WASHINGTON – The Trump administration will unveil its plan for the future of Israel and the Palestinians on Tuesday, the culmination of three years of secretive work. The plan is expected to be heavily tilted toward the positions of the Israeli right, but there has as yet been no confirmed information about its contents.
Details that emerged on Monday night in the U.S. media echoed previous reports in Israel. Israel will be able to annex all of the settlements in the West Bank, except for a few dozen outposts that are illegal under Israeli law.
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Israel would also have sovereignty over all, or most, of Jerusalem – including the city’s Palestinian neighborhoods, which are home to almost 40 percent of its population. Some distant neighborhoods in the city's edges would come under Palestinian control, according to reports.
The plan will also likely include some reference to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but under terms unachievable anytime in the near future. The potential entity would be cut and dissected into dozens of noncontiguous areas, as a result of Israel's annexation of all the settlements. However, Israel would not be able to expand the existing settlements beyond their current limits.
The White House has so far not confirmed any part of the plan officially. There are still many open considerations, such as whether Israel will be asked to do a land swap with the Palestinians and provide them with territory in underpopulated areas of Israel, in return for the annexation of the settlements.
The biggest question hovering over the plan is the timeline. Will the administration give Netanyahu an immediate “green light” to begin annexing areas of the West Bank? Will Trump put pressure on Netanyahu's main political rival in the Israeli election, Benny Gantz, to support such a move? And how will Arab governments respond to Israel taking such a step?
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Trump hosted Gantz and Netanyahu for two separate meetings at the White House on Monday in order to discuss the plan. Gantz, whose centrist Kahol Lavan party won the most seats in the last Israeli election, told Trump he supports the peace plan. He would like to implement it, he said, but only after the upcoming Israeli election, which will take place on March 2.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu will return to the White House for a joint event with Trump, during which the plan will be publicly presented. Gantz will not attend – he left Washington on Monday shortly after meeting Trump, in order to attend a crucial vote in the Knesset regarding Netanyahu's request for immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu, who was indicted two months ago in three different corruption investigations and who requested immunity earlier this month, withdrew his request hours before Tuesday's scheduled vote – after Gantz had already landed back in Israel.
News reports in Israel, the United States and the Arab world have described the presentation of the U.S. plan itself as a thinly veiled attempt by the White House to help Netanyahu ahead of the election, as he attempts to win a majority that could grant him the desired immunity. The White House has strongly denied these accusations, claiming that the timing of the plan's presentation has nothing to do with Israeli politics.
Dispelling those claims was one of the reasons Gantz – who holds no official role in the Israeli government – was invited to the White House, Trump told reporters on Monday. Gantz made no mention of the claims in his public appearance after the meeting. Instead, he praised Trump and the team working on the peace plan, and thanked the president for being “a courageous leader” and “a great friend to Israel and the Jewish people.”
Trump and Netanyahu’s public appearance on Tuesday will begin at 12 P.M., Washington time, and last for approximately 30 minutes. It is unclear if there will be representatives of any other countries at the event. The White House has reached out in recent days to diplomats from several Arab countries to secure a positive, or at least neutral, reaction from them to the plan.
The Palestinian Authority, which has had no contacts with the Trump administration for the past two years, is expected to immediately reject the plan. It accuses the Trump administration of siding completely with Israel and devising a plan that ignores the Palestinians' desire for independence.
The team that worked on the plan for the past three years includes Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel; and Avi Berkowitz, a close aide and confidant of Kushner. Jason Greenblatt, who was Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East from January 2017 until last year, also played a key role in the plan’s formation.