The Trump administration’s proposed Middle East peace plan is likely to “stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinians state,” the Washington Post reported Sunday.
Arab officials told the publication that U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is spearheading efforts to formulate the plan, has focused on “economic opportunities for Palestinians” in a long-term agreement with Israel.
Under the deal, Israel would likely maintain its control over “autonomous” Palestinian territories, the report added.
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While details of the blueprint remain unclear, it appears it would not include a two-state solution as a basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the report suggested.
Similar reports came out last year: A March 2018 story in the New York Times suggested that “the plan will not call for a two-state solution as one of its goals, though it will prescribe pathways for the creation of two states.”
The report comes as both parties await the publication of the plan, which was expected to come out after Israel’s April 9 election, and after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise to annex parts of the West Bank, which he said he had been discussing with the Trump administration.
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Jordan’s King Abdullah has also “made it clear” the U.S. administration has “not been talking to him about it,” a source who attended a closed-door meeting he held with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month told Axios on Sunday.
“He seemed to be critical and dismissive of the efforts,” the source added, while another source said King Abdullah “gave the impression that it was more of an economic deal rather than a peace deal.”
There is currently no clear date for the plan’s release. Its timing could be influenced by the political situation in Israel, where negotiations between political parties to form a new governing coalition have begun. Other factors could be the Passover holiday, which begins on Friday, and the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which will begin in early May and last until early June.
Meanwhile, 37 former senior European leaders called on the European Union to reaffirm its support for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In a letter obtained by Haaretz that was published Sunday overnight, former leaders urged the EU not to support Trump’s plan if it does not respect this principle and international law.
The peace plan has been considered to be in a state of hibernation so as not to interfere with Israel’s election. Washington’s intensive preparations for its release, which geared up in the last months of 2018, slowed down once Netanyahu called for an early election.
Last week, Trump said that Netanyahu's victory in Israel's election was a good sign for peace. “Everyone said you can't have peace in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said. “I think we have a chance, and I think we now have a better chance with Bibi having won,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
The U.S. president called Netanyahu Wednesday evening to congratulate him and the people of Israel on his election victory. Netanyahu thanked Trump for supporting Israel, including recognizing Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said last week that the administration’s Middle East peace plan will be released “in the very near future." Bolton didn’t provide an exact date. He made the comment hours after it became clear that Netanyahu had won another term in office.
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In recent weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to directly answer questions from members of Congress on whether or not the administration is committed to a two-state solution. He also ducked a question about Netanyahu’s pledge to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, and the Trump administration has yet to provide any statement on the issue.
The only hints the administration has provided so far about its proposed deal came in a rare interview Kushner held with Sky News Arabia in late February. He said the peace plan would provide "realistic solutions" for all core issues, including borders, which he said the aim is to eliminate them as they are today, "in order to guarantee freedom of movement for people and goods."
According to Kushner, the economic ramifications of the plan will not just help Israelis and Palestinians, but the entire region — including Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. He added that emphasis on the economic aspect, alongside the political aspect, will improve opportunities especially for the Palestinian economy, which has been hindered due to the lack of a peace agreement.
There have been contradictory reports over the past few months about the contents of the plan, but there is broad consensus among experts that the Palestinian Authority and most Arab governments will likely reject it. Israel’s reaction will depend on the exact contents of the plan, and also on the character of the next coalition in Israel, which is expected to be a religious, right-wing one.
A senior White House official told Haaretz earlier in February that the U.S. administration isn’t trying to bypass Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and still hopes to get his support for the peace plan.
The Trump administration and the PA have not had any official contacts in more than a year — ever since Trump announced he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there.
Amir Tibon contributed to this report.