Netanyahu Foresees ‘History’ Being Made With Trump This Week; Hamas Pledges More Terror

By Patrick Goodenough | January 27, 2020 | 4:31am EST
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board their flight to Washington on Sunday. (Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board their flight to Washington on Sunday. (Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon)

( – Ahead of the unveiling of the Trump administration’s long-delayed Mideast peace proposal, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left Israel for Washington on Sunday speaking about an extraordinary moment in his country’s history, even as Hamas pledged to use “all means of resistance” to foil a plan Palestinians view as heavily weighted in Israel’s favor.

Speaking before flying out of Tel Aviv, Netanyahu contrasted his visit to one in March 2015, when he addressed the U.S. Congress to voice strong opposition to another plan put forward by an American president – the Iran nuclear deal.

“Five years ago, I went to the Congress in Washington because I was compelled to stand up against a plan brought by an American president, because I believed such a plan would endanger the vital interests of the State of Israel and its very existence,” he said.

“Today, I leave for Washington to stand alongside an American president, who is offering a plan, which I believe will advance our vital interests.”

Netanyahu called President Trump “a huge friend of Israel,” and added that, “On Tuesday, together with him, we will make history.”

In a statement a day earlier, Netanyahu characterized the peace proposal as momentous, saying that he was “full of hope that we are on the verge of a historic moment in the annals of our state.”

Also due in Washington is Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main rival in the March general election, Israel’s third in a year marked by political turmoil and corruption charges facing the prime minister.

Exactly how events will unfold remains to be seen, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s schedule has him joining Trump for a meeting with Netanyahu on Monday morning, then for a separate one with Gantz an hour later, ahead of Tuesday’s program.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday the Mideast plan would likely be released ahead of the Israelis’ arrival.

He also conceded that the Palestinians would probably react “negatively” initially although, he said, “it’s actually very positive for them.”

Palestinian leaders have not been invited to Tuesday’s events.

Speculation about the plan’s contents has been rife. Nothing has been confirmed, but rumored elements include:

--Israel’s extension of sovereignty over all Israeli settlements located in territory disputed between Israel and the Palestinians

--Israel’s maintaining of security control over, and possibly its annexation of, the strategic Jordan Valley

--Jerusalem would not be redivided (as it was from 1948-1967)

--The Islamic holy sites would maintain their autonomous status

--A demilitarized Palestinian state would be recognized, comprising Gaza and parts of the West Bank, linked by a special freeway

Hamas, the Iran-backed Islamist group that controls Gaza, vowed to do all in its power to ensure the plans fail.

“It is time for status quo to be changed and Palestinian rights to be restored through a new phase of the struggle against the Israeli occupation, injustice, and aggression in which all means of resistance have to be used to foil such plans,” it said in a statement on Sunday.

“Resistance” in Hamas parlance includes acts of terrorism.

The U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, and rocket attacks since the interim Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993.

The Palestinian Authority – the self-rule administration set up under the Oslo accords – is also signaling opposition to the U.S. proposals.

The P.A. froze communication with Washington after Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognized the city as Israel’s capital in late 2017.

“We warn Israel and the U.S. administration not to cross any red lines,” P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said of the imminent unveiling of the plan.

Jordan balks

How the key Sunni Arab states – especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – respond to the proposals will be closely watched. The former two have been largely quiet, but Jordan is particularly unhappy about the rumor the plan could include Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley.

The Jordan Valley is a strip of territory running north to south adjoining the international border. To its east lies Jordan, and beyond that Iraq, and then Iran.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, before flying to Washington. (Photo: GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, before flying to Washington. (Photo: GPO)

Israeli governments have long argued that maintaining a military buffer there will be vital for the nation’s future security. Indeed Gantz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, pledged while campaigning last year that under a government led by him, “The Jordan Valley will remain our eastern security border.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned in a statement that Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would “destroy the peace process.” Jordan signed a full peace agreement with Israel in 1994.

Another potential tinderbox – again, not confirmed – is a rumor that the U.S. plan envisages the oversight of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem to be transferred from Jordan to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi king is “custodian” of the religion’s two most revered sites, in Mecca and Medina.

The Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City is regarded as Islam’s third holiest, and custodianship has been in the hands of Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty for the past century. The 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty underscores the “the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem.”


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