By: Fern Sidman
On Tuesday afternoon, history was made in terms of possible progress in resolving the protracted and immutable conflict between Israel and the neighboring Palestinians. Known as the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma, the inability to achieve a long-standing and enduring peace between the two distinct peoples that inhabit the land of Israel has been a source of frustration for so many previous US presidential administrations.
Now, the nation’s 45th president, who is currently the subject of an impeachment trial in the Senate, has proposed creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing. President Trump said that the plan is an effort to achieve a peace breakthrough in their decades of conflict with Israel, according to a Ha’Aretz report.
The main points of the plan known as the long awaited “Deal of the Century” include 1) two states while safeguarding Israel’s security, 2) a committee that will draw up a detailed map as a basis for negotiations, 3) a four-year freeze on Israeli settlement construction, 4) Jerusalem will remain as Israel’s eternal, undivided capital, and the fifth point is that the Palestinian capital will be located in East Jerusalem.
Addressing the entire world from the East Room at the White House at a little after 12 noon on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu both delivered prepared and off-the-cuff remarks on the historic occasion.
“Today Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Trump said at the start of his remarks, as was reported by INN. “Young people across the Middle East are ready for a more hopeful future, and governments throughout the region are realizing that terrorism and Islamic extremism are everyone’s common enemy.”
“Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with both the prime minister of Israel and a man that’s working very hard to become the prime minister of Israel in the longest-running election of all time, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party. And both leaders joined me to express their support for this effort, proving that the State of Israel is looking for peace, and that peace transcends politics by any measure,” Trump added.
INN reported that Trump said that he was “deeply moved and amazed by what the small country of Israel had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds.”
“The State of Israel comprises only a minuscule amount of land in the Middle East, and yet it has become a thriving center of democracy, innovation, culture, and commerce. Israel is a light unto the world,” Trump declared, as was reported by INN.
As part of his plan, Trump declared that Jerusalem would remain the “undivided capital” of Israel. However, he later stated that the Palestinian Arabs would have a capital in eastern Jerusalem, as was reported by INN.
Inside the plan itself, the Trump administration calls for most of the city to remain unified under Israeli sovereignty, while turning Arab neighborhoods outside of the security barrier into “Al Quds”, the capital of Palestine. He said that the plan also endorsed a Two-State solution.
Trump expressed his sincerest thanks to Prime Minister Netanyahu for “having the courage” to make the concessions necessary for the deal. He further stated that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.” Trump promised that the plan would pose “no security risk” to Israel, according to the INN report.
“We will not allow a return to the days of bus bombings, nightclub attacks, and relentless terror,” Trump said, according to the INN report. “Peace requires compromise, but we will never ask Israel to compromise its security.”
Trump’s peace plan noted that he wanted the deal to benefit the Palestinian Arabs as well.
“Palestinians have aspirations that have not been realized, including self-determination, improvement of their standard of living, social betterment, and a respected place in the region, as well as among the nations of the world. Many Palestinians desire peace and recognize the enormous economic opportunities and social benefits that await them if relations with the State of Israel can be normalized. Gaza is a very complicated situation. It is under the control of Hamas, a terrorist organization, and, as a result of Hamas’ policies, is approaching a humanitarian crisis. It is time to help the Palestinians achieve a hopeful and prosperous future and enable them to join the community of nations,” said Trump.
Trump added that “Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism. Today’s agreement is an historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own. After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity for a Palestinian Arab state,” he said.
In terms of a possible last opportunity for the Palestinians to jump on the peace train, Trump quantified that comment by saying that this is the last opportunity to work with the team of people who originally crafted the peace plan. He was specifically referring to his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, Kushner’s young assistant, Avi Berkowitz, former Trump administration official Jason Greenblatt and current US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
Emphasizing the fact that the aforementioned quartet of negotiators were the ones to be lauded for their diligent efforts in getting the peace plan (or ‘Deal of the Century) off the ground, Trump also offered his effusive thanks and praise to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others in the state department who also played a significant role in crafting the plan.
Trump also called for benchmarks to be satisfactorily met by the Palestinian Authority in order to progress with the establishment of their own independent state, living side by side with Israel. The executive in chief has required the Palestinians to respect human rights, to end its payments to terrorists, and to engaged in the ongoing fight against terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Describing the concessions Israel would have to make, Trump called for a four-year freeze on construction of Israeli communities in the area earmarked for a Palestinian state under the plan, according to the INN report.
Taking note of an unprecedented event at any conference that the White House has ever held concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump mentioned several times that not only did his “Deal of the Century” have the full throated support of many countries across the globe but that such Arab countries as Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates were pivotal in drafting the plan. In fact, their ambassadors were present at the East Room joint press conference.
Concerning Israel’s consistent and steadfast yearning for long-term peace in the tumultuous region they call home, Trump’s peace plan included the following:
“The State of Israel has made peace with two of its neighbors. It made peace with the Arab Republic of Egypt in 1979 and it made peace with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, two countries with which the State of Israel had fought multiple wars and numerous border skirmishes. The State of Israel has also exchanged sizeable territories for the sake of peace, as it did when it withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace with the Arab Republic of Egypt.”
“While Israeli citizens have suffered greatly as a result of violence and terrorism, Israelis still desire peace. These two peace agreements, now 40 and 25 years old, have endured and bettered the lives of citizens in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians has kept other Arab countries from normalizing their relationships and jointly pursuing a stable, secure, and prosperous region.
“One reason for the intractability of this problem is the conflation of two separate conflicts: a territorial, security and refugee dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and a religious dispute between Israel and the Muslim world regarding control over places of religious significance. The absence of formal relations between Israel and most Muslim and Arab countries has only exacerbated the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. We believe that if more Muslim and Arab countries normalize relations with Israel it will help advance a just and fair resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and prevent radicals from using this conflict to destabilize the region.”
At the conclusion of Trump’s remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered his own address, according to the INN report. He thanked the president for his overwhelming support for Israel.
“Your peace plan strikes a balance where other plans have failed,” Netanyahu told Trump. “With everything you’ve done for Israel, I’m not surprised. You are the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House.”
“This is an historic day, and it recalls another historic day when President Truman recognized the State of Israel. You will be remembered in history; you charted a brilliant future for Israelis and Palestinians,” Netanyahu added, as was reported by INN.
INN reported that Netanyahu stated that under the peace plan, Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other strategically vital parts of Judea and Samaria would be recognized.
In addition, all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would also be recognized as under Israeli sovereignty, including Biblical cities such as Hevron and Shiloh.
Netanyahu called Trump the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House, adding that “it’s not even close.”
He said that the ‘Deal of the Century’ “addresses the root cause of the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will finally have to recognize Israel as the Jewish State.”
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinian Authority “are genuinely prepared to make peace with the Jewish State,” then Israel “would be prepared to negotiate peace right away.”
He agreed to “maintain the status quo” in areas not designated as part of Israel under the plan for four years, while applying sovereignty in the rest of the land, according to the INN report.
Turning to Trump, Netanyahu said: “Like you, Mr President, I understand the magnitude of this moment. With you, Mr. President, I am prepared to seize the moment and change history.”
“Mr. President, your Deal of the Century is the opportunity of the century, and rest assured, Israel will not miss this opportunity.”
Security responsibility for the Jordan Valley would remain in Israel’s hands for the foreseeable future but could be scaled back as the nascent Palestinian state builds its capacity, under the terms of the plan, which says that statehood will be contingent on the Palestinians meeting international governance criteria, according to an AP report.
The AP reported that U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the plan’s release, said they expected negative responses from the Palestinians, as well as Turkey and Iran, but were hopeful that Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab nations to have peace treaties with Israel, would not reject it outright.
The Palestinians have already rejected the proposal, accusing Trump of being biased in favor of Israel as he has adopted policies that bolster Israel at their expense, as was reported by the AP.
The Palestinians refuse to even speak to Trump and they called on support from Arab leaders. The Palestinian leadership also has encouraged protests in Judea and Samaria, raising fears that the announcement in Washington could spark a new round of violence.
In a call for unity as Trump rolled out his Mideast peace plan, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas held an “emergency” meeting on Tuesday in Ramallah to discuss a cogent and cohesive strategy in response.
“We invited the Hamas movement to attend the emergency meeting of the leadership and they will take part in the meeting,” senior Palestinian official Azzam al-Ahmed said.
World Israel News reported that relations between the rival Palestinian factions have been strained ever since 2007 when Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. Sporadic efforts to reconcile their differences have unsuccessfully been attempted over the years, but in more recent times, Abbas is believed to have “seldom communicated” with senior Hamas leaders.
Palestinian protests have been scheduled to take place in the Jordan Valley, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria on Wednesday, as was reported by INN.
On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas held a closed-door meeting with the Fatah leadership.
“Trump is a dog and the son of a dog,” Al Mayadeen TV station quoted Abbas as saying. “This is a sh*t person, a bastard who wants to force a plan on us that we don’t want. His government is a government of dogs.”
“I was told I’ll pay a heavy price for my foolish behavior. I do not have much longer to live and I will not go down as a traitor. It’s either dying like martyrs or flying the Palestinian flag on the walls of Jerusalem,” he said.
The JPost reported on Tuesday that the Saudi Foreign Ministry responded to Trump’s peace plan, stressing the Kingdom’s support for “all efforts aimed at reach a just and comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian cause,” in a tweet.
The ministry pointed to the Arab Peace initiative in 2002 that stressed that “a military solution to the conflict has not brought peace or security to any party, and that comprehensive and just peace is a strategic option.”
The JPost reported that the Kingdom encouraged the start of direct peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis under the auspices of the United States and “to resolve any disagreements with the plan through negotiations.”
Arab League chief, Ahmed Abuel-Gheit said the Palestinian reaction would define the Arab response to Trump’s peace plan. He spoke after meeting with Palestinian offices Jibril Rajoub at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
The reaction of Jordan, which would retain its responsibilities over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque under the plan, will be particularly significant, according to the officials, who said Kushner and others were reaching out to Arab leaders ahead of the rollout.
AP reported that the 50-page political outline of Trump’s peace plan for the Middle East goes further in concessions to the Palestinians than many analysts had believed was likely. However, it would require them to accept conditions they have been previously unwilling to consider, such as accepting settlements.
It builds on a 30-page economic plan for Judea and Samaria and Gaza that was unveiled last June and which the Palestinians have also rejected. Under the terms of the “peace vision” that Jared Kushner has been working on for nearly three years, the future Palestinian state would consist of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, connected by a combination of above-ground roads and tunnels, making it a contiguous state.
Also on Tuesday, an Israeli settlement group said that the population of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria surged by more than 3% in 2019, well above the growth rate of Israel’s overall population, according to an AP report. It predicted even higher growth this year thanks to a nascent building boom made possible by friendly policies of the Trump administration.
World Israel News reported that Netanyahu’s spokesman announced that the Israeli leader will ask his Cabinet on Sunday to approve his plan to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.
Jonathan Urich made the announcement on Twitter late Tuesday, shortly after Netanyahu joined Trump for the unveiling of a new U.S. peace plan, as was reported by WIN.
The plan calls for leaving the strategic Jordan Valley and all Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria under Israeli control.
INN reported that the Jewish settler movement, known as the Yesha Council weighed in with their opinions on the Trump plan. They indicated that they were bitterly disappointed that Netanyahu had agreed to the formation of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state in the middle of Israel’s heartland.
Yesha Council Speaker David Elhayani said, “We are very disturbed. We cannot agree to a plan that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state that would pose a threat to the State of Israel and a great danger to the future.”
“We declare that we will not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state even at the cost of giving up on sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. We demand that the prime minister, ministers and Knesset members not accept a comprehensive agreement within which a Palestinian state is established in any way. ”
INN reported that in an interview with Kan Bet, Elhayani said, “We came to Washington to bolster the prime minister and congratulate Trump. But after we processed things, we realized that the peace plan includes a Palestinian state. I am shocked that Netanyahu agrees to a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”
Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman said after the meeting in Washington with Prime Minister Netanyahu alongside Yesha leaders: “Last night we completed our meeting with the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Levin. I arrived here at the White House with fellow Yesha leaders Yisrael Gantz, Oded Revivi, and David Elhayani represent Judea and Samaria so that during negotiations at his historic and exciting juncture, the Prime Minister would hear what our red lines are,” as was reported by Israel National News.
“We are confident that the Prime Minister will continue to uphold the principles of the State of Israel and Judea and Samaria.”
Ne’eman added, “We will continue to develop Judea and Samaria and will not abandon any part of the Land of Israel. Please G-d we will be witness to the application of sovereignty, something which is an historical achievement not only for the State of Israel but on a grand scale for Jewish history as well. This moment is developing before our eyes.”
The Jewish News Syndicate reported that the Israel Defense Forces took the preemptive step of moving an infantry battalion to the Jordan Valley on Tuesday. This move gives the military an added layer of flexibility to deal with a range of possible scenarios in the event that hostilities should erupt amongst Palestinians.
While few in Israel expect a major escalation to follow Trump’s announcement, the Israel Defense Forces is conducting ongoing situation assessments to keep its finger on the pulse, as was reported by JNS. The Israeli defense establishment is preparing to study the details of the proposal closely to see what conclusions can be drawn in terms of potential security ramifications.
The IDF’s preparations also include stepped-up intelligence gathering in the West Bank and conducting dialogue with a variety a variety of influential elements in the area. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi completed a tour of the West Bank on Tuesday afternoon together with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.
Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of the security coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority, told JNS that he doubted any significant ignition of popular violence was about to occur, and that sporadic demonstrations were more likely.
“I believe that the Palestinian public of 2020 is not the same as it was during the first intifada in 1987, and certainly not like it was in subsequent escalations,” said Elad, a lecturer at the Western Galilee College. “The Palestinians are still angry at the State of Israel, but they’re also looking at Gaza; they see the conditions there, and they do not want to reach that. The conditions for them are good, and they fear closures and disorder disrupting their lives.”
Reactions to the peace plan from those stateside also came streaming in on Tuesday afternoon. The leadership of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel Christian evangelical organization, said in a statement released to the media:
“President Trump has shown time and again that he is the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history. This plan reflects that tradition and is the best peace proposal any American administration has ever put forth. The President’s vision ensures Israel’s defensible borders, a united Jerusalem, sovereignty over biblical holy sites, and provides an opportunity for the Palestinians to choose peace,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee, who attended Tuesday’s formal announcement of the proposal at the White House.
“CUFI, as we have since our founding, stands with the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel. We hope the Palestinian leadership will not miss yet another opportunity for peace in the region,” Hagee added.
Within the ‘Deal Of The Century’ the Trump Administration’s reported proposal to create a tunnel corridor linking Hamas-run Gaza to the Palestinian Authority-run territories would pose an extreme danger to Israel’s security,” stated Moshe Phillips, Herut North America’s national director. “The creation of a tunnel highway and railway linking the Gaza Strip to those parts of Judea-Samaria that are controlled by the Palestinian Authority would slice across Israel’s middle and would connect and thereby significantly strengthen the potential military capacity of these two perennially hostile anti-Israel regimes.”
Herut North America is a pro-Israel movement that stands for Jewish sovereignty in all the Land of Israel, human rights, and Zionist education.
Herut believes that it should be clear that the tunnel aspect of the Trump team’s “Deal of The Century” proposal would critically endanger Israeli civilians.
“If Hamas starts sending camouflaged truckloads of missiles through the tunnel corridor, will American inspectors be on hand to intervene? Would the war-weary American public accept the stationing of U.S. armed forces in such a hostile situation?” asks Moshe Phillips.
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