Trump Outlines Mideast Peace Plan That Strongly Favors Israel

Trump Outlines Mideast Peace Plan That Strongly Favors Israel

WASHINGTON — President Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan with a flourish on Tuesday, outlining a proposal that would give Israel most of what it has sought over decades of conflict while creating what he called a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.

Mr. Trump’s plan would guarantee that Israel would control a unified Jerusalem as its capital and not require it to uproot any of the settlements in the West Bank that have provoked Palestinian outrage and alienated much of the outside world. He 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.

Mr. 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.”

The event in the East Room of the White House had a Kabuki-theater quality to it as the president ended years of suspense over a highly-touted peace plan that was widely considered dead on arrival. Rather than a serious blueprint for peace, analysts called it a political document by a president in the middle of an impeachment trial working in tandem with a prime minister under criminal indictment and facing his third election in a year in barely over a month.

Nearly three years in the making and overseen by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the plan is the latest of numerous American efforts to settle the seventy-plus year conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it marks a sharp turn in the American approach, dropping decades of American support for only modest adjustments to Israeli borders drawn in a 1967 armistice and discarding the longtime goal of granting the Palestinians a full-fledged state.

The proposal imagines new Israeli borders that cut far into the West Bank, and, at least in the short term, calls for what Mr. Netanyahu has described as a Palestinian “state-minus,” lacking an army or air force.

Mr. Trump said it was the first time that Israel had authorized the release of such a conceptual map illustrating territorial compromises it would make. He said it would “more than double Palestinian territory” while ensuring that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.”

Mr. Netanyahu called it ”a realistic path to a durable peace” that “strikes the right balance where others have failed.” Calling Mr. Trump the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, Mr. Netanyahu added: “It’s a great plan for Israel. It’s a great plan for peace.”

Early in his presidency, Mr. Trump suggested that a peace deal would be “frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

By asking the Palestinians to make far more territorial concessions than past proposals, it provides an American imprimatur of support to decades of aggressive Israeli settlement building in Palestinian areas seized in two wars between Israel and Arab states. And it sends a grim message to the Palestinians that they have missed their chance to win the “two state solution” they long pursued — as least so long as Mr. Trump is president.

Mr. Kushner and a small circle of Trump officials chose not to pursue the traditional path of brokering talks between the two parties that could lead to a joint proposal, but to hand one down from Washington. Peace-process veterans say that last happened under President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Working secretively, Mr. Kushner and his team — which included the American ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, a strong supporter of Israeli settlement construction — consulted closely with Mr. Netanyahu’s government. But their contact with Palestinian officials ended after Mr. Trump moved the United States embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in December 2017.

Rather than court the Palestinians after that, the Trump administration only increased pressure on them, cutting off American funding for Palestinian areas and shuttering the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

That dashed the initial hopes of Palestinians who believed that Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach toward foreign policy, and his love for a grand deal, could lead him to pressure Israel to a degree they felt previous American presidents had not.

In the near term, the 80-page plan is most likely to stir up Israeli and American politics. Mr. Trump is sure to cite the plan’s pro-Israel slant on the 2020 campaign trail to win support from conservative Jewish Americans in Florida and other key states, along with the Evangelical Christians who are some of his strongest backers and support Israeli expansion in the Holy Land.

While the Palestinians are nearly certain to reject the plan, Trump allies say they will be closely watching other Arab governments with whom Mr. Trump has established close relations and who have thawed relations with Israel, to see whether they might give the plan any political cover.

Speaking in Tel Aviv on Monday, Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s former United Nations Ambassador, suggested that such Arab support could force the Palestinians to come to the table. “If the Arab countries respond favorably to the plan, or even if they don’t run to the Palestinian side, that’s going to be a huge, telling lesson to the Palestinians that they may not have the backing they had before,” she said.

Michael Crowley and Peter Baker reported from Washington, and David M. Halbfinger reported from Jerusalem.


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