During Tuesday’s unveiling of his plan for Middle East peace, President Donald Trump said it offers “a win-win solution” for Israel and Palestine. But before details of the much-delayed proposal were even released, Palestinian officials balked, saying the plan violates international law.
Standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room, Trump said, “Today Israel takes a big step towards peace.” The president has dubbed the 50-page plan, overseen by his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as the “deal of the century,” saying it provides “a realistic two-state solution.”
Netanyahu praised the plan as “the opportunity of a century,” while Palestinian leaders called it “the fraud of the century,” saying they won’t cooperate with a pro-Israel U.S. administration. Rival Palestinian factions have called an emergency meeting, and public protests are already underway.
Highlights of Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan
Trump’s proposal calls for a Palestinian state but not for four years—and not unless certain conditions, likely to be deal-breakers, are met. The Palestinian Authority will be required to stop so-called “pay to slay” terrorism, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad must end all violence. Other conditions include honoring human rights, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.
The Palestinians would have a capital in eastern Jerusalem, where Trump says “the United States will happily open an embassy.” Although the plan more than doubles the territory that’s currently under Palestinian control, it asserts Israel’s rule over key West Bank settlements and Israel’s control over all borders. A four-year freeze of Israeli settlement construction is included, as well as a tunnel connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Trump said he does “a lot for the Palestinians,” who deserve a “far better life” than they currently have. “Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism,” he said. “Our vision will end the cycle of Palestinian dependence on charity and foreign aid.”
Trump acknowledged that Palestinians “probably won’t want [the plan] initially, but I think in the end they will. It’s very good for them. In fact, it’s overly good to them.” This “historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state,” he added, “could be the last opportunity they will ever have.”
Before the plan’s release, Trump said many Arab states approved of his approach. “They think it’s great. They think it’s a big start,” he said. “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.”
Reactions to the Plan Have Been Swift
Despite what one U.S. official calls “a lot of goodies” for Palestinians, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his rival, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, have both voiced opposition to Trump’s plan. Speaking about an emergency meeting for “all the factions” of Palestinians, one Hamas official said, “When we are united, neither Netanyahu nor Trump dare to take away our rights.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said, “This deal, which is not based on international legality and international law…gives Israel everything it wants at the expense of the national rights of the Palestinian people.” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat tweeted, “If Netanyahu begins annexation of Palestinian territory officially, this means Israel’s withdrawal from Oslo Accords and agreements signed.”
Calling the peace plan “political theater,” Palestinian official Husam Zomlot compares it to South Africa’s era of apartheid. Protesters in Gaza City are burning posters of Trump and shouting slogans such as “Death to America” and “Palestine is not for sale.” Israel, meanwhile, is sending more troops to the Jordan Valley, considered one of its most vital security assets.
The Trump administration angered Palestinians by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and by saying Israel’s West Bank settlements don’t violate international law. Trump’s evangelical supporters praised both of those moves.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, Trump met separately with Israel’s Netanyahu and his political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. The two are set to face off in an election on March 2. Netanyahu plans to visit Moscow Wednesday to update Russian President Vladimir Putin on the new Middle East proposal.