Trump team still debating timing of Mideast peace plan release

The plan is all but complete, sources say.

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May 19, 2018 00:24
3 minute read.
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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WASHINGTON – The Trump administration will unveil its plan for Israeli- Palestinian peace sometime in the coming months, but no decision has been made as to the precise timing of its release, two US sources told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Trump administration officials were responding to an Associated Press report that said the plan would be made public sometime in mid- to late- June, barring any unexpected crisis.

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Israeli officials have previously signaled to the Post that they expect the US plan would come down shortly after the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem, which took place earlier this week.

For weeks, White House officials have said their plan is nearly complete and that they are simply waiting for the right time to sell it.

“Reports that a decision has been made on when to release the plan are false,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. The team, the official added, is “finishing the plan and will be releasing it when the time and circumstances are right.”

The near-finished plan is the product of a year-long policy initiative by President Donald Trump’s “peace team”– led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner; special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt; and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – to come up with a comprehensive solution to the storied conflict. The document includes detailed proposals addressing core disagreements between Israelis and Palestinians.

That is a departure from past US peace initiatives, which left details of a deal up to the parties to negotiate, and instead offered “frameworks” and “road maps” to an agreement.

Past administrations have also explicitly endorsed a two-state solution to the conflict that would result in two nations for two peoples – one Jewish, and one Arab. Officials have told the Post that the product of the Trump plan would ultimately result in sovereignty for the Palestinians, but that the document itself is not likely to include “two-state” language.


It is not clear whether the plan will be published in its entirety, or if parts of the plan will be kept private. Regardless, the Trump team has already begun briefing allies on its contents, according to the Associated Press report.

Officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are braced for a plan that will require concessions, since Trump said in recent months in person and on Twitter that his decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem put Israel in his debt.

“We’re hopeful we’ve had enough conversations with them that they wouldn’t breach our fundamental security needs – our red lines,” an Israeli official told the Post. “We’d be very surprised if that were the case.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to Washington, Husam Zomlot, said last week that the PLO will give the US peace team a fair hearing once their plan is revealed. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said repeatedly that he wrote off the Trump administration as a fair arbiter of the peace process when it decided to move its embassy and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The PA has shut down contact with the White House ever since.

The fate of Jerusalem is one of the most contested points of disagreement among Israelis and Palestinians. Trump administration officials say their decision to relocate the US Embassy there – on the west side of the city – has no bearing on the future of the ancient city, which Israelis want to keep under their full control, and which Palestinians want to divide.

The peace team hopes that Arab allies can convince the PA leadership to give their plan a fair shot – and perhaps convince them of the merits of the proposals themselves. Several of those allies have been critical of Trump’s embassy move in recent weeks. However, on a recent tour of the US, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, indicated that he would pressure the Palestinians to accept whatever Trump has to offer.

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