Note: This story has been updated to include comments made at this week’s AIPAC convention.
The Trump administration’s peace plan reportedly calls for east Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, for the Old City of Jerusalem to be placed under “international protection” and for Israel to “relocate” the residents of small West Bank settlements while keeping the large settlements in place, according to the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.
The newspaper based its report on “knowledgeable Arab diplomatic sources” in Paris, and it said the U.S. plans to unveil the plan at an international conference in an Arab capital — probably Cairo — sometime in the near future. It said all of the countries attending the conference would have to agree in advance to recognize a Palestinian state and that Israel was expected to attend.
But David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, termed as “fake news” media reports purportedly detailing aspects of the peace plan. In remarks at the AIPAC convention in Washington Tuesday, Friedman told the delegates that he is still working on the peace plan with President Donald Trump; Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president; and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s Middle East envoy. He termed it a “sacred task.”
“We’re hard at work and we’re working on a plan, not the plan that’s been described 20 different ways by 20 different sources, all, pardon the expression, fake news – but a real plan for peace,” Friedman said. “And we’re not giving up.”
The plan was reportedly presented to both Israel and the Palestinians last month, but at that time the U.S. threatened to withdraw from the process unless the Palestinians assured the White House it wanted a deal. Arab media have published various versions of the purported peace plan and the Palestinian Authority has reportedly rejected the proposal, calling it a conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said such a proposal would mean “throwing out at least 100,000 people” from their homes. (According to published reports in Israel, about 170,000 people live outside of the major settlement blocks.)
“If it becomes evident that this in fact becomes President Trump’s plan, his new reputation as the greatest friend Israel has ever had will end immediately,” he said.
After Friedman’s comments, Klein told The Jewish Week that he was “relieved and comforted that the U.S. is not promoting the suicidal outrageous plan that the media has claimed.”
Klein said the U.S. should first insist that the Palestinian Authority “rescind its law to pay Arabs to murder Jews, end incitement in the media, schools and sermons, accept Israel as a Jewish state and proclaim that Jews have a right to live in Judea and Samaria [the biblical name for the West Bank]. We need to see them promoting these policies for a year to see if there has been a sincere change before any extraordinary offer of this nature should be implemented. Otherwise there will be a Hamas-Iran terrorist state in Judea and Samaria and in east Jerusalem, which means there could be missiles directly adjacent to Israel’s most populous areas. That would be a disastrous mistake.”
The Trump peace plan also reportedly calls for the U.S. to raise $40 billion to help the Palestinians develop their state and its institutions, as well as requiring the Palestinians to give up their demand for a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel. In addition, it is said to allow Israel to retain security control over the borders of the West Bank, have Egypt handle security in the Gaza Strip and expand Palestinian security and administrative authority in areas A and B in the West Bank.