What happened: The White House will publish its long awaited plan for Israel and the Palestinians at 12:00 today in Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, met separately with US President Donald Trump yesterday to discuss the plan.
- Ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu, Trump said: “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….If we do [manage to pull this off], it will be a tremendous tribute to everybody, and if we don’t, life goes on.”
- Netanyahu expressed support for the plan, saying: “The deal of the century is the opportunity of a century, and we’re not going to pass it by. We’ll talk about that tomorrow,” alluding to the second meeting between the two leaders later today in the White House after the plan is published.
- Gantz also supported the plan, calling it a “significant and historic milestone,” but adding that implementation should be delayed until after the 2 March election “from within a stable, functioning Israeli government.” Gantz also highlighted the need for coordination with neighbouring Arab states, especially with Jordanian King Abdullah, as well as the “importance of dialogue with the Palestinians.”
- Palestinian officials have rejected the US initiative outright, with Palestine Liberation Organisation Secretary General Saeb Erekat calling it the “art of the fraud.”
- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will hold an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership later tonight in Ramallah and, in an unprecedented move, Hamas officials in the West Bank have also been invited to the meeting.
Context: Media speculation surrounding the exact details of the US plan has been intense. While expected to include proposals that are mostly in Israel’s comfort zone, some reports indicate that the plan will propose that Israel withdraw from territory in the West Bank, agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and suspend any plans to apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements for a period of time – all proposals that Netanyahu and politicians on the right may strongly oppose.
- Settler leader Yossi Dagan travelled with Netanyahu to Washington and held a meeting with the Prime Minster last night. Dagan said that “settlements are at the forefront of [Netanyahu’s] mind” and called on the PM to announce measures to apply Israeli sovereignty to those areas by next Sunday during the cabinet meeting “with the agreement of the US president.”
- In a reported call with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, President Abbas called for international mediation due to the clear bias of the US in Israel’s favour. Abbas added that any plan had to be based on the pre-1967 armistice lines with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
- The Arab response to the Trump plan is unclear. While Jordan’s King Abdullah has reportedly rejected the plan, other Arab states – including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have yet to indicate their positions publicly. The Trump Administration has apparently invited ambassadors from Arab and Muslim countries to the White House for the unveiling of the plan with Netanyahu.
Looking ahead: Most actors – international, Arab, and Israeli – will await the official release of the plan later today until they respond in detail. There were conflicting reports about the Palestinians’ next steps. Two days of protests have reportedly been called for today and tomorrow in the Gaza Strip, including the resumption of demonstrations on the border fence with Israel. In the West Bank, it was unclear whether demonstrations were called for tomorrow (Wednesday) or Friday. There was also no confirmation that Abbas had instructed his security forces to allow Palestinian demonstrators access to sensitive seam zones where they would clash with IDF troops, despite reports that he had done so.