Trump plan the stuff of dreams for his friend Netanyahu
Promise of talks towards truncated state falls way short of minimum Palestinian demands
The release of the United States Middle East peace plan was repeatedly delayed due to the ongoing political uncertainty in Israel, which has been governed by transitional governments for more than a year.
However, with the US primary season almost upon us and no certainty that Israel’s elections on March 2nd will result in a functioning government, the Trump administration decided to go ahead and unveil the long-awaited Deal of the Century.
The release of the plan, less than five weeks before the Israeli election, led to claims that this was another in the long list of gifts from US president Donald Trump to his close friend, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Indeed, Netanyahu, who was indicted in court on Tuesday on corruption charges after dropping his bid for parliamentary immunity, described the deal as Israel’s “opportunity of the century”– an opportunity that may never return.
For Netanyahu the plan includes elements that an Israeli leader could only have dreamed about a few years ago.
Washington has given Israel the green light to annex some 30 per cent of the entire West Bank – all the Jewish settlements and the entire strategic Jordan Valley, the eastern strip of the West Bank.
As early as Sunday, Netanyahu is expected to bring to the cabinet a proposal to annex these areas – marking the first time that Israel will annex parts of the occupied West Bank since the area was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day war.
If the Knesset fast tracks the annexation, it will mark a dramatic gesture of historical importance on the eve of what is likely to be another close election.
Netanyahu hopes it will be a game-changer, tipping the balance in his favour.
The Yesha council, the umbrella body of the Israeli settler community, expressed reservations about the plan, saying the danger of the establishment of a “Palestinian terror state” may outweigh the benefits of any annexation.
But the promise of negotiations towards the establishment of a significantly truncated, dimilitarised Palestinian state in a few years’ time, surrounded by Israel, fell way short of the minimum Palestinian demands.
Trump’s stated hope that the Palestinians will eventually endorse the plan appears to be a pipe dream.
“I refused to talk to Trump, and I was told that I would pay a high price for this,” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told the Palestine Liberation Organisation central committee on Monday. “I don’t have many years left, but I will never be a traitor.”
Even if the elderly president is replaced in the coming years, it is difficult to imagine any Palestinian leader willing to discuss a plan that is not based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as the capital of a fully independent state.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged international powers to boycott the US peace plan, saying its purpose was to protect Trump from impeachment and Netanyahu from prison.