REG 200129 DAVID FRIEDMAN-1580317114998
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: US President Donald Trump has come up with a dramatic peace plan for the Palestinians, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday. David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, said during a telephonic press conference Wednesday that the plan was a real, documented offer for the formation a Palestinian state with defined borders and an agreement from the Israelis to keep this offer open for four years.

“The President has obtained a real documented offer to form a Palestinian state with defined borders .. No other [US] president has done that for the Palestinians,” Friedman said.

Friedman added President Donald Trump had obtained an agreement from the Israelis to keep this offer open for four years. “Now, in the world in which we live, no other offer has been kept open that long and this gives the Palestinians the opportunities they need to study this and to ideally rise to the occasion to sit at the table and try to make peace. I don’t think any other president has done more. To the extent that money is required ... we arranged a robust package of grants, loans and investments from the Gulf and from other countries,” Friedman told the briefing, which was also addressed by Avi Berkowitz, Assistant to the US President and Special Representative for International Negotiations and Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary of State.

Trump released his “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future” alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday at a White House gathering that was boycotted by Palestinian officials who have severed ties to the administration over its decision to recognise occupied Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump billed his initiative the most detailed yet after successive US administrations have tried and failed for years to settle the conflict.

Trump’s plan sets in motion a four-year timeline for the creation of a Palestinian state, with Palestinians first having to agree to halt attacks by Hamas which controls Gaza.

Palestinians should set up governing institutions in order to establish their state, likely to be similar to the current Palestinian National Authority, which has limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank. The Palestinian state would include stretches of land in the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast and two expanses of territory in Israel’s southern Negev desert. The West Bank and Gaza, 40 km apart, would be connected by a tunnel. The Palestinian capital would be set across several towns that border East Jerusalem.

Occupied Jerusalem would be Israel’s “undivided capital”.

The strategy would also see up to $50 billion invested in Palestinian-administered territories.

Friedman said it is for the first time that a president has actually defined some of the basic internal requirements for the Palestinian state’s rule of law, respect for human rights, freedom of religion, and a free press.

“As the US President said Tuesday, Israel has taken a giant step forward towards peace. For the first time in 53 years, ever since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians over the territory of the West Bank, the state of Israel has committed to the territorial dimensions and other conditions upon which Israel can live side by side with a Palestinian state,” Friedman said.

Friedman called the maps of the proposed Palestinian state “the most important page” of the US peace plan, which “shows precisely the territory that Israel wants to compromise for the sake of peace”.

He said the reaction from the region generally has been extraordinarily constructive and the US administration intends to make the case to the Palestinian people that the peace plan is in their best interest, and in the best interest of the region.

On guarantees to the Palestinians, Friedman said the Palestinians will have the opportunity to sit down with Israel and try to identify the issues that they would like to work out with the Israelis. “The Palestinians will be far better at the negotiating table.”

However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the Trump administration’s strategy “with a thousand no’s”, especially when it comes to the US proposal for an “undivided” Israeli capital in occupied Jerusalem and a separate Palestinian capital somewhere on the eastern outskirts of the holy city.

“Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale. Your conspiracy deal will not pass,” Abbas stated, warning that the Palestinian people will dump his plan “into the dustbin of history”.