'This administration has taken us off the path to peace'

Erekat: US has no Middle East peace plan, is acting in Israel’s favor

Palestinian chief negotiator says world rejects Trump administration’s ideas, so it is instead unilaterally changing ‘terms of reference’

Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The United States will never announce its Middle East peace plan and is instead unilaterally changing the “terms of reference” in favor of Israel ahead of any future deal, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed Saturday.

“I don’t think they will ever introduce a plan,” Erekat said, according to Reuters. “The whole world is rejecting their ideas. They are already implementing their plan by changing the terms of reference.”

Erekat added that the US has accepted Israel’s position on the designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the future status of settlements in the West Bank and the question of Palestinian refugees.

“They are telling us ‘peace based on the truth,’” Erekat said.

“The Kushner truth and the Netanyahu truth is that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, no right of return to refugees, settlements are legal, no Palestinian state on 1967 [borders], and Gaza must be separated from the West Bank — and this is absolutely unacceptable,” he said, in reference to US President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The only thing this administration did since it came to office is just to take Israelis and Palestinians off the path to peace, off the path of the two-state solution,” Erekat said.

Last month the United States cut more than $300 million in aid to the Palestinians and canceled its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

In its announcement, the US State Department castigated the agency for what it called “failed practices,” and indicated that it rejected the criteria by which UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees, whereby the UN agency confers refugee status not only on original refugees but on their millions of descendants.

The State Department said the US, the largest funder of UNRWA, would “no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.”

However, the statement said, the US would look for other ways to aid the Palestinians.

Uniquely, UNRWA grants refugee status to all descendants of Palestinians who left or fled Israel with the establishment of the state in 1948, swelling the number to an estimated five million at present, when the number of actual refugees from that conflict is estimated to be in the low tens of thousands. In peace talks, the Palestinian leadership has always demanded a “right of return” to Israel for these millions — an influx that, if accepted by Israel, would spell the end of the Israel as a majority Jewish state.

Palestinian school children chant slogans and raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the West Bank, on September 5, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

Last Friday, the State Department announced another cut, saying it will halt $25 million in aid to East Jerusalem hospitals, leading to warnings of the “collapse” of medical centers that provide crucial care to Palestinians.

The US will cut all aid to programs that bring together Palestinians and Israelis, in a move that will bring to an end all American funding of Palestinian civilians, The New York Times reported Friday.

The White House has decided to no longer support coexistence programs, as part of its general move to punish Palestinians for their refusal to engage with the administration, the report said.

Though hailed by Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu, the cuts are said to be opposed by some defense officials, who fear they could fuel Palestinian unrest and in turn jeopardize Israel’s security.

The PA has boycotted the Trump administration and rebuffed its peace efforts since the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of last year. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem — which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed — as the capital of their future state.

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