If we summarize everything we know so far about U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, it sounded last week to most people, both Jews and Arabs, something like this: This is a final offer whose details will be studied by a committee. This is the absolute final offer to the Palestinians before negotiations begin, and the status quo won’t change for four years. Meanwhile, Israel is already annexing territory.
– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 59
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Confused? Reading the transcript of Trump’s speech at the White House on Tuesday will confuse you even more. Here are seven points from the speech that should be scrutinized, especially considering the many contradictions about annexation.
1. Trump said Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz told him in Washington that they are “willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations.” That is, the plan could change during negotiations; it’s not really final.
This was also underscored by the head of the White House plan, Jared Kushner, who said a number of times that the Palestinians are still invited to discuss the details of the plan with the United States. This directly contradicts the declarations that Washington will immediately recognize Israeli sovereignty in the territories. What exactly will there be negotiations on with the Palestinians if not percentages of territory? After all, that’s the key issue.
2. The Americans’ position on immediate annexation was already known; all Netanyahu had to do was listen to Trump’s speech as he stood alongside him. The president said Tuesday: “We will form a joint committee with Israel to convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”
The joint committee was thus specifically mentioned in that speech; Netanyahu’s statements immediately thereafter at a press conference – that he would bring an annexation proposal to the cabinet Sunday or Tuesday – weren’t the result of confusion or a misunderstanding, as he tried to explain it later.
A boy jumps on a trampoline as an Israeli soldier stands guard in the Israeli-controlled part of Hebron, March 7, 2019.AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
3. On the other hand, Trump did say that the United States “will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory that my vision provides to be part of the State of Israel,” adding dramatically that this is “very important.” That is, the United States is prepared to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the territories, but only subject to the work of the committee that would determine the final borders.