US President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration might release its Middle East peace plan before Israel’s elections in September, reversing earlier statements that it would wait until after the election re-do to unveil the long-delayed proposal.
Trump told reporters at a joint appearance with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the sidelines of the annual G7 summit in Paris that both Israelis and Palestinians were interested in reaching a peace deal. Trump said: “I think they want to make a deal, the Palestinians, and I think Israel would like to make a deal too. I think people, after so many years and decades, I think they’re a little tired of fighting.” He also said “I cut off most funding to the Palestinians, a lot of funding. And I think they’d like to get it back.”
“We’re going to know who the [Israeli] prime minister is going to be fairly soon,” he said. “[A deal] won’t be before the election, I don’t think… But I think you may see what the deal is before the election. And I think the deal will happen… Everybody says, that’s the deal that can’t be made… Israel and the Palestinians: there’s tremendous hatred for many, many decades, and everybody says that is a deal that can’t be made. So we’ll see if we can make it.”
His administration’s Mideast peace plan was supposed to roll out over the summer, but unveiling of the US plan was delayed after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following the April elections and called a fresh vote, now scheduled for September 17. That delay was a “complicating factor,” said Trump.
The US has so far kept the political elements of its plan under wraps, while the economic aspects of it were presented in June by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner at an American-led conference in Bahrain. The economic side of the plan would see a $50 billion investment package for the Palestinians and the wider region.
The Palestinians skipped the Bahrain conference and have rejected the peace plan outright, pressing on with their boycott of the administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and cut Palestinian aid.
The Trump administration has since cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, including all of its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and nearly $200 million earmarked for humanitarian programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Netanyahu says he is willing to wait and see the contents of the plan, but has reiterated he will not compromise on Israel’s security or evacuate settlements.
No details have been published so far about how the plan tackles key issues such as a potential independent Palestinian state, Israeli control over the West Bank, the fate of Jerusalem and the so-called “right of return” for Palestinians to homes from which their families fled or were expelled after Israel’s creation in 1948.
US officials have indicated that they will back “Palestinian autonomy” and self-governance, but stop short of endorsing the establishment of a Palestinian state.