The United States will not release the long-delayed political portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan before Israel’s elections next month, White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said on Wednesday.
The move, announced in a tweet by Greenblatt, keeps the plan’s details from becoming an issue in the election, in which the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US President Donald Trump, is at stake.
“We have decided that we will not be releasing the peace vision (or parts of it) prior to the Israeli election,” Greenblatt said on Twitter.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working behind the scenes on the plan to resolve the decades-old Israeli Palestinian conflict, although Palestinians, who say the Trump administration is too pro-Israel, say it is dead in the water. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.
A goal to raise tens of billions of dollars to fund the plan was announced earlier this year, but the political details have remained under wraps, with Kushner refusing to say even whether it would offer Palestinians a state of their own.
Trump on Monday had said the plan might be revealed before the Israeli election.
At a campaign rally on Wednesday, Netanyahu said he expected the US proposal would not be delayed for much longer.
“This evening we learned that President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ would be published and presented to the world after the election. I can reasonably estimate that it will happen very soon after the election,” Netanyahu said.
Trump’s Middle East team, including Kushner, had wanted to roll out the plan during the summer but Netanyahu’s failure to put together a governing coalition after April elections prompted a delay.
Netanyahu now faces a fresh vote on September 17 and, if successful, will try again to form a coalition.
Announcing a peace plan before September 17 could have complicated a tight race in which Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and its strongest rival – Blue and White, led by former armed forces chief Benny Gantz – are running neck and neck in the polls.
Netanyahu has praised Trump policy moves such as the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its annexation of the occupied Golan Heights.
But any perceived concessions towards the Palestinians in the peace plan in the run-up to a ballot only three weeks away could have harmed Netanyahu’s chances of remaining in office.
Netanyahu has campaigned for votes partly by highlighting his close relationship with Trump, whom he has featured on election billboards.
“Who do you want to negotiate with President Trump on the ‘deal of the century’?” Netanyahu asked the crowd at Wednesday’s rally. “Me, at the head of a right-wing and Likud government, or Gantz and (Blue and White co-leader Yair) Lapid?
“That’s the question in this election, because we will be faced, full force, with the (peace) issue in a few weeks’ time.”
Economic part of US peace plan
The White House in June announced the economic piece of the Trump peace plan and sought support for it at a conference of global finance ministers in Bahrain, which was boycotted by the Palestinians.
It proposes a $50bn investment plan that would create a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighbouring Arab state economies, and fund a five-billion-dollar transportation corridor to connect the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Gulf leaders, however, want to see details of the political plan before signing on to the economic plan.
Palestinian leaders said the gathering avoided a political settlement based on a two-state solution, describing it as an attempt by the US administration and some of its allies in the region to “liquidate” the Palestinian cause.
Kushner has said his plan will not mention a two-state solution because “it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians”, despite the notion of a two-state solution being the bedrock of talks in the past.
In an interview earlier this year with Al Jazeera, Kushner offered a glimpse of what the political process could look like.
“I think we all have to recognise that if there ever is a deal, it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab peace initiative. It will be somewhere between the Arab peace initiative and somewhere between the Israeli position,” he said.
“And we need to think about what are the fundamental things that are underlying and important. Number one is security. I think that the Israeli population and the Palestinian population and the broader Middle East right now cares about having security.
“The more security you have, the more you can have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people. I know that’s a very big issue for the Palestinians.”
But Palestinian leaders rejected Kushner’s plan long before its initial debut for several other reasons.
The Palestinian leadership says the US cannot be an honest peace broker in negotiations with the Israeli side and has since refused to engage with the Trump administration.