Austria and other countries reasoned that now was not the time for such statements.
On the other hand, some member states, including Ireland and Luxembourg, sought to issue a statement that was even harsher, including mentioning steps the EU may consider if Israel were to advance its annexation plans. Given the near-certain veto of such a text by Budapest and Vienna, some countries considered issuing a separate joint statement listing possible sanctions against Israel as a deterrent against annexation, but this has not materialized so far.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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