June 22, 2019

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to unveil his "peace to prosperity" plan at an international conference in Bahrain next week. But Reuters got an early look at the economic half of the Trump administration's effort to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Here are the key elements of the plan which can only take place if a political solution is reached:

Economic revival — The total plan costs $50 billion with more than half going to Palestinian territories over ten years. The rest would be split between Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Tourism — Nearly a billion dollars are allocated for Palestine's tourism industry specifically. Though Reuters points out that the tenuous security situation in the West Bank might mean that part of the plan is impractical — at least, that is, until a political solution is reached.

Travel corridor — Kushner's proposed investment fund would be administered by a "multilateral development bank," which would reportedly launch a signature project to construct a travel corridor for Palestinian use that would cross Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza, including a highway and, possibly, a rail line.

Kushner is optimistic about the plan, which he says would create a million jobs in the West Bank and Gaza, but the Palestinians have criticized it, and, Reuters reports, most foreign investors will likely steer clear for now. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

June 8, 2019

David M. Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel told The New York Times that Israel has a right to annex at least some, but "unlikely all," of the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to begin annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which would violate international law and could serve as a blow to any prospect of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Much of the world considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal, the Times reports, and many critics fear that annexation would foment violence and require military occupation of urban areas of Palestine for the first time in decades. But, in the past, Friedman criticized the Obama administration for allowing the United Nations to pass a 2016 resolution which condemned the Israeli settlements.

Friedman did not say how the U.S. would respond if Israel did decided to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, adding that he does not want to "prejudge" such a situation. "We really don't have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves," he said. In the interview, Friedman also spoke about the Trump administration's peace plan, the first phase of which appears to be tied to economic development in Palestine. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 13, 2018

Conflict between Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip is at its most intense since 2014, The Associated Press reports.

The IDF estimate Hamas has launched about 400 rockets since Monday, and Israeli strikes have reportedly hit around 100 targets in Gaza, including the building housing Hamas's television station. Six Palestinians have been killed in this round of strikes, though reports vary as to how many were militants. Another two dozen people have been wounded, and one Israeli civilian has also died.

U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Twitter Monday reiterated U.S. support for Israel against Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. "Terrorists in Gaza are again attacking Israel with tools of war," he wrote. "These rocket & mortar attacks on Israeli towns must be condemned by all. Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks."

Truce negotiations facilitated by the United Nations, Egypt, and Qatar are underway, and further escalation is expected if they are derailed by this week's violence. Bonnie Kristian

September 10, 2018

The Palestine Liberation Organization office in the nation's capital is closing.

In announcing the closure Monday, the State Department said that the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel," reports The Washington Post. The move escalates the growing disharmony between the Trump administration and Palestinian leaders, who called the office's shuttering a vicious display of "collective punishment."

U.S. officials previously angered Palestine by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opening a new embassy in the city, and by significantly rolling back aid to Palestinian refugees. "These people have decided to stand on the wrong side of history by protecting war criminals and destroying the two-state solution,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the U.S. still wants to see Israel and Palestine work to find a "way forward" through direct negotiations. The PLO office's closure represents the last of any symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in Washington, reports Axios. The office functions as an embassy in D.C., though the U.S. does not recognize a Palestinian state.

"PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” the statement from the State Department said. PLO officials accused the Trump administration of attempting to irreversibly damage the U.S.'s role in two-state negotiations. The office will close by Oct. 10. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

June 24, 2018

The Trump administration will soon debut its Israel-Palestine peace plan, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said in an interview published Sunday by Al-Quds, an Arabic language newspaper.

The proposal will be released with or without feedback from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he announced. Abbas has refused to meet with Kushner during his trip to the Middle East this past week. "If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage," Kushner said. "If he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly."

The Al-Quds article offered some hints as to what the plan might entail. Kushner "mentioned nothing about a sovereign Palestinian state or of Palestinian refugees," The New York Times reports, and "also did not mention Israeli settlements on the West Bank or using the 1967 lines as a starting point to draw borders; and nothing about East Jerusalem serving as the Palestinian capital." Bonnie Kristian

June 13, 2018

The Trump administration is putting the final touches on its plan to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, will travel to the Middle East next week with international negotiations representative Jason Greenblatt, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The trip to Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia will be an opportunity to discuss "the next stages of the peace efforts" in the region, the White House said, and to finalize a plan that will reportedly be released in August. Kushner and Greenblatt will not visit any Palestinian cities, reports AP, in part because Palestinian leaders are boycotting talks with U.S. officials over accusations of bias.

Greenblatt, the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization, publicly clashed with Palestine's chief negotiator this week, publishing an op-ed in an Israeli newspaper to condemn his "false claims" and accuse him of making a potential peace agreement more difficult.

Kushner, for his part, was a prominently visible figure in the controversial embassy-opening ceremony in Jerusalem last month, where the U.S. unveiled the new facility while protests raged along the Gaza Strip. Nearly 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire, as demonstrators protested the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim, as the capital of Israel. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

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