Hamas threatens 'new phase of fighting'

Jordanian king expresses reservations over Trump peace plan

US said yet to receive response from Arab nations invited to take part in release of president’s plan, amid reports deal will give Israel go ahead to annex West Bank settlements

Jordanian King Abdullah II gestures as he delivers a speech at the European Parliament, on January 15, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP)
Jordanian King Abdullah II gestures as he delivers a speech at the European Parliament, on January 15, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (Photo by Frederick FLORIN / AFP)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday said Amman is against any parts of a yet-to-be-released US peace plan that negatively affects his country.

Asked about aspects of the proposal that may come at Jordan’s expense, Abdullah said that the kingdom would oppose it.

“Our position is very well known. Absolutely not. This is clear to everyone,” Abdullah said while meeting local politicians in the southern Jordanian city of Aqaba.

Jordan, along with Egypt, is one of only two Arab nations to have a peace treaty with Israel. But relations between the neighbors have become increasingly tense, particularly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly vowing to annex the Jordan Valley — West Bank territory along the Israel-Jordan border that was captured by Israel in the 1967 war.

Abdullah’s terse response highlighted the unease in the Arab world over the planned release of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan this week, with leaks to Israeli media suggesting the plan would endorse Israel annexing about one-third of the West Bank including all settlements and possibly the Jordan Valley area. It would also propose allowing Israel to hold on to all of East Jerusalem, including Muslim holy sites that Jordan administers.

Trump is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan this week to Netanyahu and his rival MK Benny Gantz, who both arrived in Washington Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a flight to Washington, Janaury 26, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Washington has invited Arab ambassadors in Washington to take part in the events and also asked several Arab foreign ministers to attend the unveiling of the plan.

The TV report said the US so far had received no response.

Palestinian anger and Jordanian fears

In fact, the only ones speaking openly about the plan are the Palestinians, who are fuming.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, suggested on Sunday that the Palestinians could dissolve the PA.

“The leadership will hold a series of meetings on all levels — including the factions and organizations — to announce its total rejection of conceding Jerusalem,” Abu Rudeineh told the Voice of Palestine, the official PA radio station, according to the government-run Wafa news site.

Channel 13 reported that Trump tried repeatedly to get set up a phone call with Abbas this week, but was repeatedly rejected.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said on Sunday the Palestinians were discussing “practical steps with the Arab brothers” to respond to the announcement of the US plan, according to the PA Foreign Ministry’s site.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaks during a press conference at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday May 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Mike Corder)

He made the comment while hosting Isam al-Din Ashour, the Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry said.

While several Arab states have expressed greater openness to Israel in recent years, they have continued to advocate publicly for a two-state solution.

“Trump’s plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said in a statement sent to AFP on Sunday.

Jordan is particularly concerned about the plan.

In November, Abdullah said that relations between Jordan and Israel, which fought two wars before signing a landmark peace treaty 25 years ago, are now at their worst point ever.

Jordan has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Recent months have seen Amman recall its ambassador to Israel, no joint ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of the peace agreement, and the termination of special arrangements that allowed Israeli farmers to easily access plots of land inside Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein pray at the Tzofar enclave after the return of the territory from Israel, November 16, 2019 (Courtesy)

The kingdom hosts millions of Palestinians who poured into the country in two waves, after Israel’s creation and following the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The largely desert country — which has few resources and relies heavily on international donors, including $1 billion a year from Washington — is home to 9.5 million people, more than half of them of Palestinian origin.

Two-thirds of them are Jordanian citizens, while the others are considered refugees who many Jordanians fear will be settled permanently and given citizenship as well if the plan goes through.

In addition, a large number of West Bank residents are Jordanian citizens. Jordan occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, until the 1967 war.

An unofficial agreement with Israel in 1967 left it the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, whose status is one of the thorniest issues of the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

King Abdullah has repeatedly ruled out a confederation with the Palestinians or giving up custodianship of Jerusalem holy sites, calling them “red lines.”

Hamas warns of violence

Meanwhile, Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh Sunday warned the plan “will not pass” and could lead to renewed Palestinian violence.

“We firmly declare that the ‘deal of the century’ will not pass. The new plot aimed against Palestine is bound to fail,” and could lead the Palestinians to a “new phase in their struggle” against Israel, Haniyeh said in a statement.

Shortly after the Hamas released Haniyeh’s statement, a rocket was fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip towards Israel, the Israeli army said.

Members of Hamas armed wing, rest on a sidewalk during a patrol in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 26, 2020. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The army said it had carried out air strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza late Saturday, in response to the launching of incendiary devices attached to balloons sent over from the Palestinian enclave.

Hamas did not claim responsibility for Sunday’s rocket attack but warned it was “time… to restore the rights of Palestinians with a new phase of fighting against Israeli occupation”.

Hamas also called for talks in Cairo with other Palestinian factions, including the Fatah movement led by Abbas, in order to form a common response to Trump’s plan.

The Palestinian leadership was not invited to the US talks and has rejected Trump’s initiative amid tensions over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.

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