Report on 'New Palestine' sharply contradicts US positions

Unconfirmed report: Trump plan sees 3-way peace deal between Israel, PLO, Hamas

Lebanese outlet claims deal would see Israel keep settlements, Palestinians get Jerusalem share, Saudis gain Temple Mount role, Egypt give land for Gaza

Tourists look at the view of the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount from the lookout of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, on October 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Tourists look at the view of the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount from the lookout of the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, on October 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Claiming to have obtained a copy of the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace deal, a Lebanese TV station asserted Monday that the US plan envisions a tripartite agreement providing for Palestinian statehood to be signed by Israel, the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

The report by the pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen features details that starkly contradict the limited information the administration has released about the plan, and that stand at sharp odds with known US and Israeli positions, casting considerable doubt on the credibility of the report.

The report claimed the United States would end its economic support for Israel if the Jewish state rejects the deal, which reportedly provides for establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of the West Bank to be called “New Palestine.” The same was said for the Palestinians, though if the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups balk, and the PLO accepts, it would distinguish between the Ramallah leadership and the terrorist organizations.

The report further claimed that, in the deal, Saudi Arabia would become custodian of the highly sensitive Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem, which is currently under Jordanian and Palestinian custodianship and is secured by Israeli police. Israel would apparently retain overall sovereignty at the Mount, the report indicated.

The reported details of the plan were widely covered in Hebrew-language media late Monday, but there was no official confirmation from the US on the accuracy of the report.

The reported details differ drastically from comments made about the plan by US officials, notably including senior administration adviser Jared Kushner’s repeated indications that the plan would not provide for Palestinian statehood.

Purported leaks of the content of the plan have occurred frequently in recent months, with the US administration routinely dismissing them as unfounded speculation, and noting that it will make the details public at a time of its choosing.

‘New Palestine’

According to the report, the US plan seeks to establish “New Palestine” in the West Bank and Gaza.

The settlement blocs in the West Bank would be annexed into Israel, along with isolated settlements, it claimed. The Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli control. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent weeks said he has US agreement to annex the Jordan Valley.

A Bedouin shepherd walks with his herd of sheep in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank on September 11, 2019 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

The report said the Palestinian territories would be made contiguous through a highway linking the West Bank and Gaza and would share a water line that would run under the road. The highway linking the West Bank and Gaza would be suspended 30 meters above ground and be built by a Chinese company, the report said. Israel would oversee its construction.

The peace deal demands the full and immediate demilitarization of the Palestinian forces, including Hamas’s terror forces, the report said. The Palestinian state would be banned from having an army. Repeated past attempts at unification among the Palestinians have broken down over Hamas’s refusal to give up its arms.

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, marking Al-Quds Day in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, June 23, 2017. (AP/Adel Hana)

At the same time, Israel and the Palestinians would sign a deal that would see the Israel Defense Forces protect the Palestinian people from external threats, provided the Palestinians cover some of the defense costs. The “protection fee” would be negotiated between Israel and Arab states, it said.

In the event of a conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups, the US would assist Israel in destroying the terror leadership, the report said.

Shared Jerusalem with a Saudi role

The report claimed Jerusalem, which the Trump administration recognized at Israel’s capital in 2017, would not be divided under the deal and would serve as a shared capital for both Israel and “New Palestine.” East Jerusalem residents, however, would become citizens of the Palestinian state, it added.

Saudi Arabia would take over custodianship of the Temple Mount from Jordan, it said, and the current status-quo there would be preserved. As part of an arrangement in place since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan and extended its sovereignty there, non-Muslims are barred from praying at the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.

Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on May 10, 2019 on the first Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Jerusalem’s city hall will remain responsible for all the territories in the city, though the Palestinians will oversee their own education, it said. According to Al-Mayadeen, Jews and Arabs will be mutually banned from buying each other’s properties.

Land from Egypt

In Gaza, which is currently controlled by Hamas, Egypt will provide additional territories for factories, an airport and other commercial and agricultural activity but will not allow Palestinians to live in these areas, according to the report.

Egypt has in the past denied reports it will give up any land in the Sinai as part of the plan.

The alleged framework of the plan begins with the demilitarization of Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, and its relinquishing of all its weaponry to Egypt. Members of the terror group will begin to receive monthly salaries from Arab states, and Egypt and Israel will remove the blockade on Gaza, opening it to international trade.

In this file photo taken on January 8, 2019, Palestinians sit waiting at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

After a year, democratic Palestinian elections must be held in which every Palestinian is eligible to vote. Palestinian ports and airports will be built within five years, until which time the Palestinians would use Israel’s airports and ports, the report claimed.

A year after the elections, all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails will be freed over a period of three years.

The plan says that several nations will contribute funding to the plan, including the US, the EU  and the Gulf States who will jointly put up $30 billion dollars over 5 years for projects related to New Palestine. The report said that the US will give 20% of the sum, with 10% from the EU and 70% from the Gulf.

In June, Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and point man on the Middle East, unveiled the economic section of the plan — formally dubbed “Peace to Prosperity” — a proposal to boost the Palestinian economy by offering a $50 billion aid package that can only be implemented through an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

That 40-page plan rests on three initiatives, according to the document — to “unleash the economic potential” of the Palestinians, “empower the Palestinians to realize their ambitions,” and “enhance Palestinian governance.”

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, fifth from left, and Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, sixth from left, listen to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, standing, during the opening session of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama, Bahrain on June 25, 2019. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)

The Kushner-presented plan said that the economic package, if implemented, would double the Palestinians’ gross domestic product, create more than one million jobs in the territories, reduce Palestinian unemployment to single digits (it was 31 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank), and cut the Palestinian poverty rate by 50%.

The White House had hoped to release its overall plan over the summer, but was forced to repeatedly delay its release as Israel held two elections, both time failing to form a government, and is now heading to a third vote in less than a year in March.

Given the persistent Israeli delays there has been speculation the plan will never be released. One of its chief architects, US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, recently resigned from the administration.

The Palestinians rejected the economic part of the plan saying it was an attempt to bribe them to give up their aspirations of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Palestinian Authority has said they it will reject the rest of the plan too, accusing the US of being completely biased toward Israel and pointing to a recent series of pro-Israel steps taken by the Trump administration.

The PA has boycotted Washington since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The administration responded by cutting all aid to the Palestinians. It also recently changed its stance on settlements, saying that the US no longer viewed them as illegal under international law.

Netanyahu has said he will wait and see what’s in the plan before taking any decisions.

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