Israeli security forces have clashed with Palestinian worshippers as they arrived at Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque.
Palestinian leaders had, last week, called for mass attendance at dawn prayers at holy sites in Jerusalem as well as throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
Image: Mike Pence and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall
But tensions spiked around the mosque, which is located in Jerusalem’s old city on what Israel calls Temple Mount, as news leaked on Thursday night of the contents of Donald Trump’s “peace plan” for the region.
The American president has indicated that his long-awaited plan for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will be released before Tuesday next week.
The content of his so-called “deal of the century” has been the subject of much speculation for months having been shrouded in secret by his son-in-law Jared Kushner and a small policy team inside the White House.
On Thursday, on a visit to Jerusalem, US Vice President Mike Pence invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz to Washington to discuss the peace plan.
Speaking to reporters on a flight to Florida, the US president said the plan will be released before the Tuesday meeting.
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“Sometime prior to that… Probably we’ll release it a little bit prior to that.” Mr Trump said.
He dismissed leaked details of the plan’s contents as “purely speculative”.
Image: The mosque is on what Israel calls Temple Mount
In the leaks to the Israeli media, it is suggested that the plan will propose that all Israeli settlements in the West Bank would become sovereign Israeli territory.
Israeli sovereignty would also be given to the whole of Jerusalem with the city being officially recognised as the Israeli capital.
Palestinians would be granted statehood but only on condition that they recognise Jerusalem as being the capital of the Jewish State of Israel and subject to Gaza being demilitarised with Hamas giving up its weapons.
For the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, the plan will be entirely unreasonable and will be rejected outright. No Palestinians have been invited to next week’s White House meeting.
Mr Trump indicated that he had had limited discussion with the Palestinians and predicted that, initially at least, they would reject it.
He said: “We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time… And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first but it’s actually very positive for them.
Image: Donald Trump says he loves ‘doing deals’
“I’d love to be able to do that deal. They say that’s the hardest of all deals… I love doing deals.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work.”
Internationally, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal.
The United Nations, the European Union and the UK all continue to call for a two-state solution with Israel based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps and with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states.
The calculus in Mr Trump’s White House is that the two-state solution in its existing proposed form has cemented a stalemate stretching back nearly three decades and that shifting the dial, albeit in Israel’s favour, prompts a new, fresh conversation.
The plan will also shift the political dial in Israel as Israelis prepare to go to the polls for the third time in 11 months this March. Two elections last year were inconclusive.
EU and Arab states have not yet said how they will react to the plan but they are likely to reject it as not providing for a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.
Source : Sky News