Fri, 21 Feb 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump says he plans to reveal his long-awaited Middle East peace plan by January 28 -- the day he is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.

'Probably we'll release it a little bit prior to [the visit],' Trump on January 23 told reporters traveling aboard board Air Force One as he returned from Switzerland en route to Florida.

'It's a great plan. It's a plan that really would work,' he added.

The Palestinians, who have not yet been invited to the White House meeting with Netanyahu, immediately condemned the announcement.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said: 'We warn Israel and the U.S. administration not to cross any red lines.'

'This step only reaffirms our absolute rejection of what the U.S. administration has done so far, particularly the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital,' the spokesman said.

Palestinians have been angered by what they perceive as the president's pro-Israel actions -- including transferring the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and declared the entire city as its capital, a move not recognized by the international community.

Trump has also not endorsed the two-state solution to the decades-long conflict -- the longtime international formula that would eventually see a Palestinian state co-existing with Israel.

The U.S. president said he has spoken 'briefly' with the Palestinians, who 'have a lot of incentive to do [a deal]. I'm sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it's actually very positive for them.'

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who met with Netanyahu at a Holocaust memorial ceremony in Israel, first confirmed that the Israeli prime minister had been invited to the United States.

Pence said that Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's rival in the upcoming election, had also been invited. Pence said Netanyahu had suggested that Gantz be invited and that he had accepted.

It also was not immediately clear if Trump planned to meet the two Israelis together or separately.

The White House said Trump discussed the timing of the plan's release with two senior advisers -- Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz -- on the flight back from Switzerland.

The launch of the peace plan has been delayed several times over the past two years.

In July 2019, Kushner proposed a $50 billion economic plan for the Middle East a conference in Bahrain as an initial element of the plan.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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