Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

Trump made the comments to reporters on Air Force One. (AP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

  • Said his administration talked briefly to the Palestinians
  • Plan is expected to strongly favor Israel

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.


UAE officially asks to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai

Updated 27 min 9 sec ago

UAE officially asks to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai

  • Dubai had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the multi-billion-dollar, six-month event

DUBAI: The UAE has officially requested to postpone the start of the Expo 2020 Dubai until October next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the body that oversees the world fair said Saturday.
Dubai had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the multi-billion-dollar, six-month event, which was scheduled to launch October 20 this year.
“The government of the United Arab Emirates has formally requested the postponement of World Expo 2020 Dubai,” the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions said in a statement.
“Following consultations with the BIE, participating countries and key stakeholders, the UAE has proposed 1 October 2021 — 31 March 2022 as the new opening dates of Expo 2020 Dubai.”
The UAE government also requested approval to continue using Expo 2020 Dubai as the event’s official name.
The BIE said it would hold a virtual meeting on April 21 to discuss “options for a change of dates.”
“The request of the UAE government has been sent following in-depth discussions by the Expo 2020 Dubai steering committee with the organizer and the BIE on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
“A final decision on a change of dates can only be made by a two-thirds majority vote of BIE member states.”
Dubai, known for hosting hundreds of conferences annually, has already scrapped a string of cultural and entertainment events in recent weeks over the spread of the deadly disease.
Expo 2020 organizers said on Monday they had recommended a one-year postponement due to the pandemic.
“Many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have therefore expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year,” Expo 2020 Dubai director-general Reem Al-Hashimi said in a statement.
“The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, we supported the proposal to explore a one-year postponement.”
The UAE has reported 1,505 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. It has enforced extensive lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease including an ongoing nighttime curfew.