US, Israel dismiss TV report claiming Trump ready to recognize Palestinian state

Israel’s Hadashot news sets out what it says are ‘key principles’ of emerging US peace plan, including a Palestinian state ‘not necessarily’ based on 1967 lines

US President Donald Trump (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump (L) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas leave following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

American and Israeli officials on Saturday night quickly dismissed an Israeli TV report that claimed the Trump administration is ready to recognize a Palestinian state as a central element of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, that the US will not insist on the evacuation of any settlements or settlers under a permanent accord, and that Washington backs most of Israel’s security demands regarding the West Bank.

The Hadashot News (formerly Channel 2) TV report cited these positions as being among the “key principles” of the emerging US peace plan. But a White House official contacted by The Times of Israel rejected the report as “not an accurate representation.”

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly stated that “the report is not accurate.” It said Netanyahu’s response to the US proposal would depend on its content and specifically on whether it met “the security needs and national needs of the State of Israel.”

Quoting what it said were senior Israelis intimately involved in the ongoing discussions with Trump’s peace team, the TV report Saturday evening said the US peace plan would see President Donald Trump prepared to offer recognition of Palestinian statehood, with the parameters of that state to include land swaps. The borders, however, would “not necessarily” be based on the pre-1967 lines.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump are seen prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017.(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Sunni Arab states and others would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic assistance for the Palestinians under the plan, to help encourage Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the deal, the report said.

The US would recognize most of Israel’s stated security needs, including for the ongoing presence of Israeli forces along the Jordan border, the TV report added. It said Netanyahu, for his part, was pushing for the retention of overall Israeli security control in all Palestinian territory. (This is a position Netanyahu has publicly demanded, and which, if granted, would underline that the Palestinians would not be gaining full sovereignty.)

No settlers or settlements would be evacuated under the US proposal, the TV report said, also noting that no Arabs would be required to relocate.

The proposal is to be presented within months, but not in the next month, the TV report claimed. It will not deal with the issue of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, or with US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The proposal will be presented as central to a regional Israeli-Arab peace accord, the TV report said, and there is some hope that it might be presented at some kind of international conference.

The TV report quoted Netanyahu telling his ministers that there has been no friendlier US president to Israel than Trump, that Israel will never be offered a better deal than under Trump, and that Israel cannot afford to reject the US proposal when it comes.

Furthermore, the TV report said, the emerging US terms would still be open to negotiation, and no terms would be imposed upon the sides.

A White House source quoted by Hadashot news, responding to the report, called it “speculative” and “not necessarily accurate,” and noted that “lots of ideas” were being examined. The source said the Trump team was taking “a different approach” to previous efforts, and that no artificial deadline would be set for an accord, and no terms would be imposed.

The White House official contacted by The Times of Israel was also dismissive: “There is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on and this report is more of the same,” the official said. “It is not an accurate representation, rather it is a mix of possibilities and ideas that have existed for decades.”

“What we can say is we are engaged in a productive dialogue with all relevant parties and are taking a different approach than the past to create an enduring peace deal,” the official told The Times of Israel. “We are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything and we have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations. As we have always said, our job is to facilitate a deal that works for both Israelis and Palestinians, not to impose anything on them.”

Israel’s Channel 10 news reported last week that Saudi Arabia has told Abbas he had better accept the Trump plan when it is presented, or resign. That report was denied by PA officials.

The New York Times reported a week ago that Trump’s administration had begun drafting its Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal based on a two-state solution.

A senior White House adviser told the paper that Trump’s Mideast peace plan would attempt to tackle hot-button issues such as the status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal,” Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told The Times. “We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal.”

“Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate, a lasting peace agreement to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and security across the region,” he said.

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