Washington Post reports that White House initiative, two-years-in-the-making, does not call for Palestinian sovereignty
The White House is seemingly floating trial balloons related to its much-hyped and long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, with The Washington Post reporting that it will not call for the creation of a Palestinian state, and instead will focus primarily on tens of billions of dollars’ worth of economic incentives earmarked for development projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This strategy – a throwback to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which envisioned the incremental granting of “autonomy” to the Palestinians in territories captured by Israel during the 1967 war – will in turn be contingent on broader Arab recognition of the Jewish state.
If true, the news report, which cited US officials close to Jared Kushner, the chief architect of the plan, supports speculation that the proposal ditches the longstanding two-state paradigm by “do[ing] away with [Palestinian] statehood as the starting premise of peace efforts.”
It comes after media outlets quoted a senior White House official as saying that President Donald Trump’s negotiating team formulated the proposal based on a wide-eyed assessment of numerous past failures to solve the core issues of the conflict. As a result, the official added, the US administration has “taken an unconventional approach founded on not hiding from reality, but instead speaking truth.”
For his part, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week asserted that statements by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the country’s recent election campaign regarding the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank would not negatively impact the American peace drive.
The developments may bode poorly for jump-starting negotiations given that the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly rejected the still-to-be-unveiled proposal out of hand.
“The US administration is promoting a position that contradicts international law,” Ziad Abu Ziad, spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, told The Media Line.
“The Palestinians,” he continued, “have struggled and suffered for many years under the Israeli occupation, not for the sake of an economic agreement or a slight improvement in their lives. Any plan that does not recognize the basic rights that the Palestinians deserve will be rejected.”
Abu Ziad called on European nations along with Russia and China, among others, to intervene in order to “save the region from another difficult round of confrontation that will endanger the safety of everyone on all sides.”
By contrast, the next Israeli government – which Netanyahu likely will head – is liable to play ball, even though the coalition could include even greater nationalistic elements than in the past.
“I think President Trump is our friend,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told The Media Line when queried recently about the peace proposal.
“The fact that he put tough sanctions on Iran is extremely important, and he recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Steinitz continued. “We might have some differences here and there, but we will know how to handle them [and] the special personal bond between Netanyahu and Trump will play a very positive role here.”
Trump most probably will unveil the peace plan shortly after Israel’s new government is formed, which could take up to six weeks.
The Media Line spoke with Ambassador Alan Baker, who participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords and served as deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He currently is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.