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Trump to Unveil Middle East Peace Plan 01/28 06:49

   President Donald Trump is set to unveil his administration's 
much-anticipated Middle East peace plan in the latest American venture to 
resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is set to unveil his 
administration's much-anticipated Middle East peace plan in the latest American 
venture to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

   Odds of it taking shape, though, appear long, given the Palestinians' 
preemptive rejection of the plan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu's shaky political standing. 

   For both men, the White House summit looks to be a welcome diversion. 

   Trump is expected to present the proposal alongside Netanyahu at noon 
Tuesday. The event comes the day Trump's impeachment trial continues in the 
Senate and the Israeli parliament had planned a hearing to discuss Netanyahu's 
request for immunity from criminal corruption charges. 

   Netanyahu withdrew that request hours before the parliamentary proceedings 
were set to begin, saying in a statement he had "decided not to let this dirty 
game continue." But Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is still expected to meet 
even after the withdrawal. The body had been set to likely vote against 
immunity, dealing Netanyahu a blow. 

   The Mideast peace proposal is expected to be very favorable to Israel, and 
Netanyahu has hailed it as a chance to "make history" and define Israel's final 
borders. Netanyahu's political challenger Benny Gantz has spoken in glowing 
terms about Trump and his initiative. Trump insists it has a chance despite 
skepticism.

   "It's been worked on by everybody, and we'll see whether or not it catches 
hold. If it does, that would be great, and if it doesn't, we can live with it, 
too. But I think it might have a chance," Trump said alongside Netanyahu on 
Monday, when he also hosted Gantz at the White House.

   A key element will be whether the proposal includes an American approval to 
any Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

   In the run-up to Israel's March 2 election, Netanyahu has called for 
annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its 
settlements there. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and 
the Jordan Valley in particular is considered a vital security asset.

   Reports in Israeli media have speculated Trump's plan could include the 
possible annexation of large pieces of territory that the Palestinians seek for 
a future independent state. American approval could give Netanyahu the type of 
cover to go ahead with a move that he's resisted taking for more than a decade 
in power.

   But Netanyahu leads a caretaker government ahead of the country's third 
election in less than a year, and such a far-reaching move, under the cloud of 
criminal corruption indictment no less, could lack public legitimacy.

   Such a policy shift would appeal to Netanyahu's hard-line nationalist 
supporters but would almost certainly torpedo the viability of an independent 
Palestinian state and likely infuriate neighboring Jordan. In 1994, Israel and 
Jordan signed a peace treaty, the second between Israel and its Arab neighbors 
after Egypt.

   The Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent 
state and east Jerusalem as their capital. Most of the international community 
supports their position, but Trump has reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy 
by siding more blatantly with Israel. The centerpiece of his strategy was 
recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the American Embassy 
there. He's also closed Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cut 
funding to Palestinian aid programs.

   Those policies have proven popular among Trump's evangelical and pro-Israel 
supporters and could give him a much-needed boost from his base as the Senate 
weighs whether to remove him from office and as he gears up for a reelection 
battle this year.

   Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and the Republican president's son-in-law, 
has been the architect for the plan for nearly three years. He's tried to 
persuade academics, lawmakers, former Mideast negotiators, Arab governments and 
special-interest groups not to reject his fresh approach outright.

   But the Palestinians refuse to even speak to Trump, calling him biased in 
favor of Israel, and they are calling on Arab representatives to reject the 
Tuesday event at the White House. The Palestinian leadership has also 
encouraged protests in the West Bank, raising fears that the announcement in 
Washington could spark a new round of violence.


(KR)

 
 
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