WASHINGTON: In a White House where no secret is safe for long, one development has remained stubbornly confidential — the contents of a Middle East peace plan authored by President Donald Trump’s advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.
With Trump having delighted Israelis and angered Palestinians by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moving the American Embassy to the holy city last May, a US-brokered peace deal may seem farther away now than when talks collapsed five years ago.Then, on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to re-election, only days after proposing to annex Jewish West Bank settlements, traditionally viewed as illegal by much of the world. The Trump administration has yet to comment on the election-eve remarks. Aides expect Trump to release the plan once Netanyahu forms a government coalition, and officials say that despite criticism of the administration’s moves to date, the plan will demand compromises from both sides. That the peace plan has remained a secret is remarkable in a White House where drafts of executive orders, confidential conversations, and internal deliberations all find their way to the front pages. Kushner and Greenblatt have limited the plan’s distribution over the two years they have been crafting it. It has been kept secret “to ensure people approach it with an open mind” when it is released, a senior administration official said. Only four people have regular access — Kushner, Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz, the official said. Trump is briefed regularly on the contents but is not believed to have read the entire document of dozens of pages. “He is briefed if something interesting is happening or there is an idea they want to run by him,” the official said. Kushner, a New York real estate developer and husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and Greenblatt, a former lawyer for Trump, joined the process knowing little about the tortured, decades-long path in search of Arab-Israeli peace. Their proposal addresses such core political issues as the status of Jerusalem and, separately, aims at helping the Palestinians strengthen their economy. Cloaked in secrecy is whether the plan will propose outright the creation of a Palestinian state — the Palestinians’ core demand. On Wednesday, Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the plan would be presented before too long but, when asked, declined to say whether the administration favoured a two-state solution, long the basis of Middle East peacemaking. Not even Trump, who is known to blurt out news whenever he feels like it, has dribbled out details of the peace plan because of the sensitivity. He tells his Middle East envoys, “If you guys can get this done, you’re going to be the greatest negotiators in history,” said a senior White House official.