In Illegal settlements and annexation of land, Israel, Palestine, West Asia

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US President Donald Trump, right, speak at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter’s departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

TV report: Palestinian state only if PA accepts Israel as Jewish state and Hamas is disarmed; no big refugee influx; if Abbas rejects plan, Israel can start annexing.

Published on TOI, Jan 23, 2020

The Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan — to be presented next week at the White House to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz — provides for full Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, for Israel to annex all West Bank settlements, and for no significant “return” to Israel of Palestinian refugees, Israeli TV reported Thursday night.

The plan constitutes “the most generous proposal” ever presented to Israel, the report said. US President Donald Trump subsequently dismissed as “purely speculative” reports on the details of the plan and the timing of its release.

Hinting at the imminent unveiling of the plan, US Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Israel for the World Holocaust Forum, said Thursday evening that Trump would host Netanyahu and Gantz next week to discuss the prospect of “peace in the Holy Land.”

US Vice President Mike Pence hosts PM Netanyahu at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020. The meeting was also attended by Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, left, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Pence made the comments while sitting with Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Jared Kushner, the president’s Middle East peace envoy, had also been expected in Israel this week, but canceled his visit, citing weather in Davos.

Netanyahu said “the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security it deserves.” He added, “I suggested that Benny Gantz be invited as well” to the White House.

Setting out the reported specifics of the plan, the TV report said, without specifying a source, that it provides for:

* Israeli sovereignty in all 100-plus West Bank settlements, all but 15 of which would be territoriality contiguous. (An estimated 400,000 Jews live in some 120 official settlements.)

* Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, including the Old City, with only “symbolic Palestinian representation” in Jerusalem.

* Were Israel to accept the deal, and the Palestinians to reject it, Israel would have US support to begin annexing settlements unilaterally.

* The Palestinians will be granted statehood, but only if Gaza is demilitarized, Hamas gives up its weapons, and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The TV report quoted unnamed Israeli sources specifying further provisions, including:

* No Palestinian role in any border controls.

* Full Israeli security control in the Jordan Valley.

* Israeli sovereignty in all “open territory” in West Bank’s Area C. The TV report said this amounted to some 30 percent of the West Bank.

* The acceptance of all Israeli security demands.

* Some limited land swaps in which expanded Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank would be exchanged for minor territorial compensation in the Negev.

* Possible minor absorption of Palestinian refugees in Israel; no compensation for refugees.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas listens while US President Donald Trump makes a statement for the press before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

The TV report quoted the Israeli sources as saying the plan represented an unprecedented offer for Israel. It said Netanyahu has ordered his ministers not to publicly discuss its provisions.

Trump had wanted to unveil the plan for some time, but held off because of Israel’s protracted electoral deadlock, the report said. But he had now decided to wait no longer.

A Channel 13 TV report set out slightly different conditions, but said these were from a year-old version of the plan, which had “since moved to the right.” That earlier plan, it said, provided for Israel to annex some 15% of the West Bank, for the Palestinians to have sovereignty in some East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and for 60 settlement outposts that Israel considers illegal to be evacuated.

It quoted a White House source describing the current plan as “the most pro-Israel plan ever produced or presented.”

Trump himself, tweeting shortly after the Israeli reports, said, “Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”


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