US asked for 3-4 months to present peace plan, Abbas adviser says
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US asked for 3-4 months to present peace plan, Abbas adviser says

Nabil Shaath: Palestinians set out their demands, but Kushner-led delegation did not address any specifics

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner (L) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on August 24, 2017. (courtesy, WAFA)
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner (L) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on August 24, 2017. (courtesy, WAFA)

The American delegation that met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week asked for a three-to-four-month “grace period” in order to present a peace plan, and did not address any specific Palestinian demands, said Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath on Monday.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his team met Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday, in his second visit meeting with the PA leader aimed at paving the way to renewed peace talks with Israelis.

Shaath, speaking to the official Voice of Palestine radio, said the American delegation, which also included US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, did not bring anything new to the table, and asked for more time to produce a peace plan.

“The US delegation asked the [Palestinian] leadership to give the American administration a three to four month grace period to present a plan,” Shaath said, according to a summary of his statements carried in the PA’s official news outlet Wafa.

“The US delegation,” Shaath added, “did not present any position opposing or supporting Palestinian demands.”

Nabil Shaath at his Ramallah office, January 18, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Nabil Shaath at his Ramallah office, January 18, 2012 (Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

Shaath, a former Palestinian negotiator, said that the Palestinians told the American delegation its demands are “the end of the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the resolution of all permanent status issues, including the right return for [Palestinian] refugees.”

On Sunday, the Israel Hayom daily cited an unnamed Palestinian official who said Kushner told Abbas that Trump would present a peace plan in the next three to four months in exchange for the Palestinian leader abandoning efforts to pursue statehood in international bodies.

The paper said Abbas agreed to Kushner’s proposal, but demanded that Trump personally commit to the US peace plan, setting a meeting between the two leaders during the UN General Assembly in September.

The US plan would include a set timetable for talks, which would focus on the so-called core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian official said.

The report of the planned US proposal came amid recent signs of disillusionment from Abbas over US peace efforts.

On Saturday, the White House dismissed as nonsense a report in the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat that Kushner had warned Abbas that a settlement freeze long sought by the Palestinians could not be a precondition for talks.

In contrast, the Al-Monitor news site reported Friday that Abbas came away from the meeting pleased with Trump’s commitment to the peace process.

“Today we understood more than ever that President Trump is indeed engaged [in the diplomatic process], he knows what his team is working on and what they are talking about, and he also found time despite the mess he is in to convey messages to Abbas,” an unnamed Palestinian source told Al-Monitor.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas leave following 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 (L) and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, following a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/ MANDEL NGAN)

The Palestinian source also said Kushner told Abbas the US was under the impression the PA president does not trust the White House and stressed that the US is working hard toward creating the conditions for a peace deal.

“There was a feeling that the Americans were offended,” the source said, “and that’s why Abbas was quick to explain himself and say that he was willing to reach a peace deal.”

Despite his recent pessimism, Abbas sounded a positive note during his meeting with Kushner.

“We know that this issue is difficult and complex, but nothing is impossible in the face of good efforts,” Abbas said during the parley with Kushner, according to official PA news outlet Wafa.

“We affirm that this [US] delegation is working toward peace, and we are working with it to achieve soon what Trump called the ‘peace deal,’” he added.

Palestinian security chief Majid Faraj told Al-Monitor that Abbas was facing pressure at home to move forward on peace efforts.

“While Netanyahu keeps putting up obstacles to avoid getting to the negotiating table for fear that his government will collapse, Abbas wants to move forward because he is under growing domestic pressure,” he said.

The Palestinian leader’s remarks expressing confidence in US efforts came despite the Trump administration’s continued refusal to endorse the two-state solution, in order to not, as State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday, “bias one side over the other.”

In his remarks carried by the official PA news outlet, Wafa, Kushner did not mention a two-state solution and only offered vague sentiments about peace in the future.

“President Trump is very optimistic and hopes for a better future for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people,” Kushner said. “We hope they can work together and live together for many years and have a much better life.”

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)
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)

Prior to meeting with Abbas last week, Kushner met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where he told the premier that Trump is “very committed” to help broker a peace deal.

“The president is very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in this area,” he said. “We really appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and his team to engaging very thoughtfully and respectfully in the way that the president has asked him to do so.”

Netanyahu for his part told Kushner he believed peace was “within our reach.”

Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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