First time border outline unveiled
Presentation of a detailed map of the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state is something that no American president has done before, a source involved in drafting the plan told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
On Monday, Trump asked Netanyahu and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz in separate meetings to take immediate action on implementing his plan. The president hopes that having support from both of the leading candidates in the March 2 election will provide momentum for what he has called “The Deal of the Century.”
The US president’s message to Netanyahu and Gantz is, “You have six weeks to get this going – if you want it,” a US official told Reuters.
“This is an opportunity for peace,” Trump said, standing next to Netanyahu upon his arrival to the White House on Monday. “We’ll show a plan that has been worked on by everyone. We’ll see if it catches hold. If it does, that’d be great. If it doesn’t, it’s okay.”
Netanyahu told Trump he is “looking forward to making history” together tomorrow and called the plan “a vision of peace, which is historic.”
The plan will include the annexation of all West Bank settlements to Israel, along with most of the Jordan Valley, in a way that would allow for maximum territory with minimum non-Israeli residents so that the Palestinians could live in their own, demilitarized state.
The “near zero” amount of Palestinians who would be on the annexed land, a source close to Netanyahu said, would be “treated in accordance with the law.”
This likely means they would be permanent residents with an optional pathway to citizenship, like the 350,000 residents of east Jerusalem.
The source close to Netanyahu speculated that Israel would apply sovereignty over the city of Ma’aleh Adumim and its surrounding areas first, rather than the Jordan Valley, which has been the object of attention and political wrangling in recent weeks.
It had long been presumed that Ma’aleh Adumim, the third-largest settlement and home to more than 38,000 people, would be the first West Bank settlement to be annexed by Israel. It is five km. east of Jerusalem in the direction of Jericho, and it could be a step toward the Jordan Valley’s future annexation.
Annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim, the source said, would include the unbuilt E1 section of the city. Construction in E1 has been frozen for 26 years due to US pressure; Palestinians maintain that Israeli building in E1 would make it impossible for them to have a contiguous state. In contrast, Israel maintains that E1 and Ma’aleh Adumim must be within its final borders to ensure territorial contiguity and a united Jerusalem.
Annexing the Jordan Valley could be more complicated because it may threaten stability in Jordan and its peace treaty with Israel. In addition, some 75,000 Palestinians live in the valley.
Fifteen isolated settlements will be Israeli enclaves surrounded by the Palestinian state, but they will be connected to Israel by roads and protected by the IDF as they are now. However, they will be unable to expand.
Trump said he thinks he will “ultimately have the support of the Palestinians,” who thus far have opposed the plan sight unseen, adding that many Arab nations have agreed to it.
The plan does not involve the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state. Rather, it expects Israel to allow for a clear path toward one.
That would include giving the Palestinians uninhabited land in the Negev and near the Gaza-Egypt border as compensation for the territory of the 15 settlements within the area of their proposed state in the West Bank.
Additionally, a tunnel would be built linking Gaza and the West Bank.
Evangelical Christian leader Dr. Mike Evans, one of Trump’s faith advisers and founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, said in addition to the widely reported detail that under the US plan a Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized, it also “does not give the Palestinians any air space [or] the ability to establish treaties.”
Evans, who said he was in close touch with the president and his peace team, also said: “The plan does not take away the major Biblical sites” from Israel, a likely reference to allowing Israeli access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, among others.
For evangelical Christians, the plan “is everything we were hoping for – everything,” Evans said.
Netanyahu thanked Trump for his friendship, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the legitimacy of settlements in the West Bank.
In light of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, Netanyahu also thanked Trump for “confronting the most antisemitic regime on the planet” – Iran.
Netanyahu and Trump had an “excellent” meeting, the prime minister’s delegation said. Most of the meeting focused on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The two also discussed combating Israel’s possible prosecution in the International Criminal Court.
Reuters, Maayan Hoffman and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.