Michael Oren: Israel should welcome Trump peace plan

Michael Oren: Israel should welcome Trump peace plan

Deputy minister says US president’s framework will require concessions, but Jerusalem would be foolish to reject it

Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)
Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)

AP — A top Israel official said Monday that his government has never had a more favorable ally in the White House than Donald Trump and therefore it should welcome his administration’s forthcoming peace plan regardless of its content.

Michael Oren, the deputy minister for diplomacy in the prime minister’s office, said the US president’s plan will undoubtedly require Israeli concessions, but that Israel would be foolish to reject it.

“I have never known a team to be more favorably disposed to us,” Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, told foreign journalists. “My own feeling is to strongly recommend that the Israeli government accept this plan with an open mind, if not open arms, that we engage with it energetically and that we certainly don’t reject it out of hand.”

Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and both sides are eager to see what his plan entails.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has developed a close relationship with and lavished praise on Trump, who has broken with decades of tradition by appearing to openly side with Israel in the Middle East conflict.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House on March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

The Palestinians have essentially boycotted contacts with Washington since Trump announced in December that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem — captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed — as the capital of a future state.

The new US Embassy in Jerusalem is to be opened on May 14 with a huge American delegation expected to attend, perhaps including Trump himself.

Oren said he did not know what the Trump plan would include, but he expects it to come out soon, perhaps after the embassy move. Netanyahu’s current coalition is made up primarily of hardliners who are opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and reject any Israeli territorial concessions.

Oren, who belongs to the Kulanu party, said Trump’s business-minded team was the best mediator Israel could ever hope for.

“The current president, unlike the previous president, views Israel as the solution and Iran as the problem,” he said. “In the world of business, if you leave the table you pay a price, you don’t get rewarded. In the world of business negotiations. the first offer on the table is the best offer, the second offer is a less good offer, the third offer is less than that — just the opposite than in the world of diplomacy.”

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