Justice minister says Trump’s peace plan is ‘a waste of time’

As White House mulls date for publicizing ‘deal of the century,’ Ayelet Shaked warns ‘gap between Palestinians and Israelis much too big to be bridged’

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Amid speculation that US President Donald Trump is looking to roll out his administration’s peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians in February, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that she would counsel the American leader that any such proposal was “a waste of time.”

“I think that the gap between the Palestinians and the Israelis is much too big to be bridged,” she said in an English-language interview on stage at the Jerusalem Post diplomatic conference.

She added: “I think personally it’s a waste of time. Although I want peace like anyone else, I think I’m just more realistic. And I know that in the current future, it is impossible.”

In a possible concession to diplomatic niceties, she added, “But let’s wait and see what [the Trump administration] will offer.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, November 7, 2018. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump was set to hold a meeting with top advisers this week to review his administration’s peace plan and discuss the timing for its release, according to a television report on Sunday.

The meeting is to be attended by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, the Channel 10 report said. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to Washington, DC, to attend the meeting as well.

US officials told the news channel that Trump wants to see the plan rolled out by February, but his advisers favored taking a more cautious approach, in light of the political crisis that engulfed Israel over the past week, and the razor-thin 61-seat parliamentary majority that the Netanyahu government now holds.

Although the Trump administration has been touting its peace plan for months, details of it have been scant, and the Palestinians have vowed not to cooperate with US efforts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The report came as Netanyahu’s government appeared on brink of collapse earlier this week.

The coalition crisis was sparked by the resignation of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister last week, in response to the ceasefire deal that ended a military flareup between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Over the weekend, Hadashot news reported there was growing concern in the Prime Minister’s Office that the release of the Trump peace plan could hurt the ruling Likud party’s electoral prospects in the upcoming national elections.

Though the specific details of the plan have been closely guarded by the US, the TV report said Netanyahu’s camp was planning to reach out to the White House in an effort to push back the publication of the proposal until after elections.

Hadashot said Kushner has privately indicated in the past that the plan’s release might be postponed if Israel was embroiled in an election campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-R), Education Minister Naftali Bennett (1st-L) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (2nd-L) attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on November 18, 2018. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu’s office told the network in response to the report that the prime minister’s sole concern vis-a-vis the US peace plan is Israel’s security.

“The prime minister doesn’t know when the American plan will be presented, and when it is, the only factor he will take into consideration is the nation’s interests, first and foremost the security of Israel,” his office said.

Trump has yet to reveal a date for the announcement of his peace plan but said during a meeting with Netanyahu in September he hoped to release it by early next year.

In addition to the 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 of the century.”

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