WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump has not yet seen the Mideast peace plan that bears his name, as its authors try and stop leaks of the details ahead of its anticipated launch, a senior administration official told the Reuters news agency.
The report Wednesday came as Trump congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his win in the Israeli election, and said it would improve the chances of success for the administration’s much-anticipated peace plan.
“I think we have a better chance now that Bibi has won,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn before heading to Texas on Wednesday, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “The fact that Bibi has won, I think we’ll see some pretty good actions in terms of peace.”
“Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance,” the US president added.
The White House has said it would release its peace proposal following the elections in Israel, though a report on Israeli television earlier this week said the exact timing would be dependent on the outcome of the vote.
But the Reuters report said that while Trump has been regularly briefed on the plan, he has not actually seen the document as its authors — son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt — have sought to stop details emerging before the plan is ready in a notoriously leaky White House.
It has been kept secret “to ensure people approach it with an open mind” when it is released, a senior administration official told Reuters, adding that only four people have access — Kushner, Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz.
“(Trump) is briefed if something interesting is happening or there is an idea they want to run by him,” the official said, but he is not believed to have read the entire document of dozens of pages.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2019
“I’d like to congratulate Bibi Netanyahu. It looks like that race has been won by him. It may be a little early but I’m hearing he’s won it and won it in good fashion,” Trump said.
With over 97 percent of ballots counted, and his Likud party and fellow right-wing and religious parties poised to secure a clear majority of Knesset seats, Netanyahu emerged from Tuesday’s elections in the best position to muster a coalition.
Calling Netanyahu a “great ally” and a “friend,” Trump said the Israeli elections were “a well fought out race.”
The plan will be unveiled by mid-June, White House sources told Channel 13 news on Monday, though an exact date has yet to be set.
The date will depend on a number of factors, including the outcome of Israel’s general elections, and the next prime minister’s progress in forming a governing coalition, the report said.
It said the White House was also taking into account national holidays, and Jewish and Muslim religious festivals, in choosing a date.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, the prime minister has hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, visited Trump in the White House, and received both American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and, on Monday, a US designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization.
Last week, Netanyahu said he had informed Trump that not “even one person” would be evicted from a settlement under any US peace plan. At the weekend, he said he would gradually apply Israeli sovereignty at all West Bank settlements, and hoped to be able to do so with US support.
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 has vowed to oppose the deal.
The US administration has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid since the start of the Palestinian boycott.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. International consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.