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Trump's Mideast peace plan comes under surprise attack from Israeli settlers

Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel,” David Elhayani, a settler leader, said.
Image: Kushner, Trump and Netanyahu
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner smiles while listening to President Donald Trump talk at a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, in March 2019. Carlos Barria / Reuters file

President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan has suffered an unexpected attack from Israeli settlers in the West Bank, many of whom live in areas that Israel hopes to annex as part of the deal devised by Washington.

Trump and his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel,” David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council, an organization that represents Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday.

The pair "do not have Israel's security and settlement interests in mind. All they care about in this outline is promoting their own interests ahead of the upcoming election,” he added, appearing to refer to the U.S. presidential election.

The criticism of the White House’s initiative comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to begin Cabinet discussions on extending Israeli sovereignty to parts of the occupied West Bank in July as part of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

If implemented, the plan would recognize Israeli sovereignty over a significant portion of the West Bank while creating a conditional path to statehood for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have emphatically rejected it as unworkable and have accused the United States of favoring Israel.

Now, Jewish settlers living in the West Bank are also sounding the alarm.

In a statement released last week, the Yesha Council said that it opposed the recognition or agreement of any kind to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It added that it would reject any building restrictions or settlement freezes in its communities, as well as any annexation map that would isolate settlements or turn them into remote enclaves that cannot develop and grow.

Most of the international community consider the settlements to be illegal. Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Palestinians seek all the territory and east Jerusalem for an independent state.

The West Bank is home to almost 2.7 million Palestinians and more than 400,000 Israelis, according to figures collated by Peace Now, an Israeli organization that advocates for a two-state solution.

A Palestinian man sits in front of Israeli troops during a protest against settlements, near Salfit in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last month. Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Netanyahu said Wednesday that he condemned the comments made by Elhayani about Trump.

“President Trump is a great friend of the state of Israel,” he told Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

However, the Yesha Council leaders are not the only ones to express their concerns.

Others have said they fear that the creation of a Palestinian state around their communities would curb their ability to settle the territory, which they see as their biblical right.

“To us, this is no less than a grave blow to the Zionist vision of the return of the people of Israel to their Biblical Heartland," leaders of the Sovereignty Movement, an activist group that calls for Israel to apply sovereignty to the entirety of the West Bank, said in a statement.

The group said it had placed posters around the West Bank and Jerusalem warning of the negative impact of the Netanyahu-backed Trump plan.

“Jerusalem will be divided,” read signs across the city, according to the group, while in the West Bank signs warned “Palestine just beyond the fence!” and “Here Palestine will be established!”

Meanwhile, a settler youth organization, It's All Ours, has also vowed to fight the division of land by building and hanging on to territory.

Shannon Pettypiece contributed.