Trump says he’ll roll out Middle East peace plan ahead of meeting with Israeli leaders
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said his administration planned to release its long-awaited blueprint for Middle East peace ahead of a meeting at the White House next week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the country’s opposition leader, Benny Gantz.
The White House has continually teased its forthcoming peace plan, a huge undertaking spearheaded over the past few years by Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law. Trump has preemptively christened it the “deal of the century.”
Its unveiling, however, has repeatedly been delayed because of domestic issues both in the U.S. and Israel, which is in the throes of its third election in less than a year with Netanyahu and Gantz vying to form a government.
The White House rolled out the first part of its plan last summer, outlining an “economic vision” for Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab countries ahead of a diplomatic conference in Bahrain. But the initial plank was panned by Palestinians, even without getting into the thornier political issues expected to be included in the upcoming plan.
The plan is widely expected to be more favorable to Israel, however, and has been preceded by Israel-friendly moves by Trump, including relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal and formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. The administration has also eased the U.S. stance on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday that he‘d spoken to Palestinians “briefly,” and predicted that they’d ultimately buy in — a steep hurdle.
“We‘ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,“ the president said, according to press pool reports. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I‘m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it‘s actually very positive for them.“
Vice President Mike Pence earlier Thursday had announced that both Netanyahu and Gantz had accepted invitations to the White House for next Tuesday “to discuss regional issues as well as the prospect of peace here in the Holy Land” following a meeting with the prime minister in Israel.
Pence’s sudden announcement of the pending visit, coupled with the significance of both Netanyahu’s and Gantz’s planned attendance, immediately ramped up speculation that the White House would finally roll out the much-anticipated proposal to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But the president initially appeared to shut down that notion, writing in a tweet that “reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”
Trump later said that he would “probably“ release the rest of the plan “a little bit prior“ to the White House meeting.
He also called it “unheard of“ that both Netanyahu and Gantz would detour from the campaign trail to make the visit to Washington.
Tuesday’s meeting will come as both leaders are staring down threats to their power: Trump is facing an impeachment trial in the Senate while campaigning for reelection, while Netanyahu is facing charges of corruption and bribery while also trying to form a coalition government to remain in power.
Pence told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Thursday that he’d invited Gantz, who will challenge Netanyahu for the prime ministership this year for the third time, at Netanyahu’s urging.
“We do not want to lose this historic opportunity,” Netanyahu said of his suggestion that Trump extend an invitation to Gantz, explaining that “we should get as broad of a consensus as possible” for any peace plan.
Trump on Thursday vowed that his plan “really would work,” though he did not divulge any details of the proposal aside from calling it “great” and touting his dealmaking prowess.
“I‘d love to be able to do that deal. They say that’s the hardest of all deals,” he said. “I love doing deals.”