Trump Middle East peace plan expands Israeli territory, offers path to Palestinian statehood

Image: Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu
President Donald Trump speaks during an event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room on Jan. 28, 2020. Copyright Susan Walsh AP
Copyright Susan Walsh AP
By Shannon Pettypiece with NBC News Politics
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Elements of the plan, which the president announced at a White House event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have already been publicly criticized by Palestinians.


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday released a long-promised Middle East peace plan that, if implemented, would create a conditional path to statehood for Palestinians while recognizing Israeli sovereignty over a significant portion of the West Bank.

The president briefly outlined elements of the proposal, which included a future Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, at a White House event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. Trump said the plan, which lacks Palestinian support, would require both sides to make concessions.

"Our proposal provides precise technical solutions to make Israelis, Palestinians and the region safer and much more prosperous," said Trump. "As I have seen throughout my long career as a deal maker, complex problems require nuanced, fact-based remedies."

The White House later said that Israel had agreed to a four-year "land freeze" for areas the plan would designate as part of a possible Palestinian state — though it appeared that would not apply to settlements in areas that could remain under permanent Israeli control under the proposal, which one official said could include as much as 30 percent of the West Bank.

Trump has called the proposal, whose development was spearheaded by son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, "the deal of the century," touting the prospect of brokering a agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinian as one of his top priorities since the first day of his administration — even as most observers have said the plan is effectively dead on arrival.

Palestinians, have already publicly criticized the plan and have not been involved in the process, refusing to meet with Trump administration officials since the president's December 2017 announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The announcement came as both Trump and Netanyahu faced political turmoil at home, and challenging re-election bids.

Trump unveiled the plan shortly before his lawyers were scheduled to present their final defense in his Senate impeachment trial. Netanyahu, meanwhile, was formally indictedjust hours ahead of the event in an Israeli court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution. His joint appearance with Trump Tuesday came just weeks before Israelis were slated to head to the polls for that country's third election in a year.

Trump has looked to counter-program his impeachment throughout the proceedings, traveling to Switzerland last week to meet with business executives and foreign leaders and staging a public signing of the China trade deal at the White House the week before — but has struggled to pull attention from the drama unfolding on Capitol Hill.

He said on Monday, ahead of the plan's release, that the deal was "overly good" for the Palestinians. He added that he anticipated the Palestinians would reject the plan, while predicting they would ultimately embrace it.

"We think we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians," Trump said Monday. "But we're going to see. And if we do, it'll be a tremendous tribute to everybody. And if we don't, life goes on."

Over the last several years, the White House has cut funding for Palestinian refugees, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and endorsed the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel. The administration has held no meetings with elected Palestinian leaders, and closed the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

In June, the White House, without much fanfare, released the economic portion of the peace plan that promised tens of billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy if a political solution was reached. The Palestinians and their backers in the Arab world rejected it as unworkable.

"They're great negotiators," Trump said Monday of the Palestinians. "Their initial response, and I have no idea what they're going to say, would be, 'Oh, we don't want anything.' But in the meantime, they'll be negotiating. So let's see how it works."

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