US puts onus on Palestinians week before earliest annexation date

We’re simply asking for PA to come to negotiating table, Pompeo says

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S., May 20, 2020 (photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL VIA REUTERS)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S., May 20, 2020
The US has called on the Palestinian Authority to come to the negotiating table for the good of its people, a week before the earliest date the Israeli government set to apply civil law to parts of the West Bank.
Remarks in that vein by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft came as seven European countries warned on Wednesday that any Israeli annexation steps – whether the 30% of the West Bank as detailed in US President Donald Trump’s peace plan or less than that – would harm their ties with the Jewish state.
Sovereignty is Israel’s decision, Pompeo said, adding that the PA’s refusal to engage is bad for its people.
“We unveiled a peace vision a few months ago, and we’re continuing to work down that path,” he said. “The decisions about Israel extending sovereignty towards these places are decisions for the Israelis to make. We are talking to all of the countries in the region about how it is we can manage this process.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is for the Trump plan, Pompeo said, and some Gulf states want it to go forward as well, even though the United Arab Emirates has made its opposition to Israel following the plan clear in recent weeks, with its foreign minister and ambassador to the US speaking out.
“I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate,” he said. “They simply have rejected this out of hand. We simply ask that they come to the negotiating table based on what’s outlined in that vision for peace, and they have chosen not to.”
“What we’ve asked for is... for Israel and the Palestinian people to come to the table to negotiate a path forward and to find a resolution to this decades-long challenge,” he added. “I remain hopeful that in the coming weeks, we can begin to make real progress towards achieving that.”
Pompeo referred to the Palestinians’ suspension of security and other coordination with Israel, saying they have “chosen to threaten, to bluster, to assert that they’re going to deny the ability to do security properly. That’s not good for the Palestinian people.”
Craft defended her country’s peace plan in a UN Security Council meeting on the topic, noting that past attempts to resolve the conflict within the parameters of the pre-1967 lines had failed, and failure to enact change was harming both Israelis and Palestinians.
“The US cares deeply about the people in the region, and we believe that the status quo hurts both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that no one benefits from the existing situation – a perpetual limbo of suffering, lost opportunities, reliance on foreign assistance and repeated cycles of violence, war and destruction,” she said.
Trump’s plan provides Palestinians with a viable path to statehood and a peace agreement with Israel, Craft said.
“We ask that you also hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for acts they are responsible for,” she said, urging UNSC members to move away from old talking points.
Craft appealed to the Palestinians to work with the US on the peace plan, noting that its terms could be adjusted.
“As we’ve said before, our plan is not a ‘take it or leave it.’ It is not set in stone,” she said. “It is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation – not the end of one.”
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon pushed back against the argument that moves by Israel would put an end to peace negotiations, saying in his address to the UNSC that the Palestinians have rejected talks repeatedly.
“The reality is that Israel wants peace and security,” he said. “The Palestinians, unfortunately, time and again, choose rejectionism over any realistic solution.”
“We expect the international community to make it clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to engage will not advance Palestinian interests,” he added.
Danon accused the international community of supporting a “false narrative” touted by the Palestinians, attempting to erase the Jewish people’s historic connection to the Land of Israel and claiming Jews are European colonists.
What stands in the way of peace is not the discussion over where to extend Israeli law, he said.
“What stands in the way of peace is Palestinian rejectionism and the encouragement that they get from some in the international community,” Danon said. “It is time that international community chooses realism over rejectionism.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was in the US this week to meet with Pompeo, special adviser to the president Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz to discuss what kind of sovereignty moves from Israel the US should support.
They will also discuss whether to give Netanyahu a green light to move forward even if Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz does not agree, because the prime minister has enough votes without Gantz, who supports a smaller sovereignty push. Trump is expected to make a decision on the matter.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s office strongly denied a report that he said Israel would not be applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, an area that his Blue and White Party repeatedly promised in the recent three-election cycle would always remain part of Israel. However, he emphasized the need to coordinate any moves with Israel’s neighbors, and Jordan has strongly and publicly opposed them.
Seven Republican senators – Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Kevin Cramer, Thom Tillis, Cindy Hyde-Smith, John Barrasso and Joni Ernst – wrote a letter that encouraged Trump to support Israel moving forward with his administration’s plan.
American recognition of Israel applying sovereignty is “critical to locking in the progress your administration has made reversing the Obama-Biden legacy, restoring the US-Israel relationship and establishing a realistic basis for peace,” the letter reads.
They commended the Trump administration for recognizing “the reality and – as a matter of America’s national security interests, often the desirability – of Israel’s control over some territories occupied since 1967.”
On Wednesday, Cruz retweeted a tweet by conservative commentator and Fox News host Mark Levin that said: “Why the hell do I, or does anyone else, have to convince the administration to implement its own peace deal?” Cruz added: “A fair point.”
Members of the US Congress from the Democratic Party were expected to release a letter with 190 signatories on Wednesday night, warning against sovereignty steps.
Among those initiating the letter were Reps. Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider, who have close ties to AIPAC.
Their letter states that “unilateral annexation would likely jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states... risks insecurity in Jordan... [and] would create serious problems for Israel with its European friends and other partners in the world. We do not see how any of these acute risks serve the long-term interest of a strong, secure Israel.”