Trump Called His Middle East Peace Plan a 'Win Win.' Palestinians Disagree

It’s been three years in the making. But on Tuesday, the Trump Administration’s proposal to bring a solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict finally came to light.

The White House’s 80-page plan calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem, ending speculation that the Trump Administration was preparing to depart from a “two state” resolution to the conflict that has long been the bedrock of U.S. policy.

But the blueprint would also permit Israel to extend sovereignty over all major settlements blocs in the West Bank, uphold Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital,” and require the Palestinians to concede far more land to Israel than in past proposals.

Addressing reporters alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said that while past U.S. presidents had failed to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he had not been elected to “shy away from big problems.” Trump characterized his proposal as a “win-win” for both Israelis and Palestinians and a “bold step forward” for the region. But senior Democrats and Palestinians, who had rejected the plan before its publication, criticized the purported deal as one-sided.

On Monday, Netanyahu and his centrist rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, met President Donald Trump separately to hear details of the so-called peace plan spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

“We have the support of the prime minister, we have the support of the other parties, and we think we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians, but we’re going to see,” Trump told reporters that day.

Support from the Palestinians appears a remote prospect. The West Bank’s Ramallah-based government, whose top diplomats have long described the Trump Administration’s plans as “dead on arrival,” had not been invited to the White House and insist the Trump Administration has forfeited America’s role as an honest broker in the region. The Trump plan “will not pass,” said Palestinian president Abbas, hours after its release.

Here’s what to know about the deal Trump unveiled:

What are the details of Trump’s plan?

Many of its components had been anticipated. Last week Israeli media reports characterized the White House plan as “the most generous proposal ever presented to Israel” and said it would pave the way for Israel to annex virtually all settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has controlled since the Six-Day War of 1967, give Israel full sovereignty over Jerusalem, and make no major provision for returning Palestinian refugees.

Although Trump had dismissed those reports as “speculation,” they proved mostly correct. The White House plan would rubber stamp Israel extending sovereignty over all major settlement blocs in the West Bank. “No Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes,” Trump said Tuesday, in a firm indication the settlements would remain in place.

However, the blueprint also offers more concessions to the Palestinians than many experts had predicted. The White House plan puts forward a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although the size of the Palestinian state is considerably smaller than that proposed in past U.S. mediation efforts. Trump said his plan would “more than double Palestinian territory.” Under it, however, Palestinians could control some 70% of the West Bank, compared with 94-96% proposed by Bill Clinton in 2000.

As anticipated, Trump’s plan recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital” but it allows for a Palestinian capital in portions of East Jerusalem. The plan also puts a four-year freeze on the construction of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have ballooned since Trump took office.

“While Trump claims a revolutionary approach to the peace process, this plan actually recycles past failed efforts,” Tareq Baconi, an analyst at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a statement. “It places Palestinians on probation while they prove their worthiness of statehood, using conditions that are malleable and ill-defined.”

Baconi added that Trump’s plan “seeks to induce Palestinian capitulation through economic largesse; and it removes the onus on IsraeI to make any concessions until Palestinians declare their full surrender.”

The economic contours of the White House proposal had already been sketched out. At a June summit in Bahrain, Kushner put forward plans to create a $50-billion dollar fund to support infrastructure, business and tourism investments aimed at bolstering the Palestinian economy, as well as those of neighboring Arab States. The West Bank’s Ramallah-based leadership boycotted the June event entirely and senior Palestinian Authority diplomat Husam Zomlot told TIME afterward that it was a “conspiracy” designed to allow Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories while “blaming the Palestinians for not riding a dead political horse.”

On Tuesday, Trump reiterated Kushner’s promise to provide $50 billion in international financing to build the new Palestinian State, resolving to open an American embassy there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

How did Palestinians respond to the plan’s release?

Trump has said his administration talked “briefly” with the Palestinian leadership. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly refused to take a call from Trump, according to an account provided by an official from his office to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency on Monday. On Tuesday, he responded with “a thousand nos” to Trump’s plan, the Associated Press reports.

Palestinian factions, including West-Bank based Fatah, have called on Palestinians to participate in mass protests on Tuesday and Thursday. And on Tuesday, Fatah invited rival Gaza-based faction Hamas to attend an emergency meeting in Ramallah. On Tuesday night, local time, at least a dozen West Bank Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces, Agence France-Presse reports.

The Palestinian leadership has objected to Trump’s actions in the region since the beginning of his presidency. Since he took office in 2017, Trump has moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which the Palestinians view as the capital of their future state, cut funding to the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, and in November broke with decades of U.S. precedent by stating that it no longer views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “inconsistent with international law.”

How did Congress react to the plan?

Senate Democrats came out against the proposal. The White House’s “one-sided” proposal “undermines decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and international law,” wrote Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Holland on Twitter after Trump’s announcement. “Far from the “deal of the century” this is the “disaster of the decade,”” he added.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont called the plan a striking example of Trump’s “delusional hyperbole over reality.” He added that it would “diminish the prospects for peaceful coexistence, while damaging our country’s hard-won role as a force for stability in the Middle East.”

Meanwhile Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton said on Twitter that he applauded the president “for putting forth a plan that secures a prosperous future for the Jewish State of Israel while working toward a lasting peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and the broader Arab world.”

How is Trump’s plan expected to be received elsewhere in the Middle East?

Before Tuesday’s announcement, White House aides had been trying to line up public statements of support, or at least neutrality, from major allies in the region, according to an official familiar with the discussions that spoke with TIME. On Monday Axios reported that some leaders in the Middle East were expected to issue encouraging statements. Trump said that ambassadors from the UAE, Oman and Bahrain were present at his announcement. Ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt did not attend.

Footage circulated on Twitter afterwards appeared to show small protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Amman in Jordan, amid a larger security presence there. Israel had also deployed military reinforcements in areas of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.

Jordan, which fought two wars with Israel before signing a landmark peace treaty with Israel 25-year ago, “stands to suffer most” after the Palestinians, should Israel proceed with annexation, says Amman-based journalist and political commentator Osama Al-Sharif. Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that Jordanian-Israeli relations had hit an “all-time low.” According to Al-Sharif, anxieties are especially acute among residents of Jordan’s East Bank, alarmed by the recent revival of far-right Israeli calls for Jordan to become an alternative homeland for Palestinians.

While Jordan’s economic dependence on Israel and the U.S., among other issues, makes it unlikely King Abdullah would compromise the peace treaty with Israel, “there will be many people around the King that will say we have to react in some way, in order to try to regain legitimacy in the Jordanian street, ” Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet told TIME on Sunday.

Even if the heads of Middle Eastern states can stomach a deal arrived at without consulting Palestinians, “the street in Amman, in Riyadh, in Cairo, will be totally against it,” Ayalon tells TIME. The White House blueprint might end up undermining the 2002 Arab peace initiative, under which the Arab world accepted the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, and instead lead to “more instability,” he adds.

For Israel, “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was on the most remote back burner for years, leaving space [to address] Iran, Syria, the Gulf, and Turkey,” Gilead Sher, former Chief of Staff and Policy Coordinator to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and now a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies told TIME on Sunday. But Trump and Netanyahu “have upgraded it to stage front,” he added.

—With reporting by Brian Bennett/Washington

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