Palestinian rejection said to delay US peace plan announcement indefinitely

PA official claims Trump has failed in attempt to bypass Abbas by enlisting Arab countries to negotiate on his behalf

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

The US administration has reportedly decided to delay indefinitely the announcement of its long-awaited peace proposal after concluding that it cannot impose such a deal on the Palestinians.

The Americans reached the conclusion after realizing as well that no Arab country would be willing to cooperate with the plan as long as the Palestinians were strongly opposed to it, a senior Palestinian official told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper in a report published Thursday.

The official said that the US administration had hoped that some of the Arab countries would replace the Palestinians at the negotiating table with Israel after the Trump plan was announced.

However, the official said, the Americans haven’t been able to find find any Arab party willing to accept the plan as long the Palestinians continued to reject it. “This is why the Americans have decided to shelve the plan,” the official added.

“The US administration is searching for a plan that would be sustainable and acceptable to the parties, and this requires additional waiting and consideration,” Western diplomatic sources told the paper.

“It’s not possible to forcibly impose the plan on the Palestinians,” they were quoted as saying. “The Israelis and Palestinians first need to accept the plan. Afterwards, other Arab parties will be included.”

US officials have indicated that the Trump plan is being finalized and will be presented soon. There was no confirmation from the US of Thursday’s report.

According to the Western sources quoted Thursday, Trump’s plan, which he has called the “deal of the century” but which hasn’t yet been made public, consists of two phases: first, the launching of the plan, and, second, bilateral talks.

“The plan proposes a starting point to the two parties, after which they would complete negotiations on the remaining phases, especially the borders,” the sources told the newspaper’s correspondent in Ramallah.

Palestinian officials said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s blunt rejection of Trump’s plan has prompted the US administration to delay its announcement of the peace initiative.

A senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that Trump’s December 6 decision recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had foiled his plan even before it was announced.

“Had Trump not made his Jerusalem announcement, it would have been more difficult for the Palestinians to say no to returning to the negotiating table with Israel on the basis of the Trump peace plan,” the unnamed official said.

“But his Jerusalem announcement does not allow us to return to the negotiations. And without our participation, there will be no talks and no plan.”

Recently, other Arab sources suggested that the Trump administration may delay its peace plan until the post-Abbas era, particularly in the wake of unconfirmed reports concerning the PA president’s deteriorating health.

Abbas’s firm opposition to the Trump plan has made it difficult for any Palestinian politician to deal with it, both now and in the future, Thursday’s report noted.

Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesperson for Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, said on Thursday that Trump’s purported plan would be a “deal of shame” for anyone who engaged with it or accepted it.

Abbas, he said, was “leading the battle of will, firmness, steadfastness, and dignity in the face of attempts to impose the Israeli-American vision on our people.”

The Palestinian leader, he added, will continue to stand with his people against “Israeli racism and American arrogance.” Qawassmeh accused the US administration of “endorsing the positions of extremist Zionists in the world.”

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