Op­ti­mism scarce for Trump peace plan

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

THE LEAD­ERS of a team pre­par­ing Don­ald Trump’s much­vaunted plan for Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace are to travel to the Mid­dle East for talks next week.

Jared Kush­ner, the White House se­nior ad­vi­sor and Mr Trump’s son-in-law, and spe­cial en­voy Ja­son Green­blatt are ex­pected to visit Is­rael, Egypt and Saudi Ara­bia but are not sched­uled to meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, which is cur­rently boy­cotting the US. There is still no of­fi­cial line on when the plan will be pub­licly an­nounced be­yond “when the cir­cum­stances are right”.

A year-and-a-half into the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s term in of­fice, there is grow­ing scep­ti­cism that a plan will ever emerge.

“I be­lieve they are work­ing on a plan,” said one Is­raeli diplo­mat re­cently. “Whether I be­lieve they will ever get around to pre­sent­ing it is an­other mat­ter.”

How­ever, there is an ex­pec­ta­tion that at some point the ad­min­is­tra­tion will have to an­nounce some­thing, if only to sat­isfy its Arab al­lies.

There are re­ports of dis­cord within the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s team on the pro­posed deal. The US Am­bas­sador to Is­rael, David Fried­man, who is widely seen as hav­ing be­come more in­flu­en­tial on this is­sue, flew back to Wash­ing­ton last week to dis­cuss the pro­pos­als at the White House.

Mr Fried­man is re­garded as close to the right-wing in Is­rael and is try­ing to min­imise any con­ces­sions Is­rael may be called on to give the Pales­tinian side.

The Pales­tini­ans be­lieve some form of Trump Peace Plan will ul­ti­mately be forth­com­ing and are con­vinced it will be one they can­not even con­tem­plate.

“It will give us noth­ing in Jerusalem, noth­ing on the is­sue of refugees and [will] keep the West Bank and Gaza apart from each other,” one se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial pre­dicted.

The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity cut off of­fi­cial ties with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion when Mr Trump an­nounced that the US would move its em­bassy in Is­rael to Jerusalem. It will re­ject any pro­posal out of hand, in full aware­ness that this will cast it in the role of re­fus­ing to ad­vance on peace.

A US of­fi­cial told Haaretz on Wednesday night: “We have said all along that we don’t want to im­pose an agree­ment.

“So pre­sent­ing the plan as a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of doc­u­ment would be in­con­sis­tent with that.”

An­other of­fi­cial said: “We are a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. It would be ar­ro­gant to as­sume we know bet­ter than any­one else.”

But Pales­tinian con­cerns run much deeper than the United States’s strat­egy.

In his re­cent visit to the US, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man was al­leged to have told a pri­vate meet­ing with Jewish Amer­i­can lead­ers: “In the last sev­eral decades the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship has missed one op­por­tu­nity af­ter the other and re­jected all the peace pro­pos­als it was given. It is about time the Pales­tini­ans take the pro­pos­als and agree to come to the ne­go­ti­a­tions ta­ble or stop com­plain­ing.”

With ties be­tween Is­rael and the lead­ers of a num­ber of Sunni Arab na­tions grow­ing ever closer, the Pales­tini­ans’ chief fear is that the Don­ald Trump plan will be an ex­cuse for their Arab “broth­ers” to stop even pay­ing lip ser­vice to the Pales­tinian cause.

PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES

Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man

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