Palestinians soundly rejected the Peace to Prosperity plan from the White House, and Abbas has cut ties with Israel and the U.S. over it. Plus, Israel is researching a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus and a gas pipeline connecting to Egypt was attacked.
Palestinians Reject Trump Peace Plan
Palestinian leadership immediately rejected the long-awaited peace plan proposal from the Trump administration that seeks to create peace between Israel and Palestinians through economic development.
The first part of the Peace to Prosperity plan laid out an economic development framework and was released in June 2019. It was promptly rejected by the Palestinian leadership and criticized widely as ignoring the myriad political and cultural obstacles. The second part of the plan was released last week and is directed at those political hurdles, but it, too, was soundly rejected by Palestinian leadership before it even got off the ground.
Sculpted by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, the plan called for a two-state solution that it said would “protect Israel’s security, fulfill the aspirations of self-determination for the Palestinian people, and ensure universal and respectful access to the holy sites of Jerusalem.” The plan would give the Palestinians a state with limited sovereignty in Gaza and some of the West Bank, and allow Israel to annex all its settlements and keep most of East Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the plan prioritized Israeli interests over Palestinians and that he and other leaders should have been consulted in the creation of the plan if they expected it to have any success.
It’s as if I came from the Moon,” Abbas said. “If you want to make a deal, I should be your first partner. He [Trump] wanted to send me the plan to read it. I refused to accept it. I will never accept this solution. I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”
On Saturday, Abbas announced that he is severing all relations with Israel and the U.S. in protest against the plan, including security ties. Unsurprisingly, the Arab League and other world leaders have backed Abbas’ rejection of the plan and said they would not cooperate in helping the U.S. implement it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the plan calling it great for Israel and great for peace. Echoing Netanyahu, Blue and White Party Leader Benny Gantz chastised Abbas for his unequivocal rejection of the plan.
“Abbas has once again not missed an opportunity to be a rejectionist,” Gantz tweeted. “The time has come to start working on behalf of the future generations and peace, instead of getting stuck in the past and preventing a future of hope for the entire region.”
Critics have also accused Netanyahu and Trump, both facing their respective political jeopardies, of using the peace plan as a campaign stunt to win public support without any real expectation of progress for the region. Despite the rejection and severing of ties from the Palestinians, Jared Kushner said he hopes the Palestinian leadership will read the plan and that he still believes there’s a chance for it to work.
Israel-Egypt Gas Line Attacked
A gas line in the northern Sinai Peninsula that runs between Israel and Egypt was attacked after unidentified suspects attempted to sabotage it on Sunday night.
Despite the attack, The Jerusalem Post reports that gas was continuing to flow from Israel to Egypt and the energy company running the line confirmed that there was no damage to the pipeline.
Recent gas discoveries in Israel have opened new energy opportunities, and in January, Israel started exporting natural gas to Egypt as part of a new deal. In 2018, Israel signed a $15 billion deal to provide Egypt with 64 billion cubic meters of gas over ten years. Securing the pipelines supplying the gas between the two countries has been a challenge.
One gas pipeline that transfers natural gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan was bombed at least fifteen times from 2011-2012 in protest of a gas deal between Egypt and Israel, according to Ynet News. Last year, Egypt was forced to pay a $500 million fine to Israel for backing out of one agreement to provide natural gas after a wave of jihadist attacks on the pipeline proved too costly.
The assailants in the latest attack are unknown at this time, but it comes only a week after an ISIS official called on militants to attack Israeli targets.
Israel Researching Coronavirus Vaccine
As the novel Coronavirus spreads around the world and the death toll in China continues to rise, Israel has begun research to find and manufacture a vaccine.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed health authorities to work toward creating a vaccine, and he approved plans for a potential factory for mass vaccine manufacturing.
"Our goal is first to delay the arrival of the virus to Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I say 'delay' because it is inevitable that it will arrive here—and then to treat, to identify those infected, to isolate them and treat them."
The virus has sickened at least 17,300 people, mostly in China, and killed 362, though it is suspected that thousands of cases remain undiagnosed. Israeli health officials have monitored several citizens exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus in Israel, but none have been confirmed yet. Dozens more Israelis arrived on Sunday morning on the last two flights into the country from China before a ban on flight. Israel is treating the arrival of the Coronavirus as an inevitability and is following the World Health Organization’s recommendations that countries prepare containment strategies.
"Nothing should be spared, and there is no room for bureaucracy when it comes to treating the virus," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.