No Palestinians attended the White House preview of what is described as a highly detailed proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dates from Israel’s founding in 1948.
“In the business world, when I was back in the business world, when a deal was tough, people would jokingly refer to it as, ‘This is tougher than Israel and the Palestinians getting together,’ ” Trump said as he welcomed Netanyahu for an Oval Office briefing on the secretive package. “And that’s what I’ve heard all my life, and so we’ll see what happens. We have something that makes a lot of sense for everybody.”
The package is expected to propose a redrawn border between Israel and the West Bank that would incorporate large Jewish settlements into Israel proper, while continuing some forms of Israeli security control over the territory Israel seized in 1967 and has occupied since, according to two people familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal has not been released.
Trump predicted that “we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians” but also appeared to confirm expectations that the White House proposals are generous to close ally Israel.
“That’s a plan that Bibi, maybe, and his opponent, I must say, they have to like very much,” Trump said, calling Netanyahu by his nickname.
Gantz met with Trump separately at the White House as part of the administration’s strategy to release the U.S. guidelines for a settlement before Israelis vote in March. Netanyahu and Gantz are in a dead heat after two inconclusive elections in the past year. Both have said they welcome the Trump plan.
It is expected to offer limited autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that would increase over about a three-year timeline if Palestinian leadership undertook new political measures, renounced violence and took other steps in negotiation with Israel, the people familiar with the plan said.
The 50-page plan developed by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to include proposals addressing each of the major issues that have scuttled past peace efforts, including competing land claims and the administration of holy sites in Jerusalem.
“There are a lot of goodies in there for the Palestinians — a lot — but by no means all of what they have long sought,” one of the people said.
“They have within their grasp a state” if they meet certain security and political benchmarks, that person said.
That conditional sovereignty appears to fall far short of the long-standing international goal of a separate, fully independent Palestinian state. But it also “acknowledges reality as it is,” with expanding Israeli settlements, a desperate Palestinian economy and shrinking political horizons for young people, that person said.
The Kushner package essentially assesses that the Palestinian bargaining position is poor and getting worse, and it asks Palestinian leaders to negotiate for part of a loaf rather than watch the whole loaf disappear, said people who have heard Kushner and other authors describe the proposal.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment on any details of the plan.
The United States cannot enforce any of the proposals on its own, but U.S. statements about what a settlement should entail have set the parameters for all recent efforts at peace.
The public release planned for noon Tuesday will come amid Trump’s Senate impeachment trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Tuesday is also the day the Israeli Knesset is slated to begin considering Netanyahu’s bid for parliamentary immunity in a long-running corruption case.
Kushner’s nearly three-year effort was once a top priority for Trump as the former New York real estate developer sought to put his stamp on one of the world’s most intractable disputes over land, sovereignty and heritage. Expectations were low at the start and sunk lower when Palestinian leaders walked away from the effort before the end of Trump’s first year in office. They have not returned.
Trump said many Arab states have signed on to his approach. “They like it. They think it’s great. They think it’s a big start,” Trump said, without identifying any by name. “I think it’s a big start, too. I think it’s a fantastic thing if we can pull it off. They say it’s probably the most difficult deal anywhere and of any kind to make.”
No Arab state has endorsed the plan publicly. Palestinian leaders plan to stiff-arm the Trump plan and orchestrate a round of condemnations from Arab neighbors and other nations in the days after the plan is revealed.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will hold an emergency meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee Tuesday.
Palestinian officials have warned that if the United States proposes terms that grossly favor Israel, it will spell the end of security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that followed the Oslo agreement signed in Washington in 1993.
“If Netanyahu begins annexation of palestinian territory officially, this means Israel’s withdrawal from Oslo accords and agreements signed,” longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a tweet. “It is an attempt to destroy” the idea of peace between two states, he said.
Some Palestinian factions have called on protesters to turn out for a “day of rage” in the territories Tuesday. A spokesman for the Israeli military said forces have elevated their state of readiness and are monitoring checkpoints and other potential protest spots.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the U.S. pro-Israel group J Street, called the White House rollout “a blatant political stunt” meant to distract from Trump’s and Netanyahu’s political and legal problems. “This is not the day, if you are a serious policymaker, to resolve the world’s most difficult conflict,” he said in an interview from Israel. “The fact that they chose this day tells you everything you need to know.”
Hendrix and Eglash reported from Jerusalem.