US wants to speak with 'ordinary Palestinians' about plan

Greenblatt: Trump may decide to release peace plan before Israeli elections

American envoy says White House still mulling whether to wait until after a government is formed to publicize political proposal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (unseen) meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoy, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (unseen) meets with Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoy, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on March 14, 2017. (Flash90)

The US administration may decide to release the political portion of its plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before upcoming elections in Israel, Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said in comments published Monday.

The White House has indicated that it is waiting until after a government is formed following September elections to release the political part of its peace plan. But Greenblatt said the administration may no longer be waiting to unveil the long-awaited proposal.

“We haven’t decided when we will release the political vision. We are taking into account the Israeli election to decide whether we should release it before the elections or after, before the government is formed or after,” Greenblatt told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, in an interview published on Monday.

He said that US President Donald Trump will make the decision soon, without providing details.

In late June, the White House revealed the economic part of its plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which proposes billions of dollars in investments in infrastructure projects in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries.

Days after publicizing the economic part of the plan, the White House also co-sponsored a conference in Bahrain, which focused on it. The Palestinians fiercely opposed the workshop in the Gulf country, arguing any peace effort must address political matters before economic ones.

Greenblatt has previously stated that the publication of the political section of the plan may be postponed until around early November, when he predicted a new Israeli government would be formed. The administration said it originally planned to release the proposal over the summer, but was forced to push back those plans after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called repeat elections in May, having failed to cobble together a coalition.

Elections are scheduled for September 17. Forming a government may take several weeks after that.

Netanyahu has said he will keep an “open mind” about the US peace proposal, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed on many occasions to reject the US plan.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a press conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 27, 2019. (Flash90)

Shortly after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in December 2017, and initiated the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinians significantly downgraded their ties with Washington, including cutting relations with the White House.

Abbas, however, recently outlined conditions for the resumption of contacts between the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and the White House.

“You recognize the vision of two states and [acknowledge] East Jerusalem is occupied land and international legitimacy is the basis of any dialogue,” Abbas said last week, addressing Arab and Palestinian journalists at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah. “If you say these words to me or send me these words on a small piece of paper… you will find me at the White House the following day.”

Greenblatt also said that the US administration would like to communicate with the broader Palestinian public about its economic plan.

“We want to get a feedback from the ordinary Palestinians. So we are going to be extending invitations,” he said. “One idea would be potentially even inviting Palestinian journalists to the White House or may be somewhere more neutral and have our team making presentation directly to the Palestinian media and have the Palestinian media be able to observe and explain to the people what the plan is all about.”

Ninety percent of Palestinians said they do not trust the Trump administration when it states that the goal of the summit in Bahrain was to improve Palestinian economic conditions, whereas 6% said they do, according to a survey published last week by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Separately, Greenblatt told annual summit of the Christians United for Israel group on Monday that the US plan “right now is with President Abbas… We’re not looking for any type of regime change.”

Greenblatt noted that there were two governments in the region: The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We have to deal with everybody to make this work,” he told the gathering in Washington. “We cannot make a comprehensive peace unless we make sure that we are dealing with the representatives of all the Palestinian people.”


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