Trump to unveil Israel-Palestinian peace plan, despite critics

Washington, United StatesUpdated: Jan 28, 2020, 08:33 PM IST

US President Donald Trump with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Monday urged international powers to boycott the plan, which he said was designed "to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday will ignore accusations of pro-Israeli bias, led by the Palestinians themselves, and unveil what he says is a peace plan that can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The long-held secret plan will finally be aired jointly by Trump and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

Given that it has been rejected by the Palestinians, the latest of many US proposals to address the bitter, multi-generational Middle East conflict might seem to have little future.

But Trump insists he is optimistic and whatever happens, both he and Netanyahu could reap political benefits as they battle respective domestic scandals.

"It might have a chance," Trump said of the plan at an initial Oval Office meeting with Netanyahu on Monday.

Trump, whose impeachment trial in the Senate is entering a critical phase, said his plan was getting widespread support from "many of the Arab nations" and claimed that even Palestinians would come round to the idea.

"It's very good for them, in fact it's overly good for them," Trump told reporters. "We think we will have ultimately the support of the Palestinians."

Netanyahu, praising Trump as "the greatest friend that Israel's had in the White House", described the plan as "the deal of the century".

Watch: Donald Trump welcomes Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu also faces corruption charges, as well as a tense election in just over a month, with his right-wing Likud currently neck-and-neck with Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party.

On Monday, Trump also met separately with Gantz, but the limelight fell almost entirely on the incumbent prime minister -- as will any political dividends from a peace plan favouring Israel.

Watch: What to expect from Trump's peace plan or "Deal Of Century" ?

No deal

No Palestinians have been invited to the White House event. They say they were never included in crafting the plan, which was overseen by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Monday urged international powers to boycott the plan, which he said was designed "to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison.

"It is not a Middle East peace plan," Shtayyeh told a cabinet meeting. "This plan gives Israel sovereignty over Palestinian territory."

Details of the plan remained under wraps up to the last minute, but it has been gestating for so long that skeptics asked whether it really existed.

Aaron David Miller, a Mideast expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Kushner's team wanted to "finally, basically demonstrate that they have a plan" and to do so ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Trump has already thrown Netanyahu a string of political presents throughout his first term.

He has broken with international diplomatic consensus to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from neighboring Syria. And he has ended opposition to Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Ahead of Tuesday's announcement, the Israeli army said it was beefing up forces in the Jordan Valley, a swathe of the occupied West Bank expected to feature in Trump's plan.

Last Thursday, Trump described the still-unpublished peace plan as "great" and said it "really would work".

But on Sunday, Palestinian leaders warned that instead of bringing peace, the plan could trigger their withdrawal from key provisions of the decades-old Oslo Accords, which sought to map out peaceful Israeli-Palestinian relations.

"Trump's plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause," the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah planned to show their opposition to the new proposal by joining forces at a rare meeting on Tuesday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.