US President Donald Trump has presented his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, promising to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
He proposed a two-state solution and said no Israelis or Palestinians would be uprooted from their homes.
Standing alongside Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, Mr Trump said his plan “could be the last opportunity” for Palestinians.
Palestinians have already all but rejected the leaked proposals.
The blueprint, which has been shrouded in secrecy, was drafted under the stewardship of President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Branded by some as the “deal of the century”, the plan aims to solve one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
Thousands of Palestinians protested in the Gaza Strip earlier on Tuesday, while the Israeli military deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank.
“Today, Israel takes a big step towards peace,” Mr Trump said.
“Palestinians are in poverty and violence, exploited by those seeking to use them as pawns to advance terrorism and extremism. They deserve a far better life.”
After holding talks with Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the president as “the greatest friend that Israel has had in the White House”.
“The deal of the century is the opportunity of a century, and we’re not going to pass it by,” he said.
Israeli officials said Mr Netanyahu would fly to Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the proposals with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz, who also met Mr Trump on Monday, called the plan “a significant and historic milestone”.
Palestinian leaders rejected the plan in advance, saying it sought to impose permanent Israeli rule over the West Bank.
“The US administration will not find a single Palestinian who supports this project,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “Trump’s plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership over the plan on Tuesday night.
The Palestinians broke off contacts with the Trump administration in December 2017, after Mr Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.
Since then, the US has ended both bilateral aid for Palestinians and contributions for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
And in November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US had abandoned its four-decades-old position that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were inconsistent with international law.
The Arab League will convene an urgent meeting on Saturday.
What are the issues at stake?
Of all the conflicts in the Middle East, that between Israel and the Palestinians has been the most intractable. Although the two sides signed a breakthrough peace accord in 1993, more than a quarter of a century on the two sides are arguably as far apart as ever.
Jerusalem: Both Israel and the Palestinians hold competing claims to the city. Israel, which occupied the formerly Jordanian-held eastern part in 1967, regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians insist on East Jerusalem – home to about 350,000 of their community – as the capital of a hoped-for independent state.
Palestinian statehood: The Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israeli prime ministers have publicly accepted the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but not what form it should take. Benjamin Netanyahu has said any Palestinian state should be demilitarised with the powers to govern itself but not to threaten Israel.
Recognition: Israel insists that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of it as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, arguing that without this Palestinians will continue to press their own national claims to the land, causing the conflict to endure. The Palestinians says what Israel calls itself is its own business, but to recognise it as the Jewish state will discriminate against Israel’s Arab population of Palestinian origin, who are Muslims, Christians and Druze.
Borders: Both sides have fundamentally different ideas as to where the boundaries of a potential Palestinian state should be. The Palestinians insist on borders based on ceasefire lines which separated Israel and East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza between 1949 and 1967. Israel says those lines are militarily indefensible and were never intended to be permanent. It has not said where borders should be, other than making clear its own eastern border should be along the Jordan River.
Settlements: Since 1967, Israel has built about 140 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 121 outposts – settlements built without the government’s authorisation. They have become home to some 600,000 Israeli Jews. Settlements are considered illegal by most of the international community, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians say all settlements must be removed for a Palestinian state to be viable. Mr Netanyahu has vowed not only to never to uproot any settlements but to bring them under Israeli sovereignty.
Refugees: The UN says its agencies support about 5.5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East (the Palestinian Authority says there are up to 6 million), including the descendants of people who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces from what became Israel in the 1948-49 war. Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says they are not entitled to, noting that such a move would overwhelm it demographically and lead to its end as a Jewish state.
100 years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Key moments*
- Nov 2019: Trump administration says it no longer considers Israeli settlements in occupied territory as inconsistent with international law, putting the US at odds with most of international community
- Dec 2017: Donald Trump announces US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – Palestinians cut off relations with Trump administration
- April 2014: Last round of direct Israel-Palestinian peace talks collapse amid acrimony
- Sept 2000- Feb 2005: Second Palestinian uprising
- Sept 1993: Israel-Palestinians sign Oslo peace accords, agreeing framework for eventual peace deal; 20 years of on-off peace talks – and violence – follow
- Dec 1987-Sept 1993: First Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation
- June 1967: Middle East war – Israel occupies East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip; years of hostility and bloodshed follow; UN Security Council Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied in recent conflict” and recognises the right of “every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”
- May 1948: British Mandate for Palestine terminates; Israeli statehood declared, Arab countries invade, conflict creates 700,000 Palestinian refugees; 800,000 Jews expelled or flee from Arab countries in wake
- Nov 1947: UN recommends partitioning Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states – Jewish leadership in Palestine accept, Arab leadership reject; violence between two sides escalates
- July 1922: League of Nations entrusts Britain as Mandatory power to put terms of Balfour Declaration into effect
- Dec 1917: British forces conquer and occupy Palestine; in years that follow, violence between Jews and Arabs increases
- Nov 1917: Britain (fighting Ottoman Empire in WWI) issues “Balfour Declaration” expressing support for Jewish “national home” in Palestine on condition that the rights of non-Jewish communities there are not prejudiced
- Pre-1917: Turkish Ottoman Empire rules over Jewish and Arab communities in geographical area referred to as Palestine, the Holy Land or (by Jews) the Land of Israel
* entries are selective and abridged
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