Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday made it clear that the unveiling of United States President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan would happen this week—with Netanyahu further saying the two leaders would together “make history” this Tuesday. “Over the past three years, I have spoken countless times with President Trump, a huge friend of Israel, and with his staff, about our vital interests, our security, and our justice,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office ahead of his trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Trump. “…On Tuesday, together with him, we will make history.”
Netanyahu contrasted this diplomatic visit to the US with one during the Obama Administration in which he was fighting against the Iran nuclear deal. This time, Netanyahu expects the terms to be good for Israel.
“Five years ago, I went to the Congress in Washington because I was compelled to stand up against a plan brought by an American president, because I believed such a plan would endanger the vital interests of the State of Israel and its very existence,” said Netanyahu. “Today, I leave for Washington to stand alongside an American president, who is offering a plan, which I believe will advance our vital interests.”
Details of the Middle East peace plan have been published by Israeli media, although President Trump has refuted that the long-awaited plans have been leaked. Commenting on his invitation to Netanyahu and top rival for prime minister of Israel Benny Gantz, Trump tweeted last Thursday, “The United States looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister @Netanyahu & Blue & White Chairman @Gantzbe to the @WhiteHouse next week. Reports about details and timing of our closely-held peace plan are purely speculative.”
The Times of Israel, citing a report in Israel’s Channel 13 news, claimed last Friday that the plan would grant the Palestinians 80% of the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria in which to establish a state. Despite being home to numerous historical cites in the Hebrew Bible such as Bethlehem and Hebron, Palestinians claim all of Judea and Samaria and call it the “West Bank.”
Per the Trump plan, Jerusalem would be largely controlled by Israel, according to The Times of Israel recap of Channel 13’s report, although some Arab neighborhoods on Jerusalem’s fringe would become part of the Palestinian state.
The proposal, if accurate, contrasts significantly to past offers by Israel to the Palestinians, which the Palestinians rejected. Prior Israeli governments have offered at least 90% of Judea and Samaria—and in one case even the equivalent of 100% of Judea and Samaria territory via land swaps of Israeli communities in exchange for other territory.
While handing over sovereignty of territory to a Palestinian state remains controversial, Netanyahu supports the approach to be laid out by President Trump. Earlier during Sunday’s Israeli cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the US leadership has been “attentive” to Israel’s concerns in the peace proposal. In those comments, Netanyahu confirmed that Trump would present the “Plan of the Century” deal during the visit to Washington.
“We are in the midst of very dramatic diplomatic events, but the peak is yet before us… I think that such an opportunity occurs once in history and we cannot miss it,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “For three years, I have spoken with President Trump and his staff about our security and national needs—many dozens of conversations, hundreds of hours. In all these talks, I have found an attentive ear in the White House to the State of Israel’s vital needs.”
Netanyahu’s rival running against him in the upcoming March elections, Gantz, in a Twitter post on Saturday translated from Hebrew by Google, also commented on his visit to Washington this week. He said he has been meeting with persons close to President Trump discussing the Deal of the Century, calling his offer to come to Washington an “important invitation.”
While Gantz and Netanyahu are politically opposed, they share the view that the Washington meeting will be significant—Netanyahu even mentioned making history twice in comments on Sunday. In addition to his words shortly before leaving, he said during Sunday’s cabinet meeting, “I am leaving for Washington with a sense of great mission, great responsibility and great opportunity, and I am full of hope that we will be able to make history.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 26, 2020)