Minister says Trump peace plan includes Palestinian state – and he’ll oppose it
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Minister says Trump peace plan includes Palestinian state – and he’ll oppose it

Naftali Bennett vows his Jewish Home party will not agree to the creation of an ‘Arab entity’ west of the Jordan River

Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett speaks with the media as he arrives for a special faction meeting in the Israeli outpost of Givat Assaf, in the West Bank on December 17, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett speaks with the media as he arrives for a special faction meeting in the Israeli outpost of Givat Assaf, in the West Bank on December 17, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that an as yet unveiled Trump administration peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will provide for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — a move he vowed to oppose.

Bennett did not give further specific details about the peace plan, which US President Donald Trump has referred to as “the deal of the century,” or disclose how he came to know of its contents.

“Trump’s deal of the century includes a Palestinian state, under certain conditions,” Bennett told Army Radio in an interview.

“We will object to that, because that means there will be another Arab entity west of the Jordan [river],” said Bennett, who leads the right-wing national-religious Jewish Home party.

The minister has in the past said he supports the formation of “a Palestinian autonomy on steroids,” for some areas of the West Bank.

Bennett has spoken of a “Stability Plan,” in which Palestinians living in areas A (under full Palestinian control) and B (under joint Israel-Palestinian control) would govern themselves, without Israeli interference, but without true independence. Area C, which houses all Israeli settlements, would be annexed to Israel. The tens of thousands of Palestinians living in that region would be offered full Israeli citizenship, under the plan.

The Trump proposal is expected to be rolled out in the coming months. But the plan, details of which have been scant, is unlikely to be welcomed by either side.

In addition to increasing political uncertainty in Israel, the White House must also factor in how the peace plan will be received by the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, has boycotted the Trump administration since its recognition last December of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and who has vowed to oppose the deal.

Israel’s shaky right-wing coalition, meantime, is down to a majority of just 61 in the 120-seat Knesset after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister last month and pulled his party out of the government to protest its policy on Gaza.

Bennett’s Jewish Home has eight seats in the coalition, giving the party leverage. However, he lost political capital when he walked back a threat to bring down the government if he wasn’t named defense minister in Liberman’s stead. Israel is scheduled to hold elections by November 2019, but most analysts say a vote will take place earlier.

Last week, outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on Israelis and Palestinians to back the US peace plan, saying it was far more “thoughtful” and creative than any that have come before.

Without revealing details of the plan, drawn up by Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner, Haley said it was far longer than past proposals and included elements that would have previously been “unthinkable.”

“There are things in the plan that every party will like, and there are things in the plan that every party will not like,” said Haley, who will be replaced by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Haley said that if countries focus solely on parts of the plan that they do not like, “we would return back to the failed status quo of the last 50 years with no prospects for change.”

But she said, “I assure you there is a lot for both sides to like.”

At the end of November, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman denied that the Washington administration is considering postponing the publication of its peace proposal, saying that the plan will be released whenever it has the best chance of success.

The peace plan will be released when the administration thinks it has “maximized its potential for acceptance, execution and implementation,” the ambassador said in a statement. “Our timing, our strategy and our messaging is — and will be — entirely our own.”

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