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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - US President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan on Tuesday, offering the Palestinians a sovereign state with a capital in parts of occupied East Jerusalem if they meet a swathe of conditions, in a bid to bring an end to the decades-long conflict.
The 80-page plan, rejected by the Palestinians before its roll-out, would "more than double" the size of Palestinian territory in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, while meeting Israel’s security requirements, he said.
The US president made the announcement while standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Mr Trump said endorsed the plan and agreed to negotiations with the Palestinians.
The plan is expected to recognise all of Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank that are considered to be illegal by much of the international community, a move that would allow Israel to annex all of the outposts that host more than 400,000 settlers.
A Palestinian official told The National that the Trump administration is "making it easier for us than expected" in terms of rallying the international community around the Palestinian bid for statehood because of its one-sided approach to solving the conflict.
Jerusalem will “remain Israel’s undivided capital,” he said, announcing that Israel's illegal settlement outposts in occupied East Jerusalem would fall under Israeli sovereignty. The plan will form the basis of negotiations if both sides agree to come to the table.
The peace plan document in full
He also said he sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlining his vision "for a wonderful state."
"It will work," he said, inviting Mr Abbas to negotiate the plan.
“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security. Today Israel has taken a giant step towards peace,” he said.
“Forging peace between Palestinians and Israelis may be the biggest challenge of all…but I was not elected to do small things,” he said in front of an audience that included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and several Arab ambassadors including the UAE’s Yousef Al Otaiba. In attendance were also the ambassadors of Oman and Bahrain.
No Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes in the implementation of the plan, he said. The US would open an embassy in any future Palestinian state as part of the plan.
Palestinian statehood would be dependent on the Palestinians respecting human rights, freedom of the press, and having a transparent and credible judiciary, the plan states.
It will include “the firm rejection of terrorism,” Mr Trump said.
“Peace requires compromise but we will never ask Israel to compromise its security. Can’t do that,” he said.
The president said that his proposal represents a “historic opportunity” for the Palestinians to achieve a sovereign state, calling it their “last chance” to do so.
As part of the plan, Israel would agree to a four-year freeze on settlement activity while Palestinian statehood was negotiated.
Mr Netanyahu then took to the stage, saying he had agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of Mr Trump's deal and thanking him for being the "greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House".
The plan calls for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to a future state of Palestine and creates a “generous compensation fund”.
“I was saddened by the fate of the Palestinian people. They deserve a far better life. They deserve a chance to achieve their extraordinary potential,” he said of his trip to Bethlehem to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2017.
He said Palestinians had been trapped in a cycle of “terrorism, poverty and violence” that had prevented their national hopes. He made no mention of the Israeli military occupation that has existed in the Palestinian territories since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
He called extremism the biggest threat in the region. He complimented the state of Israel as a “light into the world”.
Both Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu are under pressure at home, the former is in the midst of an impeachment scandal while the latter is embroiled in three corruption cases, for which he was formally charged by Israel’s attorney general on Tuesday. His main rival Benny Gantz, who he will face for the third time in less than a year in a March election, also travelled to Washington to meet Mr Trump.
Speculation has been rife since Mr Trump entered office in January 2017 about the plan’s contents. Palestinian had long rejected it, predicting that it would only favour Israel. Since 2017, Mr Trump has relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed the Palestinian mission in Washington, cut aid to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, slashed all funding to the United Nations refugee agency and reversed the US position of Israeli settlements to be illegal outposts.
Settlers leader expressed concern ahead of its release that it would allow for the future creation of a Palestinian state, and said it would reject any plan that did so, no matter the form of that proposed sovereign entity.
Mr Trump expressed optimism on Monday that the Palestinians would eventually accept the deal. But the plan was released as rival Palestinians faction met in Ramallah, a rare coming together of Mr Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, who have been at odds since the latter’s takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007. They were expected to condemn the plan.
The Arab League said that it would host an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss its response to the proposal. Mr Netanyahu’s office said he would travel to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the plan with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Asked about the US plan on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers — America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — should analyse the proposal. The European Union was expected to reiterate its position of support for a two-state solution.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson said the US Middle East plan could be a positive step after a phone call on Tuesday between Mr Johnson and Mr Trump.
The grand imam of Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar mosque and university lambasted the plan at a conference in Cairo on Tuesday in the presence of many of the Sunni world's leading religious scholars.
"They're the ones planning, talking, controlling and solving problems for us and there's no Arab or Muslim," Mr Tayeb said.
Hours ahead of the release, Palestinians held protests against the plan, burning pictures of Mr Trump and the American flag in Gaza. More rallies are expected in the coming days. The Israeli military said it had deployed security reinforcements to the occupied West Bank in preparation for a reaction to the plan and had decided to “reinforce the Jordan Valley area with infantry troops”.
On the same day as the announcement, a settler group announced that the population of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank had surged by more than 3 per cent in 2019. It said building would be even higher this year because of large construction undertaken after the inauguration of Mr Trump.
Baruch Gordon, director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats, said the population of the territory’s settlements rose to 463,353 as of January 1, up from 449,508 a year earlier. The group used official Israeli Interior Ministry data.
“We're here and we're not going anywhere,” he said.
Updated: January 28, 2020 10:20 PM
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