Donald Trump has unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan in a joint press conference with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
What does the plan envisage?
The plan supports the creation of a Palestinian state, doubling its current size and placing its capital in parts of east Jerusalem.
It also calls for a four-year freeze in any Israeli settlement activity, although it was not clear if this could be extended if both sides failed to reach a comprehensive deal in the meantime.
But despite this independence and growth in size, the plan would in return recognise Israeli sovereignty over major settlements in the West Bank – something that is expected to be sorely opposed by Palestinians.
It would also see to the disarmament of the Hamas militant and political group, and make religious sites – such as the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City – accessible to all.
Rami Khouri is a Professor of Journalism at the American University of Beirut. He told Euronews the reaction to the plan was roundly rejected by the Palestinians:
“There isn’t a single Palestinian and very, very few individual extremist Arabs who have accepted it. Nobody has accepted it. And most of the knowledgeable people in the Western world, people who know the situation, are really critical of this plan. And they are actually offended by it.”
“They are calling it an apartheid plan, a racist plan. It is not a serious initiative for Arabs (to start) peacemaking. It is a serious movement to cement the domestic political base of Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump in the United States,” Professor Khouri added.
This is what a future State of Palestine can look like, with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/39vw3pPrAL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
What did Trump have to say?
“Today, Israel takes a big step forward to peace,” Trump began. “Young people across the Middle East are ready for a more peaceful future.”
“I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems. It’s been a long and arduous process to arrive at this moment.”
Trump says his proposal was “fundamentally different” from other peace plans and the “most detailed” yet.
But one Palestinian MP told Euronews the plan was an Israeli one in an American envelope.
“I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians,” continued Trump, saying it was a great opportunity for Palestine to have a state of its own.
“It could be the last opportunity,” he added.
What did Netanyahu have to say?
Netanyahu was asked why previous peace plans had failed.
“They failed because they did not strike the right balance between preserving Israeli security and the possibility of self-determination for the Palestinians,” he said.
Other plans, unlike this one, had tried to get Israel to withdraw from the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu added.
“You have been the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House,” said Netanyahu to strong applause.
What has been the reaction?
Aside from Trump and Netanyahu appearing to be together positive on the plan, the Palestinians – as expected – were not.
In a tweet after the announcement, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation – of which President Mahmoud Abbas is the head – rejected the plan.
It wrote: “Achieving peace requires first and foremost respect and adherence to the fundamental principals of international law.
“The U.S. plan recognises Israel’s illegal colonisation and annexation of occupied lands belonging to the State of Palestine.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat made comments to Israel’s Army Radio: “What president Trump said yesterday was said by Netanyahu and his negotiation team in 2011/2012 to the Palestinians. What Trump’s team did is only copy and paste it. Trump didn’t say one single new word.”
The European Union described the plan as an “occasion to relaunch the urgently needed efforts towards a negotiated and viable solution” and said it would “study and assess the proposals put forward.”
“This will be done on the basis of the EU’s established position and its firm and united commitment to a negotiated and viable two-state solution that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, respecting all relevant UN resolutions and internationally agreed parameters,” the bloc’s High Representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, said in a statement.
Officials in Jordan, one of the only Arab nations to have a peace treaty with Israel, stressed the need to launch negotiations to find a solution that people could accept and work with.
“The Palestinian issue will remain our first and central issue,” a tweet from Amjad Odeh Adaileh, the Jordanian minister of state for media affairs, said.
He added: “A just, comprehensive and lasting peace that meets the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people is a Jordanian-Palestinian Arab strategic choice, and a just peace is only what will be protected and preserved by peoples and future generations.
“Jordan supports every real effort aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace that people accept.
“We stress the importance of launching serious and direct negotiations that address all final status issues within the framework of a comprehensive solution, which constitutes a necessity for the stability of the region.”
Meanwhile, human rights groups have also reacted with a similar tone in saying the plan would continue to encourage an Israeli dominance.
Eric Goldstein, the acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said it “underscores what the long-moribund ‘peace process’ has become: a fig leaf for Israel’s entrenched discriminatory rule over Palestinians.”