PA premier calls on Europe to recognize Palestine to ‘counter’ annexation plan

Shtayyeh says US won’t find Arab or European support for its peace plan; Abbas spokesman blasts Netanyahu’s pledge to build up East Jerusalem neighborhoods

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide meeting in Ramallah on February 20, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide meeting in Ramallah on February 20, 2020. (Credit: Wafa)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on European countries Thursday to recognize the State of Palestine to push back against the possibility of Israel annexing parts of the West Bank, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Shtayyeh made the comment in a meeting with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide at his office in Ramallah, the report said.

“He demanded that European states recognize the Palestinian state to preserve the two-state solution and counter the occupation’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel, especially following the failure of ‘the American deal,'” the report stated, alluding to the US administration’s recently unveiled plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While several European countries have recognized the State of Palestine, the majority of them, including France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Norway, have not.

Israeli officials have long held that recognizing Palestine before a peace deal is finalized would harden Palestinian negotiating positions, making it more difficult to reach an agreement.

Palestinians wave national flags as they take part in a protest against US President Donald Trump’s Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah, February 11, 2020. (Majdi Mohammed/AP).

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said European recognition of Palestine would not be a “substitute” for negotiations or a move against Israel, but rather encourage Palestinians to maintain hope for peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently vowed to annex the territories in the West Bank that the US administration’s plan allots to Israel, including the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements.

Netanyahu said immediately following the launch of the US plan on January 28 that he intended to bring a proposal to annex those parts of the West Bank to a vote on February 1, but that ultimately did not happen. He has since stated that Israel will only make such a move in agreement with the US.

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to US President Donald Trump who was among the deal’s main authors, indicated on January 29 that the US did not want Israel to annex territory in the West Bank in the near future.

“The hope is that they’ll wait until after the [March 2] election, and we’ll work with them to try to come up with something,” he told GZERO Media, referring to the upcoming national vote in Israel.

Shtayyeh also contended that the US plan will not receive European or Arab backing, the Wafa report said.

“The American plan is nothing more than dictates and it is unacceptable to discuss it,” he was quoted as saying. “The United States has not and will not find a partner for its implementation in the European Union or among the Arab states.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized the US initiative on February 4 as departing from “internationally agreed parameters,” including the two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed-upon land swaps. He has also said that 25 of the 27 EU member states agree with that view.

While many Arab states initially elected not to criticize the plan directly, Arab foreign ministers — in an emergency meeting at the Arab League on February 1 — unanimously backed a statement rejecting it and affirming support for the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.

Breaking with past US administrations, the plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of the Gaza Strip and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Separately on Thursday, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesman, slammed Netanyahu’s announcement that thousands of new homes would be built in the Givat Hamatos and Har Homa neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

“Netanyahu’s insistence in building thousands of settlement units on the State of Palestine’s lands is systematically destroying the two-state solution,” Rudeineh said in statement carried by Wafa, adding that the prime minister’s announcement aimed to implement the US initiative.

He also said that Netanyahu’s statements constituted “an attempt to gain votes from the Israeli right at the expense of Palestinian rights ahead of the Israeli elections.”

The plan for construction in Givat Hamatos was first brought forward in 2012, earning widespread condemnation in the international community over its cutting off of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat from the West Bank, in a manner that critics said placed a nail in the coffin of a two-state solution based roughly on the pre-1967 lines.

Netanyahu also declared on Thursday that hundreds of new homes would be constructed in Beit Safafa.

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