WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump proposed a sweeping Mideast peace plan Tuesday that would establish a disjointed Palestinian state largely surrounded by Israel while granting Israel most of what it sought in a proposal that appears to have little chance of success.
Trump touted the plan as the potential solution to decades of bloody conflict, but his administration did little to solicit the support of Palestinian leaders who rejected it sight unseen and played no role in its drafting after nearly three years of work. Trump presented the proposal as the best Palestinians could hope to get during a ceremony in which he stood beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who eagerly embraced both the president and what he presented.
"Today's agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own," Trump said. "After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity they will ever have."
Trump would grant Israel vast license to incorporate Jewish settlements and maintain a yoke of security on land it now occupies - proposals that could have immediate consequences. Netanyahu plans to move forward with annexing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley as soon as this weekend, a government official said, in a move that could inflame tensions in the region and is being done with the tacit support of the White House.
The detailed plan offers a four-year window for Palestinians to begin negotiations for what would amount to a smaller, weaker version of statehood than envisioned by past U.S. presidents. But the conditional sovereignty is still more than Palestinians have now, and more than many of Trump's critics thought he would offer.
"My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides," Trump said. "A realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security."
The announcement came as both Trump and Netanyahu face politically perilous moments at home. The U.S. Senate is in the midst of the president's impeachment trial, which has been roiled by new reports regarding his actions toward Ukraine, and hours before the plan's release in Washington, the prime minister's indictment on corruption charges was filed in a Jerusalem court.
Both men embraced the release of the long awaited plan in a celebratory ceremony that they portrayed as a historic moment and a testament to their leadership.
"I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems," Trump said.
The package of U.S. ideas calls for a remapping of the West Bank and Jerusalem while offering Palestinians a pathway to statehood if they meet a set of tests.
No Palestinians attended the White House preview of what Trump called a highly detailed proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates from Israel's founding in 1948. Trump said he sent a letter Tuesday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, inviting him to consider the plan.
"President Abbas, I want you to know that if you choose the path to peace, America and many other countries will - we will be there," Trump pledged.
Trump tweeted a copy of the proposed new map of Israel and a future Palestinian territories, and tweeted about the plan in Hebrew and Arabic.
Abbas met Tuesday with a rare collection of often feuding factions, including leaders of Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Islamic Jihad.
He dismissed the Trump plan nicknamed the "deal of the century" as the "slap of the century," and he pledged not to abandon the quest for what he called true independence, even for a $50 billion investment fund envisioned in the White House proposal.
"Trump, Jerusalem is not for sale," Abbas said. "Our rights are not for sale."
U.S. officials hope that Arab leaders who are weary of the endless conflict will see the plan as perhaps the last, best chance to settle it before Israeli settlements, other construction and security measures on occupied territory render a self-governing Palestinian entity moot.
The two neighboring states that have made peace with Israel - Egypt and Jordan - did not send representatives to Tuesday's event; the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain did.
In addition to the concerns over the details of the proposal, some Arab countries were upset over how it was rolled out. An Arab official involved in previous meetings with a team led by Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said none of the Arab representatives had been allowed to see the final version of the plan before it was unveiled. A series of calls from the White House to Arab capitals over the weekend appeared mostly aimed at persuading leaders not to dismiss the proposal out of hand, said the official, who spoke on the condition that his name and country be withhold, citing the sensitive nature of the discussions with Washington.
"Where this has failed, badly, is in coordination and pre-briefs," the official said. "This is a case of the White House dictating a mostly Israeli vision of a way ahead and not selling it in advance. The 'Art of the Deal' appears lacking in this case."
Once a signature priority for Trump, the peace deal effort was hobbled early on by a Palestinian boycott and then repeatedly delayed by a political crisis roiling Israel.
After holding back the secretive package during two rounds of inconclusive elections in Israel, the Trump administration decided to publish it ahead of a third vote in March and let the chips fall where they may, several people familiar with the process said.
Standing with a grinning Netanyahu, Trump listed actions he has taken that seem to tip the scales toward Israel, including a 2017 announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the country's capital. Palestinians walked away from the peace effort at that point and have not returned.
Trump also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despised by Netanyahu.
"Therefore, it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn't be fair," Trump said as the room went quiet. "Now, don't clap for that, OK? But it's true. It wouldn't be fair. I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be."
At the conclusion of Trump's speech, mosques across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem began broadcasting readings from the 33rd chapter of the Quaran, a verse that warns, "do not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites."
By midnight, small groups of protesters were throwing rocks in parts of Ramallah. Near the northern checkpoint controlling access from East Jerusalem, video showed burning vehicles and rockets being fired from a truck.
The Palestinian entity depicted in the Trump document would occupy about 70% of the West Bank, less than plans envisioned by presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, and would have a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem rather than in the heart of that ancient section of city as long demanded by Palestinians and their Arab backers.
Israel would give up some land along the Egyptian border, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and a chunk of territory along the northern tip of the West Bank largely occupied by Israeli Arabs whom the plan says self-identify as Palestinians.
The United States cannot effect the proposals, but U.S. ideas for what a settlement should include have guided the most recent efforts at a negotiated settlement.
Netanyahu thanked Trump profusely, calling him the finest friend Israel has ever had, and pledging to talk if Palestinians come to the table. He said Trump's view that Israel can absorb settlements is a key to lasting peace rather than its undoing.
"Rather than pay easy lip service to Israel's security and simply shut your eyes, hope for the best, you recognized that Israel must have sovereignty in places that enable Israel to defend itself, by itself," Netanyahu said.
Democrats and Middle East analysts were quick to criticize the White House proposal. Most characterized it as one-sided abandonment of the two-state solution, and predicted the Palestinians will reject it outright.
"Previous presidents of both parties successfully maintained the respect of both Israelis and Palestinians for the United States' role as a credible player in difficult negotiations," a group of 12 Democratic senators led by Chris Van Hollen of Maryland wrote in a letter to Trump. "Your one-sided actions have made that impossible. It is clear that this latest White House effort is not a legitimate attempt to advance peace. It is a recipe for renewed division and conflict in the region."
Trump aired his proposals in private meetings Monday with Netanyahu and the veteran Israeli leader's challenger in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, 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.
The plan developed by Kushner addresses each of the major issues that have scuttled past peace efforts, including competing land claims and the administration of holy sites in Jerusalem.
In an interview on CNN on Tuesday, Kushner said the plan does "a great deal" for Palestinians but did not strike a conciliatory tone. If they reject it, "they're going to screw up another opportunity, like they've screwed up every other opportunity that they've ever had in their existence," Kushner said.
Ahead of the plan's release, Hamas, the militant group governing the Gaza Strip, agreed to sit down Tuesday to craft a joint response with archrival Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president whose Fatah party controls the West Bank.
"The unitary scene is the first nail in the coffin of this deal; when we are united, Trump and no one else will dare violate our rights," Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of Hamas, said at a rally Monday night in Gaza City. "We tell everyone that we are united against the deal of the century and to drop all conspiracies. We are one people under one flag."
Some in Israel are concerned about a Palestinian uprising in the wake of the plan's release. A violent backlash is one of the factors that Washington has weighed in deciding when and how to go forward after Palestinians rebuffed all U.S. outreach only months after the effort began during Trump's first year in office.
But Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, cited a disparity between what is being said by the Palestinian leadership and the mood of the Palestinian people.
"If you look at the discourse on the streets, people are not really talking about this plan at all," he said. "What happens now is really a big test for Abbas because it will show how much support he has among his people, but I don't believe that there is the energy among the Palestinian public to go out in mass protest."
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Hendrix and Eglash reported from Jerusalem. Hazem Balousha in Gaza City, Sufian Taha in Jerusalem, Taylor Luck in Amman and The Washington Post's Carol Morello and Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this story.
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Video: President Donald Trump announced the details of his long-awaited Middle East peace plan on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.(The Washington Post)
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WASHINGTON - Sensational revelations from President Donald Trump's former national security adviser threatened to upend the Senate impeachment trial Monday, increasing the chances that senators would vote to allow witnesses in a perilous development for the White House.
Inside the Senate chamber as the trial entered its second week, Trump's lawyers pushed forward with their defense of the president, largely ignoring the uproar caused by leaked details from a book by former national security adviser John Bolton. As part of their defense, they pivoted into a sharp line of attack on former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter over their involvement in Ukraine.
But outside the chamber, GOP senators caught unaware by the Bolton news grappled with divisions in their ranks and fresh calls from a small group of moderates who want to hear from Bolton before the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history comes to a close.
Details that became public Sunday from Bolton's unpublished book manuscript suggest that he could provide direct evidence that Trump sought to deny security assistance to Ukraine until Kyiv announced investigations into political opponents, including the Bidens. That linkage is at the heart of House Democrats' case that Trump abused his power in holding up the Ukraine aid for his personal political benefit and then obstructed Congress's subsequent investigation.
"I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday, repeatedly calling Bolton's testimony "relevant." "It's important to be able to hear from John Bolton, for us to be able to make an impartial judgment."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another key moderate, said the reports about Bolton's unpublished manuscript "strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues." At least four Republicans would have to join with all Democrats for a vote to call witnesses to succeed, an outcome Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has sought to avoid because of the potential for the trial to devolve into a drawn-out mess.
Trump himself has vehemently denied political motivation in stalling the Ukraine aid. He has insisted that he never told Bolton that he was holding up the nearly $400 million in aid to force Kyiv to announce political investigations, suggesting that if Bolton said otherwise, it was only to sell books.
Trump's attorneys devoted some of their floor time Monday to arguing that Trump acted appropriately in delaying the security aid, and that he did so because of his concerns about corruption in Ukraine and whether other nations were doing their fair share in providing security support for Ukraine.
The president's defense team referenced the Bolton news obliquely shortly after the impeachment trial opened at 1 p.m., with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding and the sergeant-at-arms intoning his customary order for senators to stay silent "on pain of imprisonment."
"We deal with transcript evidence, we deal with publicly available information," said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. "We do not deal with speculation, allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all." A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, confirmed that Sekulow's comments were a reference to the Bolton news.
Hours later, as constitutional-law professor Alan Dershowitz delivered the final arguments of the day, he briefly referenced the Bolton news as he argued that the charges against Trump do not constitute impeachable offenses. "Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense," he said.
The signs of confusion among Senate Republicans over the Bolton revelations emerged early Monday at a news conference that was originally billed to have several Republicans but that dwindled to just Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana and John Barrasso of Wyoming. Both senators said Trump remained on track to be acquitted, but while Barrasso dismissed the Bolton news as a "so-called blockbuster report" that contained "selective leaks," Braun acknowledged its potency.
"I think what it does is, it's taken an already hot topic and added some fuel to the fire," Braun said.
Later, in a further sign of disunity, the newest Republican senator, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who was appointed last month, criticized Romney on Twitter. Loeffler, who has been a major donor and supporter for Romney in the past, contended Monday that he wanted to "appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame."
Much of the Republican lunch that preceded Monday's trial proceedings centered on the question of witnesses, according to senators and other officials directly familiar with the meeting. The outcome of the witness vote in coming days could determine whether the trial is over by week's end or extends into an uncertain future.
Romney spoke about the need to call additional witnesses, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., also raised concerns. Cassidy noted that the White House has argued that there were no direct witnesses to any allegation of a quid pro quo, but that now a potential direct witness in the form of Bolton has emerged, according to an official with direct knowledge of the lunch who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussion. Cassidy declined to comment about his remarks.
Democrats say calling witnesses is necessary for a complete trial, especially since Republicans have accused Democrats of relying on hearsay. In addition to Bolton, Democrats would like to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and several other officials.
"We want Bolton. We want Mulvaney. They heard from the president," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
One conservative senator, Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has spoken with Romney and other colleagues in recent days about possibly summoning two witnesses to the trial, one called by Republicans and one by Democrats, according to three Republican officials who spoke about the private discussions on the condition of anonymity. Toomey has argued that a "one-for-one" arrangement could force Democrats to accept a Republican witness against their wishes or else risk having Republicans move ahead to acquit Trump, the officials said.
However the question of witnesses is resolved, there remains little doubt that Trump will be acquitted in the end. Although it would take only a simple majority vote to call witnesses, a two-thirds vote is required for conviction.
As the debate over Bolton's testimony and the potential need to call witnesses raged outside the Senate on Monday, Trump's legal team inside the chamber delivered on its promise to turn its attention to Hunter Biden, and whether his role on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma gave the president good reason to ask his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate. Trump made that request in a July 25 phone call.
Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general who is a member of Trump's defense team, laid out a detailed chronology of Hunter Biden's five years on the board and how they dovetailed with the official actions of his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, in Ukraine, as well as the campaign to oust former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin over corruption allegations.
Bondi relied heavily on illustrating the concurrent timeline of events, noting how many days transpired between Shokin's ouster and the elder Biden's announcements that the United States would provide security assistance to Ukraine.
She used several clips from mainstream newspapers and television networks about Hunter Biden's Burisma connections to reinforce the idea that there was legitimate reason to scrutinize his hefty monthly paycheck, and played video clips from witnesses in the impeachment inquiry who testified that they found Hunter Biden's role on the Burisma board troubling.
Joe Biden's actions with regard to Shokin were in line with official U.S. and European policy objectives. And though Bondi provided no proof that Joe Biden's actions regarding Ukraine were influenced by trying to help his son, that did not seem to be the ultimate goal of raising questions about the motivations behind the Bidens' activities.
"All we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue," Bondi said at the close of her presentation.
As Joe Biden's name was invoked on the Senate floor, he was campaigning in Iowa, where Democratic voters will caucus next week. Biden is a front-runner in the Democratic primary field, which Democrats say explains Trump's desire for Ukraine to announce investigations targeting him and his family. A Biden campaign spokesman released a statement deriding Bondi's remarks as a discredited "conspiracy theory."
For members of the president's legal team, it was the second day of their defense, after they began Saturday with an abbreviated two-hour summary. Each side is allowed 24 hours to present its case, and the House Democratic impeachment managers took nearly all their allotted time last week, repeatedly pushing the trial late into the night, to the irritation of some GOP senators. Trump's team has promised to be more brief, although its presentation was continuing into the evening hours Monday and was expected to resume Tuesday.
Last week, Trump's attorneys had to sit quietly and watch while the House Democratic managers delivered their arguments, but on Monday the roles were reversed and the seven House managers sat quietly looking on as one member of Trump's defense team after another rose to address aspects of the proceedings.
The first Trump lawyer to speak at length was Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel whose expansive investigation of Bill Clinton led to Clinton's impeachment by the House in 1998 and subsequent acquittal by the Senate. Starr talked about the constitutional basis for the impeachment process, contending that it is at risk of being abused unless today's Senate acts to stop it. Many Democrats viewed the presentation as the height of hypocrisy.
"We are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment," Starr said. ". . . Impeachment has now been normalized."
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The Washington Post's Karoun Demirjian, Robert Costa, Rachael Bade, John Wagner, Elise Viebeck and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.