Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Israel's Netanyahu says Trump peace plan will be released after election

The Trump team has signalled that the political side of the plan will not include a two-state solution

In this March 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington. AP
In this March 25, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington. AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that US President Donald Trump’s much-vaunted plan for peace with the Palestinians will be released “immediately” after the country’s election later this month.

Mr Netanyahu, currently embroiled in a series of corruption cases, is battling for his political life again after failing to form a coalition after April’s election. The repeat election, scheduled for September 17, is unprecedented in Israeli history.

Speaking at a campaign event, he appeared to reveal the news in a bid to strengthen his appeal to voters weary of Israel’s longest-serving premier.

“Who do you want to be dealing with talks over the Deal of the Century of President [Donald] Trump, which will be coming in just a bit, immediately after the elections?” he asked supporters.

He proceeded to take aim at his key opponents in the election, saying that his positions on Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts were ones that would protect Israel.

No date has been set by either the US administration or Israel, but Mr Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt confirmed that the agreement would not be rolled out before the election, pouring water on speculation that the president might choose to roll it out ahead of the vote.

The Trump administration was to roll out the plan, which is believed not to include any mention of the two-state solution, months ago until the Israeli political shake-up took place.

Mr Netanyahu is planning to use his close friendship with Mr Trump as an election campaigning tool. He has previously used the US president on his election advertisements.

But he has called on other strategies too. The longtime leader launched a blistering assault on an Israeli TV channel, accusing it of tarnishing him, slandering the country and fomenting anti-Semitism. He also used the start of the new school year to pledge he will annex and expand Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu has increasingly turned to tactics favoured by his good friend President Donald Trump in recent years, taking aim at the media, prosecutors, judges and Israel's Arab minority to shore up the support of his base.

Mr Netanyahu's chief election challenger, Benny Gantz, said that with the targeting of journalists, "violence turns from being a question of 'if' into a question of 'when."' He called on Mr Netanyahu to desist "before it's too late."

He has also sought to project an image of strength with a series of strikes against Iranian targets across the Middle East, admitting to attacks in Syria and alluding to further strikes in Lebanon and Iraq.

With polls forecasting a similar outcome in the September 17 election, Mr Netanyahu has been increasingly seeking to bolster his base of religious and nationalistic voters.

He chose to open the new school year in the occupied West Bank settlement of Elkana, where he reaffirmed his pledge to annex Jewish settlements and never allow them to be removed again.

"We are building new homes here," he said to first grade students. "God willing, we will impose Israeli sovereignty in all the communities as part of the land of Israel and the state of Israel."

Such a move would be a sharp departure from long-standing Israeli government policy, which has been not to annex settlements even while expanding them, and undermines prospects for a future Palestinian state.

The Palestinians claim all of the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, as the heartland for a future independent state.

The international community considers all settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to be illegal, though the Trump administration has signaled that it might accept Israeli annexation of some occupied West Bank land.

Updated: September 4, 2019 03:38 PM

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