WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed creating a Palestinian state as part of a Middle East peace solution, drawing Palestinian condemnation for imposing strict conditions and for agreeing to let Israel maintain control of long-contested West Bank settlements.
Trump announced his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace at a White House event with embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing at his side. It includes what Trump called a four-year freeze by Israel on new settlement activity.
Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, the plan he advanced favored Israel, underscored by the absence of Palestinians from Trump’s announcement.
It seemed unlikely to immediately advance Israeli-Palestinian talks that broke down in 2014, but the plan was called “an important starting point for a return to negotiations” by the United Arab Emirates. Egypt also offered an encouraging statement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, mocked what Trump has called the “deal of the century,” describing it as the “slap of the century.”
Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at pro-Israel policies such as moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is sought by the Palestinians.
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Trump set in motion a four-year timeline for Palestinians to agree to a security arrangement with Israel, halt attacks by the Islamist militant group Hamas and set up governing institutions in order to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in Abu Dis, a part of east Jerusalem.
This too poses a potential problem for Palestinians.
Abu Dis lies a mile east of Jerusalem’s walled Old City, home to Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites. Palestinians living in Abu Dis are cut off by a high concrete Israeli security wall and checkpoints.
The site is unlikely to satisfy Palestinian leaders who want a more central location. Trump’s plan says this barrier should serve as a border between the capitals of the two states, adding that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided, sovereign capital.