The administration of US President Donald Trump is said to be pressing Israel to transfer parts of the West Bank to Palestinian administrative control as a goodwill gesture to help revive peace talks between the two sides.
Despite a series of economic incentives approved on Sunday by the Israeli cabinet, the US wants to see greater concessions to the Palestinian Authority and views the recent measures as insufficient, Channel 10 reported Wednesday.
Specifically they have asked for areas in the northern West Bank to be transferred from Area C to Area B, according to the report.
Under the Oslo Accords, Area C of the West Bank (60%, where most of the settlements are located, and some 150,000 Palestinians live) is under full Israeli administrative and military control, while in Area B (22%), administrative control is the responsibility of the PA while the IDF is in charge of security. Area A (18%, encompassing the major Palestinian cities) is under the full administrative and military control of the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister’s Office later denied the Channel 10 report.
It was not immediately clear when the US supposedly made these demands, but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One that Trump “pressured” both Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas during his meeting with the two leaders this week to return to the negotiating table.
It was also not known what concessions the US sought from the Palestinians during Trump’s trip to help restart the peace process.
During his visit to Israel and the West Bank on Monday-Tuesday, Trump repeatedly emphasized his desire to help broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, but offered little in how he would encourage the two sides to revive peace talks.
Trump has repeatedly said he was looking to broker the “ultimate deal” with Israelis and Palestinians and is convinced he could do so. Trump has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former real estate lawyer Jason Greenblatt with charting a course forward. Still, White House officials had downplayed the prospects for a breakthrough on this trip, saying it was important to manage their ambitions as they wade into terrain that has tripped up more experienced diplomats.
In a speech Tuesday at the Israel Museum, the president heaped praise on Israel, while calling on both sides to make compromises toward peace. He urged them to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past” and declared that both sides were ready to move forward.
The president notably avoided all of the thorny issues that have stymied peace efforts for decades. He did not mention Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem or even whether the US would continue to insist on a two-state solution giving the Palestinians sovereign territory.
In a meeting with opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Tuesday, Kushner said Washington intended to move fast to advance a renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a spokesman for Herzog said, with Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt reportedly set to return next week so as not to leave a “diplomatic vacuum.”
In a separate report Wednesday, Channel 10 said that Israel’s National Security Council is currently considering a plan to transfer control of two East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the Jerusalem Municipality to a yet-to-be established local council.
Despite being part of the city, Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp are located on the other side of the security barrier and suffer from a dearth of municipal services.
Under the plan, the two neighborhoods — which together compromise around one eighth of Jerusalem’s population — would be moved to a newly established local council that would remain under Israeli control and receive funding for municipal services directly from the state rather than through the municipality, according to Channel 10.
While the report of the plan was welcomed by a number of left-leaning lawmakers, with opposition leader Isaac Herzog saying it would help “ensure a united Jerusalem with a Jewish majority,” the Jerusalem Municipality threw cold water on the idea, telling Channel 10 the establishment of a new local council would not “provide an answer” to the neighborhoods’ problems.
“The proper way to provide an answer to the [neighborhoods’] security challenges [is] the investment of substantial resources,” the municipality said.
The report of the plan to break off Kafr Aqab and the Shuafat refugee camp came on Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and the Old City during the 1967 Six Day War and the unification of the Jewish state’s capital.
Eric Cortellessa and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.