Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has claimed that the Middle East “peace plan” from the Trump administration would be the “most aligned with Likud’s thinking of any American presidency”.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Times of Israel, Barkat – a senior Likud MK who is open about his ambitions to lead the party one day – revealed that he has shared a plan for Israel’s economic development of the occupied West Bank with senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner.
According to Barkat, the plan – titled “Developing Win-Win Economy in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]” – would see a quarter of a million Palestinians employed in Israeli-run industrial zones in the occupied territory, as well as some two dozen “Biblical tourism sites” across the region.
“Right now, the current status quo is civil separation, and Israeli security and the game-changer is creating a joint economy in industrial zones in Area C and tourism through Bible stories,” he said.
The report stated that Barkat made the presentation to Kushner in the summer, “at the direct request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”.
According to Barkat, he “sat for 45 minutes with Jared”, with whom he has “a prior friendship from before Trump became president”, adding: “They’ve hosted me at their home.”
The plan has also been seen by outgoing US envoy Jason Greenblatt, and US Ambassador David Friedman, both of whom “like it”, according to the former Jerusalem mayor.
Although Barkat told the news site that “we looked at this not through a political prism, but through the prism of what best works economically”, the plan ensures permanent Israeli control of the occupied West Bank, including through partial annexation.
Asked about Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank, Barkat said he “very much” supports the plan.
“Today, the right of centre people, we, the Likud, talk about two dimensions in Judea and Samaria,” he continued. “The first is civil separation: You [in the Palestinian Authority] manage your cities, we manage our towns [i.e. illegal settlements]. Nobody’s going anywhere. You’re staying; we’re staying.”
Pressed on how much West Bank territory he would seek to annex, Barkat replied: “I would, at a minimum, annex all of the settlements. And the access routes to them. And probably the maximum would be annexing all of Area C. This is something that has to be negotiated.”
Barkat, 60, has been ranked as Israel’s richest politician and served as Jerusalem mayor from 2008 to 2018. He joined Likud in 2015.