US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a joint address at the White House Tuesday afternoon.
“Today Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Trump said at the start of his remarks. “Young people across the Middle East are ready for a more hopeful future, and governments throughout the region are realizing that terrorism and Islamic extremism are everyone’s common enemy.”
“Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with both the prime minister of Israel and a man that’s working very hard to become the prime minister of Israel in the longest-running election of all time, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party. And both leaders joined me to express their support for this effort, proving that the State of Israel is looking for peace, and that peace transcends politics by any measure,” Trump added.
The president said that he was “deeply moved and amazed by what the small country [of Israel] had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds.”
“The State of Israel comprises only a minuscule amount of land in the Middle East, and yet it has become a thriving center of democracy, innovation, culture, and commerce. Israel is a light unto the world,” Trump declared.
The president revealed details of his long-awaited ‘Deal of the Century’ for Middle East peace.
As part of his plan, Trump declared that Jerusalem would remain the “undivided capital” of Israel. However, he later stated that the Palestinian Arabs would have a capital in eastern Jerusalem.
He said that the plan also endorsed a Two-State solution.
He thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu for “having the courage” to make the concessions necessary for the deal.
He further stated that “no Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes.”
Trump promised that the plan would pose “no security risk” to Israel.
“We will not allow a return to the days of bus bombings, nightclub attacks, and relentless terror,” Trump said. “Peace requires compromise, but we will never ask Israel to compromise its security.”
He noted that he wanted the deal to benefit the Palestinian Arabs as well. “Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism.”
“Today’s agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own. After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity” for a Palestinian Arab state, he said.
He called on the Palestinian Authority to respect human rights, end its payments to terrorists, and fight terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Describing the concessions Israel would have to make, Trump called for a four-year freeze on construction of Israeli communities in the area earmarked for a Palestinian state under the plan.
Trump thanked Netanyahu, as well as the Arab states Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates for their assistance in drafting the plan.
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke after Trump. He thanked the president for his support for Israel.
“Your peace plan strikes a balance where other plans have failed,” Netanyahu told Trump. “With everything you’ve done for Israel, I’m not surprised. You are the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House.”
“This is an historic day, and it recalls another historic day [when President Truman recognized the State of Israel]. You will be remembered in history; you charted a brilliant future for Israelis and Palestinians,” Netanyahu added.
The prime minister stated that under the peace plan, Israel’s sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and other strategically vital parts of Judea and Samaria would be recognized.
In addition, all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would also be recognized as under Israeli sovereignty, including Biblical cities such as Hevron and Shiloh.
Netanyahu called Trump the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House, adding that “it’s not even close.”
He said that the ‘Deal of the Century’ “addresses the root cause of the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will finally have to recognize Israel as the Jewish State.”
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinian Authority “are genuine prepared to make peace with the Jewish State,” then Israel “would be prepared to negotiate peace right away.”
He agreed to “maintain the status quo” in areas not designated as part of Israel under the plan for four years, while applying sovereignty in the rest of the land.
Turning to Trump, Netanyahu said: “Like you, Mr President, I understand the magnitude of this moment. With you, Mr. President, I am prepared to seize the moment and change history.”
“Mr. President, your Deal of the Century is the opportunity of the century, and rest assured, Israel will not miss this opportunity.”
The plan is a basis for negotiations with Israel, Trump officials said, claiming many of the Palestinians’ red lines are met, including their calls for a Palestinian state and a capital in parts of East Jerusalem.
The vision calls for more than doubling the amount of territory the Palestinians control.
“This plan will double Palestinian territory and set the capital of the Palestinian state in eastern Jerusalem where the United States will happily open an embassy,” Trump said. “Our vision will end the cycle of Palestinian dependence on charity and foreign aid.”
The plan also includes a map of a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, with a proposed tunnel to connect the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There would also be land swaps south of Gaza to give the Palestinians more territory.
This is the first time Israel has agreed to a Palestinian state with defined borders.
A small strip of land between the Egyptian border and the proposed land swap areas south of Gaza would remain Israeli territory and be subject to Israeli security control. This was requested by Egypt as a buffer against cross-border terrorism.
As part of the plan, Israel has agreed to halt settlement construction for four years. But in one detail sure to provoke Palestinian objections, the plan recognizes Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the West Bank.
The plan calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state. Israel would maintain overall security, though it does create programs for the Palestinians to show the capability to secure their areas, including a local police force. The more the Palestinians show they can secure their areas and cooperate with Israel, the less Israel will have to do in terms of maintaining security, officials said.
Israel would maintain sovereignty of the Jordan Valley east of the West Bank, according to the proposal. Israel would also maintain the security of the area.
There is a plan that over time, Palestinians would be able to achieve some civil sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, like farming, officials said.
While the Palestinians have been negative toward the plan, White House officials said Trump believes they will begin to move toward it.
Both Netanyahu and his political challenger, Benny Gantz, have agreed to implement this plan, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming March 2 election.
The officials portrayed the plan as Israel agreeing to massive concessions without jeopardizing its security, amounting to a serious good-faith effort that Israel has agreed to negotiate. The officials said the plan is realistic and Israel is prepared to follow through with it.
They also argue that the Trump administration’s moves to relocate the embassy and recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan were important confidence-building measures that led to this plan.
The Palestinians, though, refuse to even speak to Trump, saying he’s biased in favor of Israel, and they are calling on Arab representatives to reject the Tuesday event at the White House. While Trump and Netanyahu were giving their comments, Palestinian leaders were meeting in the West Bank to discuss the plan.
The Palestinian leadership also has encouraged protests in the West Bank, raising fears that the announcement in Washington could spark a new round of violence. Ahead of the announcement, the Israeli military said it was reinforcing infantry troops along the Jordan Valley.
Hamas, the Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant organization that has waged war with Israel for decades, rejected the plan and called it a “theatrical presentation to sell illusions” in a comment to Fox News.
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