Palestinians throw cold water on ‘meaningless’ US peace push

Abbas spokesman says next week’s Kushner and Greenblatt Middle East trip ‘won’t achieve anything’ since the Trump administration is trying to circumvent PA leadership

File: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 5, 2017. (Flash90)
File: Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 5, 2017. (Flash90)

Ahead of a visit to the region next week by the Trump administration’s Middle East peace team, the Palestinian Authority on Saturday dismissed the expected US peace plan as “meaningless” and said the series of meetings being held were “a waste of time” because they did not have the support of the Palestinians.

“The round of meetings that began in New York, whose purpose is to bring a meaningless plan, won’t achieve anything,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman, was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site.

Abu Rudeineh was referring to Friday’s meeting in New York between United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law. The White House said they discussed US peace efforts and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Kushner and Greenblatt are set to discuss the two issues during their trip to the Middle East for talks with regional leaders. They are scheduled to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

The US officials will be in Israel Friday, June 22 through Saturday, June 23. They have no meetings scheduled with Palestinian Authority leaders.

L-R: UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov , UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Donald Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner speak ahead of a UN Security Council session on the Israel-Palestinian conflict on February 20, 2018. (Screen capture: United Nations)

Their tour of the region comes amid a nadir in relations between the United States and the Palestinians. The PA has refused to speak to administration officials since the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and subsequently relocated the US embassy to the city last month. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“Without the agreement of the Palestinian people, the fate of the series of meetings will be a total failure,” said Abu Rudeineh.

“It is a waste of time and destined to fail, as long as the attempt to circumvent the legitimate Palestinian institutions continues,” he added, according to Channel 10.

Abu Rudeineh said Wednesday any plan that does not include a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem or address Palestinian refugees will be unsuccessful, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Israel has long insisted that the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, as defined by the Palestinians, is a nonstarter in peace negotiations. The UN categorizes as refugees not just those Palestinians who were displaced or expelled from their homes in 1947 and 1948, but also all of their descendants. As a consequence, accepting the “right of return” would mean millions of Palestinians being allowed to enter Israel, ending Israel’s majority Jewish status.

Kushner and Greenblatt’s latest visit also comes after weeks of deadly violence along the Gaza border, with tens of thousands of Palestinians taking part in the ongoing Hamas-backed “March of Return” protests at the border.

A picture taken on June 1, 2018 shows a girl running past hovels near a sewage water pool at a poor neighborhood in Gaza City. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Gaza faces shortages of electricity and drinkable water. Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip that they say is designed to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and other goods that could be used to build military equipment or cross-border tunnels.

The deteriorating living conditions have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling the violent clashes on Israel’s border, as well as a debilitating sense of desperation.

A US official told Channel 10 this week that the White House has no clear plan for resolving the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave and was seeking solutions from Israeli officials and others in the region.

Israel has said the humanitarian situation will not improve until Hamas returns the bodies of two IDF soldiers and the two civilian captives it holds. It blames Hamas for the dire reality, charging the terror group with diverting millions in aid to purchase weapons, dig tunnels, manufacture rockets and train its military wing, instead of using it for the welfare of the people.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

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