Trump says Jerusalem will be Israel’s ‘undivided capital’ under Middle East peace plan

Palestinians leaders have called for a boycott of the plan

Bel Trew,John T. Bennett
Tuesday 28 January 2020 18:15 GMT
Trump says Jerusalem will be Israel's 'undivided capital' under Middle East peace plan

US president Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have released details of their Middle East peace plan, despite a boycott from Palestinian leaders.

Sending the room into a standing ovation with loud applause, Mr Trump praised Mr Netanyahu for his “courage” to “take this bold step forward.”

Crucially, under this White House plan, Jerusalem would be under total Israeli control, which denies Palestinians their aspiration to have the whole of east Jerusalem as their capital.

“But that’s no big deal,” Mr Trump joked, “because I already did that for you."

In this new plan, the Palestinians would have their capital within east Jerusalem - though it remains unclear what territory this would include.

“We will never ask Israel to compromise its security,” he continued. “Can’t do that.”

In a nod to his re-election bid, Mr Trump boasted: “I’ve done a lot for Israel.” He ticked off several things, including withdrawing the US from a nuclear accord with Iran.

The room again erupted in applause - but it fell silent as Mr Trump declared he wants his plan also to do “great things for the Palestinians.”

Mr Trump predicted the plan would create 1m new Palestinian jobs and wipe out poverty in the group’s areas. He asked the Palestinians to “meet the challenges of peaceful coexistence,” including cracking down on the actions of and financing for groups like Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu meanwhile lauded the plan as a “reasonable path to a sustainable peace," saying it was the first plan to fully recognise Israel's need for security.

Previous plans, he said, failed to strike the right balance. For instance, those plans proposed an Israeli exit from the Jordanian Valley.

Presence in those areas allows “Israeli to defend itself, by itself,” he said, in his usual booming cadence.

Mr Netanyahu heaped praise on Mr Trump for being the first world leader to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over all its settlements of the occupied West Bank. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law.

“Israeli must have sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other strategic areas of the [West Bank],” Mr Netanyahu continued, saying it was a “vital to our security”.

The Israeli premier said he acknowledged it might take the Palestinian side “a very long time” to arrive at the start of a path to peace, but said if and when they do, “Israel will be there.”

In addition to the status of Jerusalem, another key barrier to Palestinians accepting this plan is the denial of their right to return to homelands lost in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The plan “makes clear that the Palestinian refugee problem must be solved outside the state of Israel”, Mr Netanyahu said.

A senior Hamas official however said the group rejects the "conspiracies" announced in the deal and that "all options are open" in terms of responding.

"We are certain that our Palestinian people will not let these conspiracies pass. So, all options are open. The (Israeli) occupation and the U.S. administration will bear the responsibility for what they did," senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said as he participated in one of several protests that broke out across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The UK government meanwhile said it supports the plan, describing it as "a positive step forwards."

The American president also noted that ambassadors from Oman, UAE and Bahrain were present.

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