With PM at his side, Trump says without Palestinians ‘we don’t do the deal’
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PM said seeking okay to annex Jordan Valley or Ma'ale Adumim

With PM at his side, Trump says without Palestinians ‘we don’t do the deal’

US president says Mideast peace proposal to debut Tuesday at noon, assesses that ‘it might have a chance’; PM calls offer ‘historic’ and ‘opportunity of the century’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US President Trump hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House,  January 27, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
US President Trump hosts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, January 27, 2020. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

WASHINGTON — The US administration will publish its long-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump confirmed on Monday, standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

“Peace in the Middle East has been long sought, for many, many years and decades and centuries. This is an opportunity. We’ll see what happens. Whatever it is, it is,” he said in the White House Rose Garden.

“Tomorrow at 12 o’clock, we’re going to show a plan, it’s been worked on by everybody. And we’ll see whether or not it catches hold. If it does, that would be great. And if it doesn’t, we’re going to have to live with that too. But I think that it might have a chance.”

Sitting with Netanyahu in the Oval Office afterwards, Trump predicted that the Palestinians will “ultimately” come round to giving their support. “They probably won’t want it initially. I think in the end they will,” he said. “I think in the end they’re going to want it. It’s very good for them. In fact, it’s overly good to them. So we’ll see what happens. Now without them, we don’t do the deal. And that’s okay.”

If no peace deal can be achieved, he said, “life goes on.”

The so-called Deal of the Century is said to be the most pro-Israel peace proposal ever published by an American administration, and is reported to include an endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and significant parts of the West Bank. Reliable information about the plan’s details remain elusive, however, with sources in Jerusalem saying the plan has not been finalized.

According to various reports, Netanyahu hopes to get a green light from the president for an Israeli annexation of either the Jordan Valley or the Jerusalem suburb Ma’ale Adumim. Channel 12 said on Monday that the administration’s peace plan would let Israel retain two holy sites deep inside in the West Bank — the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the southern West Bank and Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

Trump mentioned the Palestinians’ low living standards and that his administration cut all aid to the Palestinian Authority. “We think that there’s a very good chance that they’re going to want this,” he said about the forthcoming peace deal, which comes with very large financial incentives. He said he believed the current rejection of the proposal was an “initial” response, as the Palestinians were “great negotiators.”

The US president declined to answer specific questions about the parameters of the proposal. But he claimed that “many of the Arab nations have agreed to it. They like it, they think it’s great. They think it’s a big start.”

Netanyahu thanked the president for his ongoing support for Israel, reiterating his hope to “make history” with him.

“I look forward to making history with you tomorrow. And I think we’ll talk about the plan,” he said, adding that the president’s vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace is “historic.” He said “the deal of the century is the opportunity of the century. And we’re not going to pass it by.”

Netanyahu thanked Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for “recognizing our rights in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of our biblical homeland,” as well as Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and an unprecedented bilateral security and intelligence cooperation.

“The list of your support for Israel — the things you’ve done for Israel since you you’ve become president — is very long. But the bottom line is short: You have made our alliance stronger than ever. And I look forward in the coming years to make it even stronger with a historic defense treaty that will anchor our alliance for generations,” he said.

Noting that Monday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the prime minister also expressed gratitude to the administration for “confronting the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Donald Trump in Washington on January 27, 2020. (screenshot: Channel 12)

“When you came into office, Iran was on the march. Because of our leadership, Iran is now on the run. You’ve withdrawn from the dangerous nuclear deal. You slapped on tremendous sanctions,” the prime minister went on.

Netanyahu noted that the US has “taken out the most dangerous terrorist on the planet,” a reference to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

After the meeting a member of Netanyahu’s official entourage to Washington said it was “excellent.” He said the two leaders “spoke about the peace deal that will be presented tomorrow, though most of the meeting centered on Iran.”

He said Trump and Netanyahu discussed the “need to stop Iranian aggression as well as about Iran’s efforts to go nuclear and about the need to continue the pressure on all fronts.” They also talked about “regional opportunities” that arose in the aftermath of the US assassination of senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

Furthermore, the prime minister spoke to the president about the “need to fight against the International Criminal Court’s attempt to prosecute Israel,” the official said.

Right after Netanyahu’s meeting, his chief political rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, was set to meet Trump in the Oval Office. As opposed to the prime minister, who had both a “restricted” and an “expanded bilateral meeting” at the beginning of which the two men made comments to reporters, the de facto opposition leader was granted a shorter “bilateral” meeting closed to the press.

“As you know, they’re two good competitors. They’re fighting it out,” Trump said of Gantz. “This is the third election. We keep waiting and waiting and waiting,” he said, referring to the ongoing political stalemate in Israel. “What kind of system is that? Very strange system you have there. We have been talking about this for many month. So this system has to be looked at.”

Announcing his trip to meet Trump on Saturday night, Gantz said the forthcoming peace plan “will go down in history as a meaningful landmark, mapping the way for different players in the Middle East to finally move ahead toward a historic regional agreement.”

At the same time, he was careful not to offer a full preemptive endorsement of the proposal, noting its potential to cause argument within Israel, and said he would work to turn it into the basis for an agreed deal with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz speaks at the Eli Horowitz Conference for Economy and Society, held by the Israel Institute of Democracy, in Jerusalem, on December 17, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Trump again at the White House on Tuesday for what is widely expected to be unveiling of the administration’s plan. The two leaders will deliver joint remarks for 35 minutes. Later that day, Trump is headed to New Jersey for a campaign rally.

According to the Reuters news agency, citing a US official, Trump will reportedly tell Netanyahu and Gantz that they have until the Knesset elections to work on the administration’s plan, potentially throwing the high stakes diplomatic gambit into Israel’s domestic political stew.

You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it,” the unnamed official claimed Trump would say.

According to the report, the president will not announce details of the peace proposal until after he gets pledges of support from both Netanyahu and Gantz.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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