The White House is considering presenting President Trump's Middle East peace plan even if the crisis with the Palestinian Authority continues and Palestinian President Abbas refuses to come to the negotiating table, senior U.S. officials tell me.
The bottom line: The U.S. officials say the administration won't impose on the Israelis or Palestinians to accept the plan, but may release it so the parties and international community can judge it at face value.
The officials said no decisions were made yet in this regard but stressed the president and his "peace team" are not ruling out this option.
One senior U.S. official told me:
"Since it's not done, we haven’t decided yet how we are going to put it forward and what happens if one of the sides isn't ready to come to the table. We are not there yet. But we are very optimistic that all relevant countries who want to support a peace agreement between the two sides are still waiting for our plan, want to work with us and realize we cannot be replaced. Despite all of the false reports about our plan, we are confident it will be beneficial to both sides and both peoples."
The current standoff
After Trump's Jerusalem announcement on December 6th, Abbas announced he would cut ties with the U.S. over the peace process. The Palestinians also boycotted Vice President Pence's visit in the region.
- Abbas claimed Trump is not an honest broker and called his peace plan "the slap of the century".
- Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said he will react to the Trump plan after he sees it but stressed he is ready to renew peace talks.
The latest developments...
- U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt held a series of meetings with Netanyahu, his advisers and several ministers over the last two weeks. Greenblatt also met with opposition leader Hertzog and briefed EU member states representatives in Tel-Aviv and East Jerusalem. He did not meet with any Palestinian officials but met with Palestinian students and private sector executives.
- On Wednesday, Greenblatt participated in an emergency meeting of the donor countries to the Palestinian Authority. The meeting focused on the crisis in the peace process and on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also participated in the meeting. It was the first time senior Palestinian and U.S. officials were around the same table since the Jerusalem announcement. Greenblatt and Hamdallah shook hands but didn’t hold a meeting.
- In his speech during the plenary meeting, Greenblatt referred to Hamdallah and said he hopes that the fact he is participating shows the Palestinians are still committed to the efforts to renew the peace process. Greenblatt also said President Trump's announcement was just a recognition of reality and the connection of Israel and the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Greenblatt also said in his speech: "Did the President’s decision prejudge any final status issues? No. We have not taken a position on borders".
- Greenblatt stressed that the Trump administration continues drafting its peace plan and called on the Palestinians to return to the peace talks: "Peace will not be achieved by walking away from negotiations. It is easy to walk away from the table. But that helps no one, and it reduces or perhaps eliminates the chances of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement. And that would be terrible for the Palestinian people".