Allies have not seen draft of Mideast peace plan, U.S. officials say

Report claims White House plan would recognize Palestinian state.

February 28, 2018 19:49
4 minute read.
Abbas, Trump, Netanyahu

Abbas, Trump, Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Two days after EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the US against taking false steps on the peace process, a pan-Arab newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat, reported Wednesday that the Trump administration's plan to jumpstart peace talks calls for a demilitarized Palestinian state with limited sovereignty and borders that do not match the 1967 lines.

According to the Saudi paper published in London, Arab states are unhappy with the framework and are trying to change it before it is presented. The report also claims that the US will recognize the need for a a Palestinian state and for its capital to reside in East Jerusalem, although it also says that the Old City would be under international protection.

The Trump administration swiftly dismissed the report. Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman, said the peace team would continue working on its “real plan” and encouraged regional leaders to dismiss rumors in their press.

““It is unfortunate that some parties are seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which these sources have not seen,” Raffel stated. “Nobody should be basing their reaction, public or private, on these reports.”

US allies– including France, Britain and Saudi Arabia, where the sourcing for this report allegedly originates– have not been briefed on details of the plan, and thus are not in a position to confirm or deny its contents with authority. But some educated guesses on specific proposals may ultimately land closer to truth than fiction, given the contours of the conflict are so well-known.

"This is a mix of possibilities and ideas, some of which have existed for decades," a senior US official said. "We are going to continue working on the plan that is designed to benefit both Israelis and Palestinians and will release it when it is done and the time is right."

The report's claim that the White House peace team will support international protection for Jerusalem also contradicts an earlier assertion from a senior administration official that the Western Wall, or Kotel, will likely be under Israeli control in any future agreement with the Palestinians.

"We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel," the senior US official said in December. "But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement."

"We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall," the official added.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki and foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco met earlier this week in Brussels with Mogherini and the 28 EU foreign ministers and said that the plan tilts toward Israel and is unacceptable to the Palestinians.

The report stated that the Arab foreign ministers asked the EU to immediately engage with the US and get them to change the parameters of the plan before it is presented, because it will be much more difficult to do so afterward.

On Monday, after meeting with the Arab foreign ministers, Mogherini said that the EU and Arab League ministers “have dealt with the conflict long enough around our common table to know what can fly and what cannot fly, and we believe it is wise to consider what can fly and cannot fly in terms of peace plans before putting any plans on the table and avoiding any false steps, Because given the region, any false step can be very dangerous.”

The Asharq al-Awsat report, based on Arab diplomatic sources in Paris, said that the US intends to present the plan at an international conference to be held in an Arab capital, likely Cairo.

The plan calls for the Jordan Valley and major settlement blocs to remain under Israeli sovereignty, and for small, isolated settlements to be relocated.

The plan calls for the PA to get more security and administrative authority in Areas A and B, and for the US to $40 billion to develop the Palestinian state and its institutions.

Regarding the contentious refugee issues, the plan calls for the refugees and their descendants to be absorbed in the countries where they now reside, and for compensation to be paid.

The Prime Minister's Office would not respond to the report.

Advisers to PA President Mahmoud Abbas could not be reached for comment.

However, a PLO official said he could not agree to what was reported in the leaks.

“The details of these leaks are unacceptable. I cannot agree to a state with partial sovereignty, legitimizing settlements and erasing the right of return according to resolution 194,” Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO Executive Committee member, told The Jerusalem Post.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said last week at the University of Chicago that the US plan is nearing completion.

“They’re coming up with a plan,” she said of US negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. All three diplomats briefed members of the UN Security Council on the progress of their plan last week, while omitting key details even in that closed-door session.

Haley told the university,  “it won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side.”

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