Palestinians turn to Russia to bypass US peace plan

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Moscow in the coming months with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on April 18 last year (photo credit: REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, on April 18 last year
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinians are urging Russia to play a greater role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they embark on an international campaign to bypass the Trump administration’s peace plan, which is scheduled to be released in the coming months, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Moscow in the coming months to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has spoken multiple times of hosting a Middle East peace process that would include direct talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas.
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Tuesday that Abbas was prepared to meet with Netanyahu without preconditions if Russia is prepared to host such a summit.
Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told a group of Israeli journalists that the PA wanted the international community to back its opposition to US President Donald Trump’s plan unless it was based on the pre-1967 lines and previous international understandings.
The Trump administration has kept details of the peace plan under wraps, but it has already clearly stated that the plan, known as the “deal of the century” will deviate from past plans.
Abbas will be in Cairo next week “to inform all the Arab countries that we cannot accept the situation in which we are living now,” Abu Rudeineh said. He added that Abbas will then travel to Brussels to meet with the European Union.
Several delegations will be sent to Moscow, China and Japan, he said.
Any future peace deal, he said, should be concluded with the P5+1, such as was done with the Iran deal. The world powers he indicated would be Russia, China, Great Britain, France, the US and Germany.
At an event hosted by the Geneva Initiative, at which Abu Rudeineh underscored the Palestinians’ dedication to peace, he also warned that they could make good on their threat to severe security coordination with Israel and to break the 1994 Paris protocol that governed its economic ties with the Jewish state.
Palestinians have presumed that Jerusalem is not part of the peace plan because of the US decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to west Jerusalem last year. There can be no peace plan without a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem, he said.
The spokesman said that no one knows what the final plan is. “But what we have seen from this plan is not acceptable at all. The issue of Jerusalem, the issue of the refugees, the issue of the settlements is not on the table… Unless these issues are on the table, nothing will be accepted and we will never accept the Americans alone anymore,” he said.
Abu Rudeineh added that: “The Americans are not working in an honest way. They are biased, and this situation is not going to lead anywhere.”
Later in the day, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted that he and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, “sincerely appreciate all of the interest in our peace efforts over the past [two years]. But we’re not going to reveal details of the plan ahead of time.”
He added that, “[Continued] speculation doesn’t help anyone [and] harms the effort. We kindly suggest a stop to the guessing games.
“We’ve been working hard drafting what we believe is a fair, realistic [and] implementable plan. Fair agreements require compromises. Only the parties themselves can resolve the conflict; we believe our plan can help them do this,” he said.
Immediately after assuming office earlier this week, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh met with the head of the Representative Office of Russia in Ramallah, Aganin Rashidovich, to discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian arena.
The Russian envoy relayed a letter to Shtayyeh from Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev congratulating him on the formation of the new PA government, which was sworn in last Saturday. The envoy was the first foreign official to meet Shtayyeh after the latter assumed his position as prime minister.
During the meeting, Shtayyeh called on Russia to pressure Israel to rescind its decision to cut payments made by the PA to families of Palestinian prisoners and “martyrs” from tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, a PA official in Ramallah said.
According to the official, Shtayyeh also demanded that Russia “take measures” against Russian nationals who move to live in settlements in the West Bank.
The PA premier, the official said, affirmed the need for Russia, China, France, Britain and other superpowers to work toward holding an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shtayyeh was quoted as saying that the conference was needed to “confront” Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East. Referring to the plan, Shtayyeh said it was “stillborn.”
In the past year, Abbas has repeatedly called for an international conference for peace in the Middle East in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and halt US financial aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
Last February, Abbas, in a speech before the African Union in Addis Ababa, called for supporting the idea of an international peace conference. Abbas and several PA officials have repeatedly rejected Trump’s unseen plan, dubbing it a “conspiracy designed to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”
“We are working to convince Russia and other countries to increase their intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Trump prepares to announce his unacceptable plan,” another PA official told The Jerusalem Post. “We have no confidence in the Trump administration, whose representatives have fully endorsed the positions of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Nabil Sha'ath, international affairs adviser to the PA president, on Tuesday called on Arab countries to stand united against Trump’s peace plan, which he denounced as the “deal of shame.” Sha’ath, speaking at the Arab Labor Conference in Cairo, urged the Arab countries to provide a “financial and economic safety net” for the Palestinians following Israel’s decision to deduct payments from the tax and tariff revenues it collects on behalf of the PA.
“We are a tiny people facing an international conspiracy that produced the Balfour Declaration, the occupation of our country and the deal of the century,” Sha’ath said. “Our people, their leadership and millions of Arabs and Muslims are standing against the deal of shame that wants to extract Jerusalem from our hearts, minds and reality.”
Sha’ath claimed that Trump’s plan was aimed at denying Palestinian refugees and their descendants the “right to return to their country. They want to devour the West Bank. Israel is taking advantage of unlimited US support to pursue its frenzied assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque, steal Jerusalem, increase settlements in the West Bank, steal land, and continue its aggression on the Gaza Strip and detach it from the West Bank.”
The senior Palestinian official further claimed that Trump was delaying the announcement of his plan because of “new Israeli conditions that serve Israeli interests.”
The US, he said, was planning, through its plan, to “liquidate the Palestinian cause on behalf of Israel by creating limited self-rule in the Gaza Strip.” But, Sha’ath stressed, “our people will not sell their lands and Jerusalem and rights in return for American money. We reject not only the deal of shame, but also a unilateral American role in dominating the peace process in the Middle East.”
Speaking to the European Union parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reaffirmed her commitment to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines.
The EU will continue to meet in “the coming months with all those who are ready to engage toward a just, lasting and sustainable peace, starting with our Arab partners,” Mogherini said.
She warned that, “the two-state solution is not only fading away – it is being dismantled piece by piece.”