(Jerusalem, Israel) — Stunning most Mideast analysts and pundits, President Trump says he will unveil his “Deal of the Century” peace plan next week. And he will also host a high profile, high stakes meeting with two senior Israeli leaders at the White House on Tuesday.
“It’s a great plan,” the President said aboard Air Force One, heading to Florida. “It’s a plan that really would work.”
Here’s what we know at this hour:
- Pence issued invitations to Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz while he was in Jerusalem on Thursday. (note: more details in the Pence visit tomorrow.)
- Pence said Gantz was invited at the recommendation of Netanyahu.
- Pence made the announcement while on his first visit to the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.
- Pence is now the highest ranking American official to visit the new Embassy.
- White House goal by including Gantz: to create the widest possible acceptance of the plan from across the Israeli political spectrum.
- Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz — two of the architects of the plan — were supposed to be in Israel this week for the World Holocaust Forum that drew top leaders from 50 countries.
- Both canceled their trip at the last moment. Media speculation suggested the cancellation meant the plan’s release wasn’t imminent. But just the opposite was true.
- Leaks throughout the Israeli media purport to have bombshell details contained in the plan — but for the moment it’s all speculation and rumor.
- Palestinian leaders are seething — one said, “No Palestinian can accept this dangerous conspiracy.”
- A livid Mahmoud Abbas said: “We warn Israel and the U.S. administration not to cross any red lines.”
- Very few of the 50 world leaders who came to Israel this week visited Abbas.
- In a sad and likely self-defeating move they may come to regret, Palestinian leaders have for more than a year shut down all contact with the White House and have done nothing to negotiate with the Trump administration and try to improve how the deal may affect them.
- Nevertheless, Trump says of his deal, “it’s actually very positive for them (the Palestinian people).
Three big questions emerging:
- First, will the vast majority of the Israeli people embrace the plan, or will it create new social and political divisions?
- Second, even though Abbas and his advisors will reject and denounce the plan, will any segment of the Palestinian people embrace it, or at least say that it is a reasonable starting point to begin negotiations?
- Third, how will the Gulf Arab states react? Egypt? Jordan? I’m watching these matters most closely of all.
“Some supporters of the U.S. administration’s broader Middle East policy are hesitant regarding the option of publishing it before the election,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Wednesday, before this news broke late Thursday night.
“Joel Rosenberg, a Jerusalem-based author and analyst who has made headlines in recent years for organizing high-profile meetings between U.S. evangelical leaders and Arab heads of state, tells Haaretz he thinks it would be wiser to publish the plan after the election.”
“Is there an upside to releasing the peace plan before the Israeli election in March? Perhaps, but I don’t see it,” Rosenberg says. He adds that, in his opinion, it would be better “to put the plan out immediately after the March 2 vote, but before anyone puts together a coalition. That way, the White House can’t be accused of interfering in the election, but it can still lay on the table core principles and key proposals that a new Israeli prime minister will absolutely need to take into account.”
That said, having decided to plow ahead and release the plan now, I will say it was a shrewd move by Trump and Pence to invite Gantz to the White House for the rollout. That will help blunt (though by no means eliminate) accusations that the White House is trying to boost Bibi’s re-election efforts.
Next week promises to be fascinating, controversial and historic. I’ll provide updates and analysis from here in Jerusalem on this blog. For up-to-minute-updates, please follow me on Twitter.
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