WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump hinted on Monday that his administration could publish some parts of its plan for Middle East peace even before Israel’s September 17 do-over elections.
Trump was asked during his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, on the sidelines of the G7 conference in France, if the entire plan could be released before the election. “No, of course not,” he replied, echoing a statement he made last week. But he then told journalists that they “may see what the deal looks like before the election."
He also said that he believes “a deal will happen” because the Palestinians will want his administration to renew the financial aid it had cut off from them over the previous two years.
Trump said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition government, which caused Israel to go to new elections, had “complicated” his administration’s work on the peace plan.
The Trump administration team working on this issue, which is led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, was preparing to release the plan after the previous election in April, and was caught by surprise when another election was called.
A selective leak or release of parts of the plan before September 17 could help Netanyahu secure an election victory, especially if the parts that will be published will be those more favorable to Israel. In the run-up to the April election, Trump and senior officials in his administration made multiple diplomatic gestures that were seen as advantageous to Netanyahu.
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Less than a month before Israelis last headed to the polls, Trump invited Netanyahu to the White House for a ceremony in which he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Trump also featured one of Netanyahu’s campaign posters, which featured a picture of them together, on his own social media accounts. In addition, he publicly praised Netanyahu in a press conference during the election.
Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, also visited Israel during the election, and his itinerary included a publicized visit to the Western Wall alongside the prime minister. In the midst of a challenging campaign marred by the prime minister's corruption charges, nearly all Israeli news outlets offered broad coverage to the Trump administration's gestures towards Netanyahu. When the prime minister was struggling to assemble a government, Trump took to Twitter to say that he hoped a coalition would be formed.
After the new election was called, Kushner and the team working with him on the peace plan, which includes Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Kushner’s adviser Avi Berkowitz, decided to publish the plan’s economic chapter. The administration also organized a conference in Bahrain focused on the economic future of the region. No Palestinian or Israeli officials participated, although private business executives from Israel and the Palestinian territories arrived independently.
The political chapter of the peace plan has not yet been revealed. The Palestinian leadership is convinced that the plan will be heavily tilted towards Israel, and has been boycotting the Trump administration on all levels except for certain security officials since December 2017, when Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and added that he “took Jerusalem off the table."