Trump peace plan likely won’t include Palestinian state — report

US officials highlight economic benefits of proposal, acknowledge that any initiative that ignores political aspirations is doomed to fail, the Washington Post reports

US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan will include considerable economic incentives for Palestinians, but will likely stop short of full statehood, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The initiative expected to be introduced in the coming months will offer Palestinians an improved version of the status quo, highlighting “autonomy” over “sovereignty,” according to the US daily, which relied on interviews with anonymous American officials, in addition to individuals familiar with the under-wraps proposal.

The report followed several interviews by members of Trump’s Middle East team in recent months which also skirted the subject of Palestinian statehood.

Instead, Washington is expected to rely on tens of billions of dollars in aid and investment for Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as for Egypt and Jordan, from wealthy Gulf states.

“The economic plan only works if the region supports it. This is a very important part of the overall equation,” a US official told the Post.

However, despite its expectation that Arab states will foot the bill, the Trump administration has also kept those countries in the dark regarding the plan details, offering no commitments that it will guarantee Palestinian statehood, the report said.

US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

At the same time, Washington appeared to recognize that any plan that focuses solely on economic concerns and ignores political aspirations will be doomed to fail.

“But this is not a so-called economic peace. We are taking very seriously both aspects of this, the political, which deals with all the core issues, and the economic,” the official said.

“We understand that if the political aspect of it is not solid, the economic aspect is meaningless. But at the same time, the political aspect will not succeed without a proper economic plan,” the official added.

As for the timing of the initiative’s unveiling, an official said Washington is “still weighing a variety of factors… Timing is still being worked out, and no decision has been made at this time as to when we are going to roll it out.”

Also on Sunday and amid growing speculation that the Trump peace plan will not offer Palestinian statehood, some three dozen senior former European politicians published a call for the European Union to reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution and reject any plan that does not address Palestinian demands.

The letter, published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, followed an election promise made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effectively annex West Bank settlements.

“Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are sliding into a one-state reality of unequal rights. This cannot continue. For the Israelis, for the Palestinians or for us in Europe,” the letter warned, adding that, “Failing to seize this opportunity, at a point in time when this order is unprecedentedly challenged, would have far-reaching negative consequences.”

The city of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Netanyahu’s talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan. His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he said.

In interviews days before the elections last week, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

Flatly ruling out Palestinian statehood, which he said would “endanger our existence,” Netanyahu promised to permanently maintain overall Israeli security control in the West Bank and to formalize Israeli rule over the 400,000-plus Israeli Jews in the settlements. This would apply not only to major settlement blocs, but also to isolated settlements, he indicated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Jim Young/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu has also said he told US President Donald Trump he would not evacuate “a single person” from any of the settlements, amid reports that he believes Trump will back him on settlement sovereignty if the Palestinians reject the Trump peace plan.

The Palestinian Authority has boycotted the Trump administration since its recognition in December, 2017, of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and has vowed to oppose the proposal. 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.

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