Palestinian state likely not in US proposed peace plan: Report

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Palestinian state likely not in US proposed peace plan: Report

A United States‘s proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, dubbed “the deal of the century“, will likely not include a fully sovereign Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported.

According to sources familiar with the main elements of the deal, the agreement pledged practical improvements in the lives of Palestinians but stops short of securing a Palestinian state.

The White House is expected to reveal its long-awaited peace deal, spearheaded by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law, later this year.

While officials have kept details of the plan secret, comments from Kushner and other US officials suggest that it “does away with statehood as the starting premise of peace efforts”, the Washington Post reported.

The plan is likely to focus heavily on Israeli security concerns.

It revolves around a proposal that foresees major infrastructure and industrial work, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip.

For the plan to succeed or even pass the starting gate, it will need at least initial buy-in from both Israel and the Palestinians as well as from the Gulf Arab states, which officials say will be asked to substantially bankroll the economic portion.

Years of failed US-efforts

Most analysts give Kushner little chance of success where decades of US-backed efforts have failed.

Since the failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords, US-led initiatives to revive a peace deal have been fruitless.

In an effort to salvage elements of the Oslo Accords, including concerns over territory, settlements, Palestinian refugees and the right of return, former US President Bill Clinton attempted to revive negotiations and reach a final-status agreement during the Camp David Summit in 2000.

But the process failed – and ongoing developments, including the continued growth of illegal Jewish settlements in occupied territories, have stymied peace efforts in the ensuing years.

Trump, who has developed an even warmer relationship with Israel than previous US presidents, officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, breaking with decades of US policy.

The status of Jerusalem has been a sticking point in the conflict.

In 1967, Israel illegally occupied the eastern half of Jerusalem, and in 1980, passed a law declaring it as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.

Economic opportunity

Arab officials familiar with Kushner’s deal said he has offered no specifics, but suggested that the plan turned on economic opportunities for Palestinians and an enshrining of Israeli control of occupied territory, according to the Washington Post.

Kushner and other US officials have linked peace and economic development to Arab recognition of Israel and acceptance of a version of the status quo on Palestinian “autonomy”, as opposed to “sovereignty”, people who have spoken with the Kushner team said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s promise on the eve of his re-election last week to annex some illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, has added to the perception among diplomats and analysts that the Trump administration will greenlight broad Israeli control over occupied Palestinian land.

“What we’ve tried to do is figure out what is a realistic and what is a fair solution to the issues here in 2019 that can enable people to live better lives,” Kushner said in an interview with Sky News Arabia as he sought Arab support on a visit to the region in February.

“We believe we have a plan that is fair, realistic and implementable that will enable people to live better lives,” a senior White House official said Friday, according to the Post.

“We looked at past efforts and solicited ideas from both sides and partners in the region with the recognition that what has been tried in the past has not worked. Thus, we have taken an unconventional approach founded on not hiding from reality, but instead speaking [the] truth.”

Netanyahu has promised to consider the plan, which Trump has said will ask concessions of both sides. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said the US is biased, but a chief adviser said last week that the Palestinians would not reject the Trump plan out of hand.

Former Trump lawyer Jason D Greenblatt, who would be the lead US negotiator for talks, tweeted a direct appeal to Palestinian leaders last week.

“To the PA: Our plan will greatly improve Palestinian lives & create something very different than what exists,” Greenblatt wrote. “It’s a realistic plan to thrive/prosper even if it means compromises. It’s not a ‘sell out’ – if the plan isn’t realistic, no one can deliver it.”

Kushner ‘defensive’ in Saudi summit

The Palestinian Authority cut off all official contact with the Trump administration in December 2017 when it first recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

The move incensed Palestinian leaders, who have long perceived occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Kushner and Greenblatt have called the Palestinian boycott shortsighted in discussions with Arab and European nations whose financial and political backing they seek.

But Kushner has also pointed to the Jerusalem decision as a potential selling point, telling a Saudi audience during a Middle East tour in February that Trump keeps his word and can thus be a trustworthy broker for peace, the Post reported.

That February 26 meeting in Riyadh included Saudi intellectuals and columnists as well as government officials, and the participants were chosen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one person familiar with the session said.

The prince and de facto ruler has forged a close relationship with Kushner and is seen as more supportive of the peace plan than is his father, King Salman.

“[Kushner] did listen to critical points and questions but wasn’t willing to think about criticism and was defensive,” the person familiar with the session said.

“He seemed to have been surprised when he learned that the majority of people in the room were critical of his plan and told him that King Salman emphasized the rights of the Palestinians,” the person said.

Although Trump had said in September that he expected a rollout within four months, US officials reset the timeline when it became clear that Netanyahu would call early elections. The plan will wait at least until after Netanyahu forms a government.

Kushner has been less eager to discuss the US financial contribution, analysts said, and it is not clear whether Congress would back any large-scale US spending towards a deal that did not promise Palestinian statehood, the Post said.

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