Report: U.S. Peace Plan Not Attractive to Palestinians

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud walks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters

At a meeting in Riyadh last month, newly installed Saudi King Muhammad ben-Salman presented to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas the details of a proposed U.S. peace plan for the Middle East – and urged Abbas to accept it. And in a story Monday, The New York Times reveals that the details of the plan are likely to be far more to Israel’s liking than Abbas’s.

According to the report, the Trump peace plan allows for a Palestinian state to be established in Yehudah and Shomron – but mostly in Area A, which is already under Palestinian Authority civil and defense control. Israel would retain most of Area C, where the large majority of settlements are located – and few, if any, settlements will be removed.

In addition, the Palestinians will have to give up on the “right of return,” the principle that would have the descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 to move back to the country. And, the Palestinian state’s capital will be in Abu Dis, an Arab suburb of Yerushalayim. Abbas, the report said, has complained long and loudly to Arab and European leaders, seeking help in changing the plan.

The Times quoted Arab, American and European sources as saying that Salman, then Crown Prince, presented the plan to Abbas in their meeting last month. According to a report on Channel Ten, Abbas was given a Saudi ultimatum at that meeting: either accept the Trump peace plan or resign. With that, both Washington and Riyadh denied the report, with the former saying that the plan was still not finished, and the latter saying that it remained committed to its own 2002 peace plan.

The report comes in advance of a speech Wednesday, in which President Trump is expected to make a major announcement regarding an American revaluation of the status of Yerushalayim – either announcing that the U.S. now recognizes Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital, and/or a move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim. Both Jordan and Egypt threatened Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Sunday night that such an American move would “cause an outbreak of violence in the Middle East” that would lead to “a collapse of talks between Israel and the PA,” Haaretz reported.

The Times quoted Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, who said in an email that “the Kingdom remains committed to a settlement based on the Arab peace initiative of 2002, including East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. To suggest otherwise is false.”

Speaking to the Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday, U.S. Middle East Envoy Jared Kushner said, however, that the plan was complete, or near completion. “We know what’s in the plan,” the Times quoted him as saying. “The Palestinians know what discussions we’ve had with them. The Israelis know what discussions we’ve had with them.”

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