ADDS REMARKS BY SAEB EREKAT
JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH (AA) - U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday revealed three key elements of the U.S. administration’s backchannel Middle East peace plan known as the “Deal of the Century”.
Friedman is a member of a three-man team tasked with formulating the plan.
The team also includes Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump (and Trump’s son-in-law), and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy for the Middle East.
Addressing this week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, Friedman said that the plan would give Israel full security control over the occupied West Bank while also allowing Israel to maintain a permanent security presence in the Jordan Valley.
“Can we leave this to an administration that may not understand the need for Israel to maintain overriding security control of Judea and Samaria [i.e. the West Bank] and a permanent defense position in the Jordan Valley?” Friedman said at the conference.
Friedman also addressed Jerusalem, saying Trump did not want to leave the issue to a future U.S. administration that might not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city.
“For the first time in 2,000 years, Jerusalem has become a dynamic and prosperous city fully open to worshippers of all three faiths,” he said.
The current administration, he added, would continue to work with Israel, the Palestinians, and other regional players in pursuit of a final peace settlement.
Friedman also defended the Trump administration’s controversial position on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Israel’s questionable claim to which Trump officially recognized on Sunday.
“Without the high ground of the Golan, Israel is exposed to extraordinary risks from treacherous enemies,” he said.
Without the strategic Golan plateau, Friedman asserted, “Syria would be right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which provides 40 percent of Israel's fresh water”.
In a Wednesday tweet, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), responded to Friedman’s assertions.
“Annexation of the West Bank [by Israel] will be the next step. After that the recognition of the state of Gaza under Hamas flag. Hope for peace, no more,” Erekat said.
He added: “Trump, Netanyahu and their teams should look in the mirror every time a Palestinian or an Israeli is killed to know who is responsible.”
Erakat went on to cite a recent tweet by Aaron David Miller, a prominent American Middle East analyst, who said: “Based on Trump’s moves on Jerusalem and Golan, it’s clear he’s revolutionizing U.S. policy. Maybe parts of the West Bank are next.”
According to Kushner, the terms of the long-anticipated “Deal of the Century” will be unveiled next month following elections in Israel.