U.S. President Donald Trump released his much anticipated peace plan on Tuesday which proposed the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in Eastern Yerushalayim, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing, in an attempt to achieve a peace breakthrough in their decades of conflict with Israel.
In a press conference following the release of the plan, President Trump was joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the plan and their hopes for its acceptance and implementation by the parties in the region.
The press conference was given in the East Room of the White House. In attendance were the plan’s architects Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who recently retired from the administration but returned for this event. Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer and US ambassador David Friedman were also in attendance, as well as a envoys from Arab countries including Bahrain, Oman and the UAE. Congressmembers in attendance included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Mark Meadows and Sen. Ted Cruz.
Under Trump’s proposed Middle East peace plan the United States will recognize Israeli communities in Yehuda and Shomron and allow for the extension of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and all Jewish communities in the region.
However, it also calls for a four-year moratorium on building, and maintaining the status quo in areas not designated for being part of Israel in the future. All other areas, the majority of the region, would remain in their present status, with no building permitted by either side, while a process of negotiation would have time to take place.
Saying “we will never ask Israel to compromise its security,” the president called for “the firm rejection of terrorism” before a Palestinian state would be recognized by the U.S.
“We are asking the Palestinians to meet the challenges of peaceful coexistence. This includes adopting basic laws enshrining human rights, protecting against financial and political corruption, stopping the malign activities of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other enemies of peace, ending the incitement of hatred against Israel … and permanently halting the financial compensation to terrorists.
“It is time for the Muslim world to fix the mistake it made in 1948 when it chose to attack, instead of recognizing the new state of Israel,” President Trump said. “Since then, the amount of needless bloodshed… so many squandered opportunities in the name of senseless causes — is beyond measure. The Palestinians have been the primary pawn in this regional adventurism, and it’s time for this sad chapter in history to end.”
He recalled his visit to Israel during his first year in office.
“I was deeply moved and amazed by what the small country had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds and never-ending threats.”
He also spoke of his meeting with Palestinian leader Abbas in Bethlehem.
“I was saddened by the fate of the Palestinian people. They deserve a far better life. They deserve the chance to achieve their extraordinary potential. Palestinians have been trapped in a cycle of terrorism, poverty and violence exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorists and extremism.”
In his remarks, Trump promised that “no Israelis or Palestinians will be uprooted from their homes.”
The plan encompasses about 80 pages, 50 of them the political plan announced on Tuesday and 30 from an economic plan announced last July setting up a $50 billion economic revival plan for Palestinians, Jordan and Egypt.
The U.S. plan represented the most dramatic and detailed attempt to break the historic deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians in several years, the result of a three-year effort by Trump senior advisers Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz and former adviser Jason Greenblatt.
For the first time, a U.S. administration is publishing a map of the future agreement. Until now, any maps in the peace process were discussed privately. The map was due to be released to the public later in the day.
Standing alongside Trump, Netanyahu welcomed the plan: “This is a historic day. And it recalls another historic day. We remember May 14 1948, because on that day, President Truman became the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel, after our first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion declared our independence. that day charted a brilliant future.
“Mr. President, I believe that down the decades, and perhaps down the centuries, We will also remember January 28 2020, because on this day you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage.
“And on this day, you too have charted a brilliant future, for Israelis, Palestinians and the region. By presenting a realistic path to a durable peace.
In a briefing with reporters after the conference, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained that Israel would not have to wait to begin annexations, as long as they confirm to the map. He stressed it was the first time that an Israeli government has committed itself to territorial delineations toward a final peace agreement.
“We will form a joint committee with Israel to convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved,leaving a contiguous territory within the future Palestinian state for when the conditions for statehood are met, including the firm rejection of terrorism.
“Under this vision, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s … undivided capital. But that’s no big deal because I’ve already done that for you, right?”
President Trump emphasized that the plan has a lot for the Palestinians as well, “it wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”
“I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians,” the president declared.
Asked what Washington was prepared to do to advance negotiations, officials said it was up to the Palestinians to come forward and to say they are prepared to negotiate. They will have a four-year window of opportunity to do so.
They said both Netanyahu and Gantz had said they were willing to support the effort.
Israeli leaders have agreed to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan and agreed to the map, the officials said. Israel’s agreement on statehood for Palestinians is dependent on a security arrangement to protect Israelis.
Trump said that Israeli security would not be compromised, and the scenes of terror attacks that accompanied previous negotiations would not be tolerated. Among the most important provisions of the plan is that the new Palestinian state be demilitarized.
“The proposed transition to a two state solution will present no incremental security risk to the State of Israel,” he said. “We will not allow return to the days of bloodshed, bus bombings, …club attacks and relentless terror.”
Israel will also take steps to ensure Muslim access to al-Aqsa mosque in Yerushalayim and respect Jordan’s role regarding holy sites, the officials said.
President Trump said that if the Palestinians accept the plan, Washington will open an embassy in east Yerushalayim, which they would have as their capital.
Palestinian statehood would be dependent on Palestinians taking steps for self-government, such as respect for human rights, freedom of the press and having transparent and credible institutions, the officials said.
The White House noted in a statement that the president’s vision “will end the refugee status quo and help put the region on a truly transformative path: one with stability, security, and abundant opportunities for prosperity.”
“In doing the map it’s incredibly difficult to try to create contiguity for a Palestinian state based on what’s happened over the past 25 years so if we don’t do this freeze now I think that their chance to ever have a state basically goes away,” said one official in reference to the growth of Jewish communities in Yehuda and Shomron.
“So what we’ve done is basically we’ve bought four more years for them to get their act together and try to negotiate a deal for them to become a state, and I think this is a huge opportunity for them,” the official said.
The official said the question for Palestinians is will they “come to the table and negotiate?”
If they agree to negotiate, there are some areas that can be compromised in the future, the official said without offering details.
Trump’s plan calls for Palestinians to be able to return to a future state of Palestine and creates a “generous compensation fund,” the official said.
About Israel retaining communities in Yehuda and Shomron, a U.S. official said: “The plan is based on a principle that people should not have to move to accomplish peace … But it does stop future settlement expansion which we consider to be the most realistic approach.
“The notion that hundreds of thousands of people, or tens of thousands of people, are going to be removed either forcibly or not from their homes is just not worth entertaining,” the official said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Updated Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 2:24 pm .
Updated Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 3:40 pm added comments