WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy was the only Democratic senator Tuesday to receive a White House briefing on new Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace plan,’ before President Donald Trump announced it Tuesday afternoon.
Murphy, D-Conn., was invited to meet with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House assistant to the President, and David Friedman, U.S. ambassador to Israel, to discuss the plan. Tuesday afternoon Murphy said he will request Senate hearings on the proposal due to its implications for U.S. national security.
Three years in the making, Trump’s plan offers Palestine a path to statehood if it meets certain American conditions. It awards Israel U.S. recognition of long-disputed Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
The proposal includes a territory map outlining the two states. The Palestinian state would be double the size of land that Palestinians currently control and would be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels.
Shortly before his impeachment trial resumed, Trump announced the plan at the White House mid-day Tuesday side-by-side with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was indicted on corruption charges in Jersusalem Tuesday. No Palestinians were at the White House event, and the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas rejected the proposal.
Murphy, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East, said the plan abandons decades of U.S. work toward a two-state solution.
“It seems to be guided by political, not policy, objectives,” Murphy said. “During my meeting this morning with Jared Kushner and Ambassador Friedman, I expressed to them my deep concern that this proposal, negotiated with no one but the Israelis, will eliminate any room to negotiate a real deal by setting up hard lines that the Israelis will now never be willing to cross. I also conveyed my alarm that this plan envisions the United States taking unilateral actions to cement the terms of this plan before a single negotiation takes place between Israel and the Palestinians."
Kushner and Friedman were not persuaded, Murphy said.
“They are right that there has been no peace plan that has succeeded in the past,” Murphy said. “I think they are of the opinion that they need to take a dramatically different approach and that dramatically different approach is to pre-negotiate the entire deal with Israel and then back the Palestinians into a corner. I don’t think their approach is going to work.”
Friedman told press the plan was a “realistic two-state solution” for ending conflict that has divided Palestine and Israel since the country’s founding in 1948.
“For the first time in 52 years, the State of Israel has delineated — not just in words, but in pictures and a map as well — the State of Israel has delineated the terms under which it is prepared to make territorial compensations for the creation of a Palestinian state, the terms and conditions under which it would do so, the size of that territory, and the requirements that would be in place for a final agreement,” Friedman said.
To win recognition, Palestine would have to dismantle terrorist groups, establish a justice system and principles like freedom of religion, human rights and an end to corruption, Friedman said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., did not receive a briefing Tuesday, but said he will now seek a briefing on the proposal.
“I have received no briefing, no information about the plan, what I can see of it is it seems to undermine the two state solution and other foreign policy goals in the Mid East,” Blumenthal said. He added the administration should have consulted Congress more on its development.
Some Republican senators were also briefed on the plan Tuesday. Murphy described it as a “small group.”
The White House is not likely to seek more congressional input on the plan, but may “take steps to recognize annexations or settlements administratively,” Murphy said.
Murphy and Blumenthal agreed Congress should hold hearings on the proposal.
“This has grave implications for U.S. national security so we should hold hearings,” Murphy said. “I certainly will request that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hold hearings on the plan and Mr. Kushner and others come an testify as to why they decided to negotiate a plan with no one except for themselves and the Israelis.”