Trump unveils Mideast plan, hailing 'big step towards peace'

Updated 29 Jan 2020

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President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks during an event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday in Washington. — AP
President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks during an event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday in Washington. — AP

President Donald Trump on Tuesday unveiled long-awaited details of a US plan for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning it may represent the last chance at statehood for the Palestinians.

“Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Trump told a White House news conference, standing alongside visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he revealed key points of the plan already strongly rejected by the Palestinians.

“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security,” Trump said.

The plan was warmly welcomed by Israel's prime minister, who called it a “historic day” for the Jewish state. The plan, Trump said, proposes a four-year freeze of Israeli development in the area eyed for a future Palestinian state.

“Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided, very important, undivided capital,” Trump stressed.

But the plan would also provide the Palestinians with a capital in occupied East Jerusalem, he said, while indicating that the West Bank would not be cut in half under the plan.

“We will also work to create a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian state, for when the conditions for statehood are met, including the firm rejection of terrorism,” Trump said as he called on the Palestinians to turn their back on the radical Hamas movement.

Calling it a “historic opportunity” for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state, Trump said he had written on Tuesday to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to enlist his support for the plan.

No Palestinian official was present at the launch although the ambassadors from three Arab nations — Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — were at the White House.

“I explained to [Abbas] that the territory allocated for his new state will remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years,” Trump said.

“This could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”

“Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism,” the president added. “They deserve a far better life.”

Given that it has been emphatically rejected by the Palestinians, the latest of many US proposals to address the bitter, multi-generational Middle East conflict might seem to have little future.

In Gaza, thousands protested, burning pictures of Trump and the American flag.

In a rare event, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah were set to meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss a response.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu touted the Trump administration’s Middle East plan, saying it presented a “realistic path” for achieving a lasting peace in the region.

“And on this day, you too have charted a brilliant future, a brilliant future for Israelis, Palestinians and the region, by presenting a realistic path to a durable peace,” the Israeli prime minister said.

'Nonsense'

An official with Hamas said Trump's statements on his Mideast plan are “aggressive” and his proposals for Jerusalem are “nonsense”.

“Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger,” Sami Abu Zuhri, whose Hamas group rules in the Gaza Strip, told Reuters.

“Trump’s statement about Jerusalem is nonsense and Jerusalem will always be a land for the Palestinians ... The Palestinians will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a Palestinian land,” Abu Zuhri added.