Israeli officials abuzz over report on Trump’s peace plan


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The White House quickly denied an Israeli TV news report that claimed to reveal “key principles” of a U.S. plan for Israeli Palestinian peace. But that has not kept Israeli officials from reacting to it.

Israel’s Hadashot news reported Saturday night that the Trump administration’s peace plan will recognize a Palestinian state, but will not insist Israel uproot any settlements in the West Bank. It also said Washington backs most of Israel’s security demands.

According to the report, Trump would “not necessarily” ask Israel to negotiate based on its borders from before the 1967 Six-Day War, when it conquered the West Bank.

Hadashot quoted what it said were senior Israelis involved in the ongoing discussions with Trump’s peace team. It said the plan would be presented within months.

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In response to the report, a White House official told Hadashot news it was “speculative” and “not necessarily accurate.” The source said “a lot of ideas” are being considered as part of a novel approach to peace and that no artificial deadline or terms would be imposed on the parties.

As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report said he was pushing for Israel to maintain security control over all of the West Bank — something he has publicly demanded. It said Netanyahu told his ministers that Israel could not afford to reject Trump’s peace deal, which would be the best offer the Jewish state would ever get.

Indeed, no previous president has agreed to let Israel leave the settlers in place, and former U.S. President Barak Obama said peace negotiations should be based on the 1967 lines. But Trump has previously said he was not wedded to the two-state solution.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded Saturday that Hadashot report is “not accurate.”

On Sunday, Netanyahu said he would react to the plan based on Israel’s “security and national interests,” which he said Washington already understood. According to Israel’s Channel 10 TV news, Netanyahu also said that Israel would not negotiate with the Palestinians as long as Hamas is allied with Fatah. The two Palestinian groups have been moving toward reconciliation.

Despite the American and Israeli denials of the report, several Israeli ministers and lawmakers made clear they would not abide Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel pledged to leave the governing coalition over the issue, and suggested lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich, the other member of the extreme faction of the hawkish Jewish Home party, would join him.

Although the two men could not bring down the government, Ariel said other members of Jewish Home and the ruling Likud party who have “made clear that they will not agree to transfer swaths of land to the Palestinian Authority.”

As co-chairs of the Knesset lobby for the Land of Israel, Smotrich and Likud lawmaker Yoav Kisch said that “under no circumstances will we agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on this side of the Jordan river,” meaning in the West Bank.

Hadashot reported that the peace plan will not address moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem or U.S., as Trump promised during his presidential campaign, or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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