Palestinians believe US delaying peace plan for a post-Abbas era — report

Washington said hopeful that a new leadership would be more accommodating; Abbas has vowed to reject any deal, saying he won’t end his life as a ‘traitor’

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

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pose for a photograph during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pose for a photograph during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

The US administration is delaying the announcement of its Middle East peace plan because it believes the proposal would have a greater chance of success after a new leader replaces long-time Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying Saturday.

“They [the Americans] know that President Abbas will not accept this plan,” the  London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official as saying. “They are betting on the time factor.”

The US administration is preparing for the day when there will be Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who “would not be able to reject the peace plan and would have to deal with it gradually,” the official said.

Two weeks ago, Abbas, who turns 83 later this month, reportedly told members of his ruling Fatah party that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.”

Referring to Trump’s purported plan, Abbas said, “I have said in the past — and afterward — that I will not end my life as a traitor. [The US] can announce the deal whenever and wherever they want, but nothing will happen against our will.”

Trump has referred to his peace plan, the details of which have yet to be made public, as the “deal of the century.”

Last month, Abbas underwent what his aides called “routine checkups” in a US hospital. Although the aides said the results of the checkups were “positive and reassuring,” unconfirmed reports in Palestinian and Arab media outlets insist that Abbas’s condition has suffered a “major setback” in recent weeks.

Abbas said that the Palestinians would accept nothing less than a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the pre-1967 lines. “No one in the whole world would be able to impose on us something that we don’t want,” he was quoted as saying.

A Western diplomat told Al-Hayat that the US administration was planning to “operate” in the Gaza Strip without the involvement of the PA and Hamas, the terror group that rules the coastal enclave.

The US administration is also planning a series of meetings with donor countries to discuss funding “vital” and “humanitarian” projects in the Gaza Strip, the diplomat said.

Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor, Jared Kushner, has asked representatives of donor countries to “put their hands in their pockets and prepare to provide donations to the Gaza Strip,” the diplomat added.

L-R: Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman meet in Tel Aviv, on August 24, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Kushner, according to the report, made his request during last week’s “brainstorming” meeting at the White House to discuss ways of improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The diplomat claimed that Kushner, who addressed the White House gathering for two hours, strongly condemned Hamas for using money for terrorism while Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were “hungry.”

He was also reported to have criticized the PA for boycotting the meeting, which was attended by representatives of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf nations.

PA officials have dismissed the White House meeting as being part of a plot to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.

The US administration is currently working on two tracks, the officials claimed. First, to secure a political solution for the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, without Jerusalem; second, to create a new Palestinian leadership that would accept the solution.

The PA officials also claimed that the US administration was in contact with Palestinian “economic” and “social” personalities in preparation for the post-Abbas era.

According to a number of officials in Ramallah, the Trump administration has been trying – thus far unsuccessfully – to renew direct contacts with the PA leadership.

However, Abbas remains adamant in his decision to boycott the US administration until Trump rescinds his December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city.

In a related development, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported Saturday that two Arab countries were exerting pressure on Abbbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah to accept Trump’s yet-to-be-announced peace plan, otherwise knows as the “deal of the century.”

The report claimed that Kushner had recently travelled to one of the Arab countries in a bid to persuade its leaders to put pressure on Abbas and King Abdullah to drop their opposition to the Trump peace plan.

The report did not name the countries but some Palestinians believe that the two countries are Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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