WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said alongside visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has a “chance” — despite being flatly rejected by the Palestinians.
Trump, who is also meeting with Netanyahu’s election rival Benny Gantz later on Monday, said the plan would be unveiled at 12pm on Tuesday.
Palestinians have already panned the White House peace plan, saying it is overwhelmingly biased toward Israel. No Palestinian leaders were invited to the White House.
But Trump told reporters that “it might have a chance” and that “we’re relatively close.” “We think we will have ultimately the support of the Palestinians,” he said. The plan is “something they should want... It’s very good for them, in fact it’s overly good for them.” Trump also said that “many of the Arab nations” back his initiative.
Netanyahu praised Trump as “the greatest friend that Israel’s had in the White House” and once more described the peace plan as “the deal of the century.” The twin White House meetings with Netanyahu and Gantz thrust Trump right into Israel’s tense election scheduled in just over a month.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party are polling neck-and-neck.
The peace plan roll-out also gives Trump a welcome distraction from his impeachment trial in the Senate, while boosting Netanyahu’s standing as he fights corruption charges back home.
The Palestinians say they were never included in crafting the plan, which was overseen by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Monday urged international powers to boycott the plan, which he said was designed “to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison.” “It is not a Middle East peace plan,” Shtayyeh told a cabinet meeting.
“This plan gives Israel sovereignty over Palestinian territory.” The plan, whose details remain unclear, has been gestating in secret for so long that skeptics asked whether it even really existed.
Aaron David Miller, a Mideast expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Kushner’s team wants to “finally, basically demonstrate that they have a plan” — and to do so ahead of the US presidential election.
In the short term, said Dennis Ross, a US diplomat who worked on the issue under several administrations, “anything that can divert attention away from what’s going on” is the goal.
Trump has already thrown Netanyahu a string of political presents.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020