Trump to unveil Middle East peace plan to Israeli leaders this week

Reuters , Monday 27 Jan 2020

A Palestinian demonstrator gestures as he holds a banner showing crossed-out pictures depicting U.S. (Photo: Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to disclose details of his long-delayed Middle East peace proposal to Israeli leaders on Monday, as he attempts to generate some momentum towards resolving one of the world's most intractable problems.

Trump will hold separate, back-to-back meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the head of the centrist Blue and White Party, who is Netanyahu's rival in March 2 elections.

On Tuesday, Trump will deliver joint remarks with Netanyahu at the White House, where the president may reveal details of his peace proposal.

The two days of foreign policy meetings will provide Trump with a contrast from the trial in the Republican-led Senate that is weighing articles of impeachment against him approved by the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

But whether it truly will jumpstart the long-stalled effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together is far from certain.

Palestinians have refused to engage the Trump administration on the effort and roundly denounced a $50-billion economic revival plan it set forth last July to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies.

Palestinians fear the plan will dash their hopes for an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The White House hope was that if Trump could get the support of both Netanyahu and Gantz for the plan, it would help provide some momentum. A U.S. official said Trump wants to know both Netanyahu and Gantz are on board with the plan before announcing it.

Trump’s message to both: "You have six weeks to get this (plan) going, if you want it," the official said.

Having both leaders present helps take the politics out of the effort, said a U.S. source familiar with internal deliberations.

"The it depoliticizes this to the point that, no matter what happens on March 2, the two leaders of the two largest parties can potentially be supportive," the source said.

The Trump plan is the product of three years' effort by senior advisers Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, as well as Jason Greenblatt, who left the government last autumn.

Trump last year had hoped to release his secret proposal aimed at triggering negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but was forced to delay it as Netanyahu struggled to form a governing coalition.

The proposal, more than 50 pages long, aims to take on some of the most difficult issues separating the two, such as the status of Jerusalem. Palestinians want the city’s eastern part as their future capital.

Trump, talking to reporters on Air Force One on Thursday, said he was eager to release his plan.

"They say that's the hardest of all deals. I love doing deals," he said.

Netanyahu, a veteran right-wing leader, faces political and legal troubles at home as he heads for his third election in less than a year, and was indicted on criminal charges in November. He denies any wrongdoing.

Netanyahu's principal domestic political rival, Gantz, a centrist former general, last week lifted his objection to having the peace plan published before Israel's March election. He had previously seen it as interference in the vote.

"I am looking forward to meeting the president - a president of utmost friendliness to the State of Israel - on a matter that is very important for the State of Israel - with national, strategic and security ramifications," Gantz told reporters as he landed in Washington on Sunday.

"We will hold a back-and-forth, get to know one another, and take it from there."

But Trump, preoccupied with November's re-election bid, faces his own political clock, and can ill afford to wait months for Israel to decide its next prime minister, a U.S. official said. 

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