Jan 29 at 12:27 PM
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Trump’s peace plan gets mixed reactions
Netanyahu reaches out to Palestinians
BY TOM HOWELL JR. AND GUY TAYLOR THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Trump announced a highly anticipated Middle East peace plan Tuesday that would recognize Israel’s control over vast portions of the West Bank, including areas bordering Jordan, but allow Palestinians to eventually obtain their own state if they reject terrorism and meet other conditions.
While there were signs of support from some Arab powers — Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all sent their ambassadors to a rollout at the White House — no Palestinian representatives attended the event and the overall response from Palestinian leaders was one of anger and dismissal.
Reactions from others in the region were cautious and neutral. Egyptian officials praised the administration’s effort and called on Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. Jordan was more skeptical, warning against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and calling for a return to 1967 borders with a Palestinian state encompassing the entire West Bank. Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the Trump White House in the region, offered a studiously neutral review of the proposal, saying the kingdom “appreciated” Mr. Trump’s efforts and urged direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Trump, flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, stressed that the 80-page blueprint offers a “realistic two-state solution” and “territorial compromises” to address a problem that has defied resolution for decades.
The plan was crafted largely by the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Trump lauded it for delving into details rather than focusing on broad concepts.
But Palestinian leaders have shown little sign that they have an appetite for the deal now on the table. Mr. Trump told an Israel-friendly crowd at the White House that the plan calls for Jerusalem — the home of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites — to remain Israel’s “undivided capital,” while the Palestinians would be given a capital on the outskirts of the city for their new state.
He said the plan wouldn’t force Israel to compromise its security and suggested that all West Bank areas currently occupied by the Israeli military would ultimately fall under Israeli sovereignty. The plan does, however, call for a four year freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, the expansion of which in recent years has been a source of mounting outrage among Palestinians.
A summary circulated by the White House said the plan “provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River.”
“Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its security footprint,” the summary said.
Mr. Trump said Palestinians would be allowed to “eventually double their territory and the U.S. will proudly open an embassy in east Jerusalem.”
The plan, which the White House touted as the “deal of the century,” also calls for a “massive $50 billion” economic program that administration officials hope will tap foreign investment for a Palestinian state from wealthy Gulf Arab nations.
Although it is not clear whether such nations will inject that investment or whether the Trump administration will pressure U.S. companies to invest, the president said “it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians or it just wouldn’t be fair.”
Democrats quickly criticized the plan, but influential Republicans applauded it. “The Trump administration has united the major political factions in Israel behind a two-state solution that guarantees security for Israel and will lead to a 1,000 percent increase in the quality of life for the Palestinian people,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
“To our Palestinian friends: do not let this historic moment pass,” Mr. Graham said in a statement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed anger. He told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Palestinians will “not surrender” to Mr. Trump.
“After the nonsense that we heard today, we say a thousand noes to the deal of the century,” said Mr. Abbas, asserting that Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. “We will not kneel, and we will not surrender.”
Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, outright rejected the plan as “conspiracies” and asserted that “all options are open” with regard to how Palestinians might respond.
“The [Israeli] occupation and the U.S. administration will bear the responsibility for what they did,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya told The Associated Press as he participated in one of several protests that broke out across the Hamasruled Gaza Strip.
Protesters burned tires and pictures of Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu.
Some Palestinian leaders indicated they are wary that Gulf Arab powers might embrace the plan.
‘Thousand noes’ from Abbas
President Trump, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the 80-page blueprint for Middle East peace offers a “realistic two-state solution” and “territorial compromises” to address a problem that has defied resolution for decades. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mr. Abbas held an emergency meeting with other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to discuss a unified response. The Jerusalem Post on Monday cited one Palestinian official as saying on the condition of anonymity that there was “growing fear in Ramallah that countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt are not opposed to Trump’s plan.”
At the White House, Mr. Trump thanked Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for supporting the plan and sending their ambassadors to the rollout. But public statements from leaders of those countries remained neutral.
A Saudi government statement said the kingdom “supports all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian cause.”
“A military solution to the conflict has not brought peace or security to any party,” said the Saudi statement, stopping far short of an endorsement of the Trump plan.
Mr. Netanyahu was at the White House during a delicate political moment. Israel’s attorney general formally indicted the prime minister Tuesday on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Mr. Netanyahu maintained his innocence and told the crowd that he was honored to be in Washington for the peace plan rollout. “This is a historic day,” he said, evoking the “brilliant future” created by U.S. recognition of Israel’s independence in 1948.
He thanked Mr. Trump for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Jordan Valley, which he said were vital for security and “central to our heritage.” He said the plan would disarm Hamas in Gaza.
Palestinians have refused for more than a year to engage in talks with the Trump administration and say the plan is biased and cuts off their path to a fully sovereign state.
Mr. Trump said Palestinians should be enticed by billions of dollars in investment that will help their economy thrive on its own. “They will be doing phenomenally all by themselves,” the president said. “They are a very, very capable people.”
Critics questioned the timing of the plan’s release. Mr. Trump’s team had been working on it for three years and announced it in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial. Some argued that the rollout was timed help Mr. Netanyahu distract from his own political crisis at home.
Democrats said the plan was counterproductive.
“It makes no sense, after waiting for three years, to unveil a plan with no Israeli government in place, and after no consultations with the Palestinians,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat. “It’s also no coincidence this plan supports recognizing illegal settlements and unilateral Israeli annexation, while discarding any notion of a two state solution.”
Robert Malley, a top Obama administration Middle East official and now president of the International Crisis Group, suggested that the plan is too “indifferent” to the views of Palestinians to stand a chance at succeeding.
“Strip away the domestic and Israeli political considerations that determined the timing of the plan’s release, and the message to the Palestinians, boiled down to its essence, is: ‘You’ve lost, get over it,’” Mr. Malley said in a statement.
At one point during the rollout event, Mr. Trump diverted from his points on the peace plan to praise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confrontation with NPR anchor Mary Louise Kelly, who accused Mr. Pompeo of subjecting her to an obscenity-laced tirade after a contentious on-air interview.
“That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh. I think you did a good job on her, actually,” the president said. “That’s good. Thank you, Mike.”
Although many in Washington have criticized Mr. Pompeo’s behavior in the incident, the president’s comments drew laughter from supporters.
Lauren Meier contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
Iftekhar A. Hai
UMA Interfaith Alliance