US president Donald Trump has unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, calling for the creation of a State of Palestine with its capital in portions of east Jerusalem.
He declared it a “win-win” opportunity for both Israel and the Palestinians.
The plan ends speculation as to whether his administration, in preparing a proposal without input from Palestinian leaders, would abandon a “two-state resolution” to the conflict.
This is what a future State of Palestine can look like, with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/39vw3pPrAL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2020
Mr Trump, releasing the plan before a pro-Israel audience at the White House with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side, acknowledged that he has done a lot for Israel, but he said he wanted the deal to be a “great deal for the Palestinians”.
Mr Trump said the deal is a “historic opportunity” for Palestinians to achieve an independent state of their own.
But Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said “a thousand noes” to the plan.
“After the nonsense that we heard today, we say a thousand noes to the deal of the century,” Mr Abbas said at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.
He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.
“We will not kneel and we will not surrender,” Mr Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians would resist the plan through “peaceful, popular means”.
The plan more than doubles the territory currently under Palestinian control, although it also recognises Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the West Bank.
The plan does call for a four-year freeze in new Israeli settlement construction, during which time details of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated.
However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four years.
Thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza City ahead of the announcement, burning pictures of Mr Trump and Mr Netanyahu and raising a banner reading “Palestine is not for sale”.
The official Wafa news agency quoted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as calling on Palestinian factions to set their differences aside and unite against the plan.
The 50-page political outline goes further in concessions to the Palestinians than many analysts had believed was likely.
However, it would require them to accept conditions they have been previously unwilling to consider, such as accepting West Bank settlements.
It builds on a 30-page economic plan for the West Bank and Gaza that was unveiled last June and which the Palestinians have also rejected.
Under the terms of the “peace vision” that Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been working on for nearly three years, the future Palestinian state would consist of the West Bank and Gaza, connected by a combination of above-ground roads and tunnels.
Officials said that both Mr Netanyahu and his main political challenger in March elections, Benny Gantz, had signed off on the plan.
“Mr President, because of this historic recognition and because I believe your peace plan strikes the right balance where other plans have failed,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“I’ve agreed to negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of your peace plan. It’s a great plan for Israel. It’s a great plan for peace.”
The event cames as Mr Trump’s impeachment trial continues in the Senate and Israel’s parliament had planned a hearing to discuss Mr Netanyahu’s request for immunity from criminal corruption charges.
Mr Netanyahu withdrew that request hours before the proceedings were to begin, but Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is still expected to meet.
The body had been likely to vote against immunity, dealing Mr Netanyahu a blow.
In the run-up to the March 2 election, Mr Netanyahu has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its settlements there.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Jordan Valley in particular is considered a vital security asset.
Security responsibility for the Jordan Valley would remain in Israel’s hands for the foreseeable future but could be scaled back as the nascent Palestinian state builds its capacity, under the terms of the plan, which says that statehood will be contingent on the Palestinians meeting international governance criteria.
The Palestinians see the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and east Jerusalem as their capital.
Most of the international community supports their position, but Mr Trump has reversed decades of US foreign policy by siding more blatantly with Israel.
The centrepiece of his strategy was recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there.
He has also closed Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cut funding to Palestinian aid programmes.
Those policies have proven popular among Mr Trump’s evangelical and pro-Israel supporters and could give him a much-needed boost from his base as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.