Trump Middle East peace plan expands Israeli territory, offers path to Palestinian statehood

Trump Middle East peace plan expands Israeli territory, offers path to Palestinian statehood

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday released a long-promised Middle East peace plan that, if implemented, would create a conditional path to statehood for Palestinians while recognizing Israeli sovereignty over a significant portion of the West Bank.

The president briefly outlined elements of the proposal, which included a future Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, at a White House event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side. Trump said the long-shot plan, which lacks Palestinian support, would require both sides to make concessions.

“Our proposal provides precise technical solutions to make Israelis, Palestinians and the region safer and much more prosperous,” Trump said. “As I have seen throughout my long career as a deal-maker, complex problems require nuanced, fact-based remedies.”

The White House later said that Israel had agreed to a four-year “land freeze” for areas the plan would designate as part of a possible Palestinian state — though it appeared that would not apply to settlements in areas that could remain under permanent Israeli control under the proposal, which one official said could include as much as 30 percent of the West Bank.

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman added that preconditions for Palestinian statehood would include “a complete dismantling of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, other terrorist groups” and the development of a system of government that meets international standards for human rights, freedom of religion, rule of law and the fight against corruption.

Trump has called the proposal, whose development was spearheaded by son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, “the deal of the century,” touting the prospect of brokering an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinian as one of his top priorities since the first day of his administration — even as most observers have said the plan is effectively dead on arrival.

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Palestinians, who publicly criticized the plan, have not been involved in the process, refusing to meet with Trump administration officials since the president’s December 2017 announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Jordanian officials also expressed reservations about major elements of the proposal, and officials from that country, along with Egypt — the only two Arab nations that have peace treaties with Israel — were not present at the White House event.

Still, several Persian Gulf countries sent ambassadors to Tuesday’s White House event, including the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, in an early sign that the plan may get some cautious support from a few states.

Shortly after Trump’s remarks, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert warning U.S. government employees and their families not to travel to certain parts of the country due to “widespread calls for demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza” in reaction to the plan.

The details released by the White House raised questions about how much sovereignty a Palestinian state would have under the plan. The proposal envisions it as being surrounded by Israeli territory and not sharing a border with a neighboring Arab country, since Israel would get control of the Jordan Valley, the region that lies on the eastern portion of the West Bank bordering Jordan.

Similar uncertainty surrounded the final status of Jerusalem: While Trump said Tuesday the city would remain united, the plan also calls for Palestinians to have a capital in the eastern part of the city.

The White House emphasized that the Palestinians have four years to decide whether they want to agree to the terms of the deal — the length of time for the land freeze by Israel.

“We’re hoping to capture the imagination of the Palestinian people,” Friedman said. “We think we’re offering them a lot. It’s a significant expansion of their footprint and statehood and fibioreportscing.”

The plan’s announcement came as both Trump and Netanyahu faced political turmoil at home and challenging re-election bids.

Trump unveiled the plan shortly before his lawyers were scheduled to present their final defense in his Senate impeachment trial. Netanyahu, meanwhile, was formally indicted just hours ahead of the event in an Israeli court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution. His joint appearance with Trump on Tuesday came just weeks before Israelis were slated to head to the polls for that country’s third election in a year.

Trump said on Monday, ahead of the plan’s release, that the deal was “overly good” for the Palestinians. He added that he anticipated that the Palestinians would reject the plan, while predicting they would ultimately embrace it.

“We think we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians,” Trump said Monday. “But we’re going to see. And if we do, it’ll be a tremendous tribute to everybody. And if we don’t, life goes on.”

Over the last several years, the White House has cut funding for Palestinian refugees, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and endorsed the annexation of the Golan Heights by Israel. The administration has held no meetings with elected Palestinian leaders, and closed the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

In June, the White House, without much fanfare, released the economic portion of the peace plan that promised tens of billions of dollars for the Palestinian economy if a political solution was reached. The Palestinians and their backers in the Arab world rejected it as unworkable.

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Our live coverage of the protests in Hong Kong has ended, but here’s what we know:

  • What happened: Protesters stormed and vandalized the legislative building in Hong Kong. These protesters broke away from the annual July 1 march that marks the anniversary of when Hong Kong was given to China. There were other demonstrations that remained remained peaceful.
  • Why they were protesting: People were protesting a bill that would allow China to extradite Hong Kong citizens. Critics worry China would use the bill to prosecute people for political reasons and that it would erode freedoms people in Hong Kong have.
  • Where the bill stands now: The city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, speaking at a news conference, said that she doesn’t intend to continue debating the bill, and that it will expire in July 2020 at the end of the term.
  • What happens next: Protesters have made several demands — the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill is only one of them. They are also calling for Lam to step down as well as an investigation into police brutality, a retraction of the characterization of the protests as riots and the release of arrested protesters.

Asked why police left the legislative building before protesters broke in, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung cited several reasons including some of the lights getting turned off.

Here’s what he said:

  • The electrical box: He said some protesters were tampering with the electrical box, turning some of the lights off in the legislative building. The commissioner said he was worried about all the lights going off and a “wrong move” would be made on either side in the darkness.
  • Increase violence: Protesters started to use violent tactics to charge the inner doors while they were outside the main entrance, the commissioner said.
  • The “local environment:” He said that because police were inside the building, they were not able to use the same methods of force they would use to control the situation in a more open space.
  • Unknown chemicals: The commissioner described protesters throwing “white smoke” at officers. He said he was worried because 13 officers were hospitalized after “toxic powder attacks” on Monday afternoon.

Thirteen police officers have been hospitalized after clashes with protesters in Hong Kong on Monday, the city’s police commissioner said.

The commissioner told reporters a chemical powder was thrown at police, adding that the action “crosses a line.” 

“Hong Kong is a safe society and none of this violence is acceptable,” he said, adding, “Police had no choice but to retreat.”

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam strongly condemned Monday’s violent protests at the government headquarters.

“I hope the community at large will agree with us that with these violent acts that we have seen, it is right for us to condemn it and hope society will return to normal as soon as possible,” she told reporters.

Lam went on to describe the protests as “two completely different scenes: one was a peaceful and rational parade…the other one was a heartbreaking, shocking, and law-breaking scene.”

She also said they will take necessary legal action. 

Biorports’s Chandler Thornton contributed to this report.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam will hold a media briefing at police headquarters at 4 p.m. ET after a night of protests and police intervention across the city.

Several hundred, mostly young, activists were inside the Legislative Council building for hours before leaving late on Monday night.

Inside, they spray-painted slogans in Cantonese on the walls of the legislative chamber, tore down portraits and raised a black banner, that read: “There is no way left,” mounting an open challenge to China and Lam.

Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legislator in Hong Kong, said protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council building are angry and frustrated with their government.

“They’re not inside that legislature doing all that vandalizing for fun. They were angry,” she told Biorports’s Hala Gorani.

While Mo did not condone the vandalism, she said she sympathized with protesters.

“All the pictures you are seeing are shocking and they are unexpected, but then I hope the world wouldn’t just blame the young. You have to understand their temper, anger and frustration and resentment, hostility in particular against this legislature, which is just a rubber-stamping body. It’s a rubber-stamping body because it’s being dominated by Beijing minions and they outnumber the Democrats like myself included,” she said.

Mo called on the city’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam to come out “sincerely and genuinely” to address residents “as soon as possible.”

A group of protesters stormed the Hong Kong government headquarters on Monday.

They smashed glass doors, pried open metal shutters to enter the building and spray-painted slogans on the walls of the Legislative Council chamber.

This is what the damage looked like:

Protesters smash glass doors and windows of the Legislative Council complex on July 01, 2019 in Hong Kong.
Protesters smash glass doors and windows of the Legislative Council complex on July 01, 2019 in Hong Kong. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images
The portrait of Andrew Leung, the chairman of the Legislative Council, is destroyed after protesters broke into the parliament chamber of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019.
The portrait of Andrew Leung, the chairman of the Legislative Council, is destroyed after protesters broke into the parliament chamber of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on July 1, 2019. PHILIP FONG/bioreports/Getty Images
Protesters spray-paint graffiti on a sign at the Legislative Council building on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong.
Protesters spray-paint graffiti on a sign at the Legislative Council building on July 1, 2019 in Hong Kong. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

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