By Linda Cashdan
U.S. President Donald Trump says it’s time to release his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, and has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz to the White House next week to discuss it.
Reports in Israel say it will give Israel sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, along the border with Jordan, as well as over Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians say any plan that does not give them a state in all of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem is a non-starter.
President Trump says he will most likely release his long-awaited peace plan even before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and possibly Netanyahu’s election rival, Benny Gantz, arrive in Washington next Tuesday. Trump said it is a great plan, and one that will really work.
Israeli news reports say it will include a unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley, about a fifth of the West Bank that runs along the border between the West Bank and Jordan. Israel has long said that the area is important for Israel’s security. About 13,000 Jewish settlers as well as 4,000 Palestinians live there. The reports said the plan would also give Israel sovereignty over all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, where more than 400,000 Israelis live. If that happens, it would be a major change in U.S. policy and anger the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said he accepted President Trump’s invitation with pleasure.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump. That friendship is expressed in the fact that we are in the American embassy in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “That Jerusalem was recognized by President Trump as Israel’s capital, that President Trump has recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and now with this invitation the president is seeking to give Israel peace and security, the peace and security it deserves.”
Palestinians see the reported plan as dangerous. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, warned the U.S. from crossing any more red lines. He said the Palestinians will not accept any plan that does not give them sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
Abbas met Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was in Israel for the commemoration of the World Holocaust Forum, and asked for Putin’s support in the future.
Abbas said there are some regional issues that need to be discussed with President Putin, such as Israel’s announcement to annex Palestinian land. Abbas also said there is the need to talk about this “deal of the century” which Mr. Trump said will be published (ready) soon. Abbas also said, “We also to talk about this issue. Also we have the issue of the Palestinian presidential and parliament elections that we will inform the president about.”
Abbas said that the Palestinians want to discuss Israel’s announcement to annex Palestinian land as well as other regional issues.
Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, also warned that if Israel annexes the Jordan Valley, it would end the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Washington visit comes as Netanyahu and Gantz are due to face off in Israel’s third election within a year.