U.S. President Donald Trump revealed his long awaited “Deal of the Century” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, a proposal warmly received by Israel but rejected immediately by Palestinians who called it “the slap of the century.”
To an audience of American politicians, evangelical Christian leaders, right-wing Israel supporters such as businessman Sheldon Adelson and even some Gulf nation representatives, Trump revealed the 50-page document from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.
Though Trump called the plan “a win-win solution for both sides,” Palestinians said it was dead on arrival and were protesting in the streets even before the announcement.
The plan, which calls for two states, giving Palestinians limited authority over certain regions, seems to favor Israel on key sticking points including borders, the status of Jerusalem and Jewish communities in the West Bank, widely referred to as “settlements.”
Trump stressed that he is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.
“As everyone knows, I have done a lot for Israel: moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights and, frankly, perhaps most importantly, getting out of the terrible Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said. “Therefore, it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn’t be fair. I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be.”
He also made a direct appeal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinians who have broken off ties with the White House.
“President Abbas, I want you to know that if you chose the path to peace, America and many other countries … we will be there to help you in so many different ways,” Trump said. “And we will be there every step of the way.”
Even though the plan leans heavily in Israel’s favor not all Israelis were happy with the proposal especially since it calls for a Palestinian state.
“It creates challenges that are neither easy nor simple, like the establishment of a Palestinian state, recognizing the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and so on,” said Oded Revivi, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israeli settlements.
Some settlement leaders were more vitriolic in their criticism saying it planted an “Arab terror state” in the midst of Judea and Samaria, the heart of a Jewish homeland.
Most Israelis favor the plan, however, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to implement the tough requirements for Israel including a cessation of building Jewish housing in areas designated for a future Palestinian state under the plan.
The plan rejects the pre-1967 borders, something Palestinians have stipulated. However, land swaps will provide Palestine a state comparable in size to the territory the ’67 borders.
Neither Israelis or Palestinians will be uprooted from their homes. Some 97 percent of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory, while 97 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory.
Palestinians will be required to stamp out terrorism including the incitement against Israeli already inherent in school textbooks. A future State of Palestine will be fully demilitarized and will have to drop any court cases against the State of Israel in the international arena.
As for the capital, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital, however, the State of Palestine will include sections of East Jerusalem. Arab residents of Jerusalem will be able to choose to become citizens of Israel, Palestine or retain their status as permanent residents in Israel. Meanwhile, the United States would build an embassy in a future State of Palestine.
A condition for Palestinian statehood includes recognizing the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
While Palestinians outright rejected Trump’s peace plan even months before it was revealed, Abbas called it a conspiracy with the intention to end the Palestinian cause.
“We say a thousand times: No, no and no to the ‘deal of the century,’” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in rejecting the plan.
“Our people will send (the plan) to the dustbins of history,” Abbas said. “We just heard President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu talking about the slap of the century. If God wills, we will strike them back with slaps.”
Abbas added that the Palestinians “are committed to fighting terrorism, but the world must understand that this people deserves a life.”
Dozens of Palestinians started protesting the plan even before the announcement, prompting the U.S. embassy in Israel to issue a travel advisory warning of potential terror attacks.
Some Palestinians, however, criticized Abbas and Hamas’ responses to the peace plan accusing them of failing to offer any alternate strategies for change, according to Haaretz.
Arab world reaction
Several Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE welcomed the plan.
“The kingdom appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, and encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, under the auspices of the United States,” the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that “all the Arabs and us are with you. The establishment of a just and comprehensive peace must be worked for. Peace is a strategic choice that will bring a permanent solution that will fulfill the rights of the Palestinian people.”
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also encouraged Palestinians to consider the plan.
“Egypt recognizes the importance of considering the US administration’s initiative from the perspective of the importance of achieving the resolution of the Palestinian issue, thus restoring to the Palestinian people their full legitimate rights through the establishment of a sovereign independent state in the Palestinian occupied territories in accordance with international legitimacy and resolutions,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Qatari News Agency said it appreciates “the endeavors of President Trump and the current US administration to find solutions for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, all solutions should be consistent with international law and the relevant UN resolutions.”
Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, called the plan “a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”
And in an undeniable show os support and warming ties with Israel, the ambassadors of Oman and Bahrain attended Trump’s announcement in Washington.
Iran, Jordan and Turkey, on the other hand, were critical of the plan.
photo by Kobi Gideon GPO