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Trump Announces Middle East Peace Plan


President Trump is praising Israel for taking what he calls a bold step towards peace. Trump announced his peace plan today alongside Israel's prime minister. Missing is any input from Palestinians. They have cut contact with the Trump administration because they say it has taken pro-Israel steps that damage the chances for a Palestinian state. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Trump administration has dubbed it the deal of the century. Critics see it as a PR stunt to distract from Trump's impeachment and the bribery charges facing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both men were on hand for a White House ceremony with three Arab ambassadors, top U.S. officials and supporters of Trump's pro-Israel policies.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All prior administrations from President Lyndon Johnson have tried and bitterly failed, but I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems.

KELEMEN: His plan includes a lot that had the audience cheering.


TRUMP: Under this vision, Jerusalem will remain Israel's undivided - very important - undivided capital.

KELEMEN: Prime Minister Netanyahu says past plans have tried to pressure Israel to give up control of the Jordan Valley and other strategic areas.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Rather than pay easy lip service to Israel's security and simply shut your eyes, hope for the best, you recognize that Israel must have sovereignty in places that enable Israel to defend itself by itself.

KELEMEN: He says he's ready to negotiate with the Palestinians on the basis of Trump's plan, which he calls a great plan for Israel. It would give Israel security control, even over Palestinian areas. And the U.S. ambassador said Israel could apply sovereignty over parts of the West Bank even now before Palestinians agree to anything. Trump says he's done a lot for Israel.


TRUMP: Therefore, it is only reasonable that I have to do a lot for the Palestinians, or it just wouldn't be fair. Now, don't clap for that, OK? But it's true.

KELEMEN: Trump has cut off aid to the Palestinians but says his vision for peace would lead to foreign investment, ending, as he puts it, the cycle of Palestinian dependency on charity and foreign aid. A former legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority, Diana Buttu, says Trump has simply been working through Netanyahu's wish list.

DIANA BUTTU: There is a sense that this is not even worth anybody's time, both because the ideas that are being presented are ludicrous and illegal, but also that this is just Trump fulfilling Netanyahu's dreams. That's it - and really trying to get him reelected.

KELEMEN: Trump's plan does call for a Palestinian state and a capital in eastern Jerusalem, though Buttu says that means in some suburbs.

BUTTU: When you dig deeper, you see that what they're talking about is just a piece of land that has no control over its airspace, no control over its borders, no control over its natural resources, with Israel able to control the movement and entry of people and goods. That's not a state.

KELEMEN: A former U.S. Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller, gives the administration credit for offering a detailed plan.

AARON DAVID MILLER: Problem is if the details don't come out in a way that renders this fair and reasonable, meeting the needs and requirements of both sides, it's going to fail. And I suspect as a basis for negotiations anytime soon, the chances of this moving forward are probably slim to none.

KELEMEN: Miller, now with the Carnegie Endowment, says this was a chance, though, to help Netanyahu in the runup to another round of elections.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALEKSI PERALA'S "NI-L56-18-07384") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.