Palestinian Plight: Updates & Discussions

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Israel Punishes Gazans After Fire Balloons, Cuts Fishing Limit
Thursday, 23 May, 2019


Several thousand Gazans depend on fishing for their livelihoods but often changing Israeli restrictions have led to prolonged layoffs that mean many live below the poverty line | AFP

Gaza- Asharq Al-Awsat

Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.

The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.

"A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice," said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

"The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel," it added.

Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.

The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 ceasefire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.

The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.

Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians were killed in this month's exchanges across the border.


 

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PA Mobilizes Newly-Acquired Armored Cars to Combat Chaos
Thursday, 23 May, 2019


An Israeli soldier walks past Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Ramallah, Tel Aviv- Kifah Zboun and Asharq Al-Awsat

In a first, the Palestinian Authority deployed Washington-approved armored cars to control a family skirmish that escalated into violence in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The move comes at a time Israeli propaganda has rumored that Palestinian security infrastructure will totally collapse in the event of halting cooperation with Israel. What triggered the deployment, however, was civilians exchanging fire in what posed a high risk for full-fledged clashes erupting.

Unnamed security officials have said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman approved the transfer of armored cars to the PA over nine months ago, at Washington’s request. The Israeli decision came in the wake of the financial crisis that left the PA grappling with security after Tel Aviv deducted funds from Palestinian tax returns.

For Israel’s part, it seized the funds to punish the PA for issuing remittances to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails. This has evolved into a crisis that is a source of concern when put in contrast with the widening of security chaos.

An Israeli official revealed that the PA had requested approval for obtaining the armored cars four years ago, but Israel had refused. But after gaining Washington’s backing, the PA was given the green light to roll in the wagons.

In February the security cabinet approved cutting $138 million in funds to the PA, the amount Israeli officials say the PA paid out in stipends to attackers and their families in 2018.

The deductions have led the PA to refuse all tax transfers from Israel, forcing Ramallah to launch austerity measures to tackle the budgetary shortfall.

This has included cuts to the salaries of employees, among them members of the security forces.

An Israeli official had said the PA requested the cars some four years ago, but Israel refused. Till today, the PA received 10 vehicles provided by the European Union and which entered the West Bank through Jordan, where Palestinian security personnel received extensive training.


 

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Jordanian-Iraqi-Palestinian Summit Supports Establishing Palestinian State
24 May, 2019


King Abdullah II meets Iraqi and Palestinian presidents in Amman on Thursday. Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic

Amman - Asharq Al-Awsat

A tripartite Jordanian-Iraqi-Palestinian summit, held Thursday in Amman, has underpinned the importance of supporting the Palestinians in securing their legitimate rights and establishing their independent state on the June 4, 1967, lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, Iraqi President Barham Salih, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas underscored the need to unify positions and bolster joint Arab action to overcome challenges and crises.

Discussions addressed the Palestinian cause and the importance of supporting Palestinians in establishing their independent state, in addition to the necessity of maintaining coordination in service of Arab causes and regional stability and security.

Within a holistic approach, the meeting covered the latest regional developments and efforts to reach political solutions to current crises and to counter-terrorism.

Ahead of the summit, the Jordanian and Iraqi presidents held a meeting where King Abdullah II asserted that Jordan stands by Iraq’s efforts to foster its security and stability and fulfill the aspirations of its people towards further prosperity and progress.

The outcomes of the trilateral summit, which was held in Cairo in March, were also highlighted, stressing the need to build on them to expand cooperation and coordination.

King Abdullah II and Salih further underscored the importance of boosting joint Arab action and unifying Arab and Muslim positions to counter challenges.

 

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Gaza Suffers Worst Medicine Shortage with Deficit at 52%
26 May, 2019


A medical warehouse in Gaza. (Reuters)

Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza Strip warned of the dangerous consequences on Gaza Strip patients due to a severe medicines shortage. The ministry said that the deficit in medicine and medical supplies exceeded 52 percent.

Director of Al-Shifa Hospital, the biggest public hospital in Gaza, Medhat Abbas said the facility has run out of several vital medicines and antibiotics.

Most of the medical items are unavailable in public and private pharmacies, he revealed, warning that the shortage threatens the lives of patients.

He called on all supporters of the health sector to intervene to save Gaza patients.

Health facilities in the coastal enclave had not received medicine shipments since the beginning of the year.

Earlier this year, the Health Ministry said 45 percent of the essential medicines had run out in Gaza.

The ministry had in early May sent a medicine convoy from Ramallah to Gaza.

Minister of Health Mai al-Kaila stated that Gaza is in the thoughts of every Palestinian, saying that the 15-truck convoy was dispatched at the orders of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The convoy included medicine to treat cancer, Haemophilia, diabetes and skin diseases. It included sedatives and antibiotics, dialysis treatment and material needed to perform various surgeries.

 

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Palestinian Authority Thwarts Terrorist Operation against Israeli Forces
Monday, 27 May, 2019


Palestinian gunmen carry weapons during a funeral march for a Palestinian shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Reuters file photo)

Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat

The Palestinian Authority (PA) foiled an attack planned by a woman from the West Bank who was in contact with ISIS-affiliated activists in Syria and the Gaza Strip, according to an Israeli report.

The report, published by Yedioth Ahronoth, stated that the attack was supposed to be carried out by Ala Bashir, 23, who was arrested by the PA two weeks ago and remains in its custody. She is accused of being affiliated with foreign parties linked to ISIS and was planning an attack against Israeli targets.

The newspaper stated that Bashir hails from Jinsafut near Kalkilya and is a teacher of Quranic studies.

The PA said that the attack was aimed at destabilizing the region.

It is unusual for security forces to arrest Palestinian women and it is usually followed by online campaigns calling for their immediate release. In response, the PA was forced to release a vague statement about Bashir’s arrest.

The Palestinian opposition criticized the PA, accusing it of arresting Bashir for belonging to the Hamas movement. Activists launched an online campaign in support of the detainee and calling for her release.

The PA’s Preventive Security Service (PSS), whose members detained the suspect, issued a statement on May 14 explaining the details of the arrest.

She was taken into custody based on information that certain parties, which had contributed to the destabilization of surrounding Arab countries, had exploited her difficult psychological and social condition.

The parties sought to “incite and recruit the woman, with the help of some members of illegal armed militias, to harm the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank,” added the statement.

Bashir was arrested in accordance with the law, explained the PSS, adding that her lawyers were allowed to visit her in prison.

A high-ranking Palestinian source told Yedioth Ahronoth that Bashir was arrested for her close contacts with ISIS and planning a terrorist attack. She joined ISIS after she was approached on the Telegram instant messaging app to set out on a suicide mission.

The foiled attempt comes at a time of strained relations between the PA and Israel following the cut-off of Palestinian tax revenues as a punishment for the Authority for paying salaries of families of fighters and prisoners.

This is not the first time the Authority foils plots against Israel. The PA bans any action from Palestinian territories to avoid dragging the region into a "violent" spiral.

Joint security coordination usually takes place between Palestinian and Israeli security services, but it has been severely damaged by successive disagreements.

President Mahmoud Abbas is now threatening to stop this coordination altogether, with the cancellation of broader agreements with Israel in response to the yet-to-be revealed US “deal of the century” peace proposal and the stalemate of the political process.

 

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Jordan, Sweden Emphasize Need to Support UNRWA
Tuesday, 28 May, 2019


A Palestinian man sits outside an aid distribution center run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip September 1, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Amman - Asharq Al-Awsat

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Swedish Ambassador of the Department for the Middle East and North Africa, Anna Hammargren, underlined the need to work with the international community to raise political and financial support for UNRWA.

During a meeting in Amman on Monday, the two officials discussed regional developments and efforts underway to overcome challenges and achieve peace and stability in the region. They also touched on joint efforts, in cooperation with the international community, to garner support for UNRWA, within the framework of a cooperation agreement by the two countries to assist the agency.

A statement by the Jordanian foreign ministry said that Safadi and Hammargren reviewed the implementation mechanisms for the recommendations of the Stockholm meeting, which was held in April, and which emphasized the need to address the gap in UNRWA’s funding and to resolve the Palestinian refugee issue within a comprehensive political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on international resolutions.

The statement added that the two officials underlined the importance of providing sufficient support to the agency to enable it to maintain its UN-mandated role towards Palestinian refugees. It also said that Jordan and Sweden were working within a strategic partnership to narrow the agency’s deficit for the current year of around $200 million.

Safadi highly valued Sweden’s efforts in this regard, noting that the country has donated $200 million to the agency, in addition to rallying international political and monetary support to aid its cause.

The General Assembly is scheduled to vote this year on whether to extend UNRWA’s mandate.


 

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Kushner, Greenblatt to visit Amman, Rabat and Jerusalem to push US peace plan
Arab News
May 28, 2019
  • Kushner is also accompanied by Brian Hook
  • White House official spoke on condition of anonymity
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and assistant Jared Kushner has departed on a trip to Morocco, Jordan and Israel, the White House said Tuesday, signalling a fresh round of talks on a proposed US Mideast peace plan.

Kushner is accompanied by Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative to international negotiations, and Brian Hook, the special US representative for Iran, the White House said.

They "will travel from May 27 to May 31 to Rabat, Amman, and Jerusalem," said a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The trip, which will last through until Friday, comes before Middle East states hold a workshop on the proposal planned for late June in Bahrain, the official said.

 

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Kushner in Morocco to build support for Mideast peace plan
AP
May 28, 2019
  • Kushner is also accompanied by Brian Hook
  • White House official spoke on condition of anonymity
RABAT: President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is in Morocco to seek King Mohammed VI’s backing for economic elements of the Trump administration’s still-secret peace plan for Israel and Palestine.

The Trump administration is stepping up efforts to build support for the plan, as the architects of the proposal began a Mideast tour this week aimed at winning over uneasy Arab nations.

A White House official said on Tuesday the trip “is part of our ongoing efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians” but offered no specifics about the team’s agenda at its various stops.

The administration is keen to win support from members of the Arab League on whom the plan will rely heavily for both economic and political support.

Kushner, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and special US envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, will also travel to Jordan and Israel as part of the trip.

The Palestinians, who have cut off contact with the Trump administration and have rejected the peace plan, are urging fellow Arabs to steer clear of the Bahrain economic workshop to be held on June 25-26.

However, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have all signaled they intend to participate.

Morocco and Jordan have yet to offer any public position on either the peace plan or the Bahrain meeting. Both have close ties with the Palestinian leadership.

 

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Jordan's king tells Trump adviser peace can only come with a Palestinian state
May 29, 2019 / Updated 5 minutes ago

AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan’s King Abdullah told U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner on Thursday that a lasting Middle East peace can only come with the creation of a Palestinian state on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war and with east Jerusalem as its capital, a palace statement said.

Kushner, who arrived in Amman earlier, is leading a U.S. delegation to the Middle East this week seeking support for a late June workshop aimed at helping the Palestinians, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Hugh Lawson


 

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Erekat: China, Russia to Boycott Economic Workshop
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019


Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee Saeb Erekat looks on during a news conference following his meeting with foreign diplomats, in Ramallah, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Ramallah- Kifah Zboun

The Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee, Saeb Erekat, said he had been informed by China and Russia that they would skip the next month’s workshop in Bahrain end of this month.

Erekat noted in meetings with foreign delegations and through the social media websites that the leadership held talks with more than 20 states and international authorities. He was briefed by China's ambassador to Palestine who informed him and other Palestinian officials about the boycott.

Earlier, member of the PLO Executive Committee Ahmed Majdalani arrived in South Africa, carrying with him political messages.

Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister and Information Minister Nabil Abu Rudeina handed a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the developments in the Palestinian cause and the steps to be taken by the leadership to face the Deal of the Century.

Abu Rudeina added that any partial solutions wouldn’t bring peace and security because the Palestinian cause was originally political. This message was conveyed by Erekat to ambassadors and consuls, asking them not to respond to any invitations to participate in Manama.

The “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop, to be held on June 25 and 26 in Bahrain, was announced last week by senior White House officials, who said that the Trump administration is planning to release the economic component of its upcoming Middle East peace plan during that workshop.



 

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Saudi FM: Palestine Our 'First Cause'
Thursday, 30 May, 2019


Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf attends a preparatory meeting between Arab foreign ministers ahead of the Arab summit in Tunis, Tunisia March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Jeddah - Mohammed al-Ayed, Saeed al-Abyad

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf said that the Israeli conflict remains a major challenge facing the Islamic nation, affirming that the Palestinian cause is a top priority to the kingdom until Palestinians get their full rights and establish their independent state with East Jerusalem as the capital.

“The conflict with Israel is the most important challenge facing the Islamic Ummah," he noted.

His statement was made at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held Wednesday in Jeddah ahead of a series of summits in the kingdom.

Assaf also stressed that attacks on Gulf oil facilities must be addressed with "strength and firmness" and that more efforts were needed to combat the activities of the groups that carried them out.

"We emphasize the need to exert more efforts to combat the subversive activities of extremist and terrorist groups. They must be addressed with all strength and firmness," he stated.

Assaf was referring to an attack on oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates coast this month and drone strikes on oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi FM said that the Islamic world is going through serious and grave challenges, the most dangerous of which is the interference in its internal affairs.

"Tehran´s support for Houthis in Yemen is a proof of Iranian interference in other nations´ affairs and this is something that Islamic countries should reject," he said, adding that, "the foreign interventions have exacerbated the crisis of the Yemeni people," while vowing support for the UN efforts to end the conflict in the country.

The minister also stressed that the Kingdom stands with the Republic of Sudan and supports the Transitional Military Council and measures taken by it in serving interests of the Sudanese people.

He pointed out that the Islamic nation is facing dangerous crises in Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Afghanistan and that the minority of Muslims are withstanding challenges.

Assaf stressed the need for political a solution in Syria according to the Geneva 1 resolution and the necessity to end the presence of sectarian militias. He highlighted the importance of the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar and that justice should be served to them.

Assaf renewed Saudi Arabia's support for Libya to resolve its current crisis.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the OIC Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed al-Othaimeen stressed that Palestine is the ‘central’ cause and that it hasn’t been resolved yet because of the Israeli occupation continuous recklessness to the international legitimacy resolutions.

OIC is keeping a close eye on Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, Guinea, and other countries, he noted.

 

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UK to provide £1.6m aid package to help save limbs in Gaza

Arab News
May 29, 2019

  • The package to the World Health Organization comes after thousands of Gazans were wounded by Israeli fire during weekly protests
  • The money will go towards building a limb reconstruction center
LONDON: Britain is to provide a £1.6 million aid package to help build a limb reconstruction center in Gaza.

The funds will go to the World Health Organization and will provide life-saving medical treatment for more than 380,000 people, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

Gaza’s ailing health service has been plunged into further crisis by the thousands of Palestinians injured from Israeli live fire during more than a year of protests near their shared border.

At least 190 people have been killed and 6,800 wounded during the weekly protests and the United Nations warned last week that an additional 1,700 people could lose limbs without an injection of funds.

The Foreign Office said the package of support would relieve the extreme pressure on Gaza’s health service, which is struggling to cope with thousands of patients in need of trauma care.
"I'm delighted to be able to announce £1.6 million of new funding that will help towards emergency and trauma care for the people of Gaza."

Over 380,000 people will receive life-saving medical treatment with help from #UKaid: More than 380,000 people in Gaza will receive life-saving medical treatment with help from UK aidpic.twitter.com/Bn8TmKuvOE
— Foreign Office (@foreignoffice) May 29, 2019
"I’ve seen first-hand how important this new UK aid package is to save the lives and limbs, relieving at least some of the strain on Gaza’s health system,” Andrew Murrison, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, said.

The UK would also provide valuable expertise to help Gaza’s health service deal with emergency patients and complex injuries including gunshot wounds.

The package includes equipment, such as radios and GPS maps, to help the ambulance service improve its ability to respond.

“But only a just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians will fully resolve the problems facing Gaza," Murrison said. "The UK remains committed to making progress toward a two-state solution.”

Gaza, which is ruled by the hardline Hamas group, has been under a punishing blockade from Israel for more than a decade.

The siege has crippled services and led to a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by a series of military operations against the territory.

 

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US Peace Plan Might Be Postponed Until Next Fall
Friday, 31 May, 2019


US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump meets with his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, US, August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Washington- Elie Youssef

Will US President Donald Trump’s adviser, Jared Kushner, succeed in putting forward the peace plan this year, or will a new Israeli election - held after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to form his government – postpone it for a relatively long term?

This question has been widely debated in Washington over the past two days, after Israel appeared to be on the verge of a political crisis, as the interventions that Trump’s administration reportedly carried out to support Netanyahu did not succeed.

According to political circles, the search now exceeds the conditions that Washington was preparing to secure in order to guarantee the success of its plan for peace in the Middle East, especially at the political level.

These sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinians succeeded in garnering supportive Arab stances, especially from the Gulf States, including Bahrain, which will host a conference on June 25, during which the US will explain the economic part of its plan.

The same sources noted that the US administration was trying not to present the peace plan before the completion of the recent Israeli elections, due to the sensitivity of this project and its possible political impact on the election campaigns.

This means that the peace plan will be postponed at least until next fall, according to the sources, which also said that the equation today differed, as the Arab States required progress in the file of the conflict with Iran before talking about any peace project.

They added that the Arabs sent a warning to the United States that any peace plan should guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people.

According to the sources, the current and urgent issue in the region is Iran, its political and military behavior and its nuclear and regional ambitions, while the 70-year-old Palestinian cause can wait for a few years before a settlement is reached, especially since all parties have clearly stated that a two-state solution and East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state are irrevocable demands.

The sources went on to say that the preparations for the Bahrain conference, in which the United States will present the economic aspect of its plan, will continue to ensure a partial achievement of the peace plan.

The economic benefits promised by the peace deal, according to Washington, are not limited to Palestinians and include other countries such as Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon.

Achievements made at the Bahrain conference can be built on politically at a later stage, according to the sources.


 

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Abbas Officially Informs Bahrain of His Absence From Manama Workshop
Friday, 31 May, 2019


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Reuters)

Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has informed Bahrain of the Palestinian Authority’s decision not to participate in the US workshop in Manama.

During a meeting in Jordan, Abbas told Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the envoy of the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the PA’s final decision to boycott the summit.

The Bahraini envoy, who stepped in Amman before heading to Saudi Arabia, emphasized during the meeting the historical ties between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Palestinian people and leadership.

He also conveyed the greetings of King Hamad bin Isa to Abbas and his pride in the historical relations, stressing the depth of cooperation between the two peoples and the adherence to a political solution of the Palestinian issue on the basis of international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative.

Abbas expressed his thanks to the King and his confidence in his wisdom and steadfast stance towards the Palestinian cause.

The Authority had announced in advance that it would not participate in the economic workshop organized by the US in Bahrain at the end of next month, and launched a campaign against it.

 

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Palestinians say U.S. 'deal of the century' will finish off their state
May 31, 2019
Samia Nakhoul

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The U.S. blueprint to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, still in draft form after almost two years, is seen by Palestinians, and by some Arab officials and politicians, as a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.

The initiative, driven by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, was billed by the U.S. president as the “deal of the century”.

While its precise outlines have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on the draft plan say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution - the long-standing U.S. and international formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

After several postponements, Washington plans a first formal outing of the economic components of the plan at a “Peace for Prosperity” workshop in June in Bahrain.

The plan faces possible delays due to political upheaval in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fight another election after failing to form a government.

Kushner and Trump, with backgrounds in real estate rather than diplomacy, seem to be approaching this hitherto insoluble conflict as a transaction, three Arab officials briefed on the plan said.

If the politics keep failing, the reasoning seems to be, then try dangling tens of billions of dollars before the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors – and do a deal that could unlock prosperity for the Palestinians and security for Israel, these officials said.

Politically, the deal envisages an expansion of Gaza into part of northern Egypt, under Egyptian control, Palestinian officials briefed on the plan told Reuters. Palestinians would be left with a smaller share of the West Bank and some areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem and no control over their borders. Western and Arab sources confirmed the outline of the plan.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East envoy, said “rumours” about an expansion into Egypt’s Sinai desert were false. He declined to give details of the political plan before it is released.

On the decision not to use the term “two-state solution”, Grenblatt said: “We believe that using certain phrases and labels is not helpful because they lack detail and nuance – they mean different things to different people. The detailed plan, once released, will show what we think may be best solution for the two parties.”


NOT BUYING IT
The Palestinians are not buying it.

“What we’re seeing from the plan is that it will blow up the Palestinians,” one Arab official told Reuters. “The plan doesn’t give justice to the Palestinians.”

“The Palestinian cause is being liquidated - no Jerusalem (as capital), no right of return for refugees, no sovereign state. That is why this American project is dangerous,” one senior Palestinian leader told Reuters.

The deal as outlined so far has been dismissed by President Mahmoud Abbas’ western-backed Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Abbas has boycotted political dealings with the Trump administration for 18 months. This followed Trump’s decisions in 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Since then, the Trump administration has curtailed aid to the Palestinian Authority, shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) delegation in Washington and cut off finance to UNRWA, the U.N. agency supporting Palestinian refugees. Washington meanwhile endorsed Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“In practice they have already started implementing ‘the deal of the century’,” the senior Palestinian leader said, “on the ground, step by step”. “Today, the two-state solution has been scuttled”.

Abbas is not alone in his view of the U.S. deal.

It was rejected by the Islamist Hamas movement, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has only given conditional consent to a state in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The PLO has dismissed the Kushner effort as an attempt to bribe Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a prelude to Israel annexing about half their territory and leaving them with scattered cantons.

Hanan Ashrawi, a moderate Palestinian leader, tweeted that the Kushner plan and the Bahrain conference were just “a handout to make our captivity palatable”.


Palestinian businessmen have opposed the Bahrain gathering despite a plea by Washington to attend, saying their political demands must be addressed in any peace plan.

Qatar said economic prosperity cannot be achieved without political solutions acceptable to Palestinians. Oman said anything that precludes the establishment of a Palestinian state will not be acceptable.

“We are not proposing an economic peace,” Greenblatt said. “We know that is not acceptable to the Palestinians. We’ve been very clear that the full plan includes a political component as well. But the economic plan is an essential component to the full plan.”

MOVING ON?
Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an influential think-tank and supporter of Israel, wrote after interviewing Kushner this month that the deal is a political disaster that should be abandoned.

He said positive economic proposals could be lost by the attempt to skirt around Palestinian rights.

“The only way to protect the long-term viability of the plan’s best aspects is to kill it,” he said.

Satloff wrote that “unlike a real estate transaction in which one party gets the property and the other party gets the cash, a Middle East peace deal starts and ends with the two parties as neighbors, stuck with each other sharing a duplex for eternity”.

Kushner meanwhile visited the Middle East this week seeking support for the June 25-26 Bahrain conference.

The meeting is to talk about the cash. The U.S. plan expects almost all of this – $50 billion to $70 billion – to be put up by Gulf Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Palestinian sources said. Yet even that is now moot.

Saudi Arabia, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the UAE, under Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, want to move on from a Palestinian conflict they believe has held back the Arab world.

That means uniting with Israel against Iran and concentrating on domestic challenges such as economic reforms and confronting Islamist radicals.


The Saudi crown prince maintains close ties with Kushner. But his father, King Salman, has twice said there will be no deal unless Israel meets Palestinian rights to a state.

“Kushner has been taken by surprise in his meetings in Riyadh recently, where there has definitely been a change in tone – in private and in public – by the Saudis,” said a senior western diplomat.

Asked for comment, the White House referred to its earlier official statement on Kushner’s February meeting with the crown prince and the king which said they discussed “increasing cooperation” and efforts to facilitate peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

NEW REALITY
The Palestinian official said it is clear that Israel “is creating a new reality on the ground” with the Trump administration’s help – not least by paving the way for the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinian and Arab officials briefed on the Kushner- Trump plan said its political contours, as explained to them, look like non-starters unless there is a peace deal.

The essential part is Gaza: where 2 million Palestinians are shut into a strip between Israel and Egypt. The idea is to expand it into the north of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, creating an area where Palestinians can live and work under Egyptian control.

“The plan envisions Gaza stretching from Rafah (its southern border) to El Arish and some parts of Sinai. This area will be a Palestinian expansion in which Palestinians can reside,” the Palestinian leader said.

Big projects, such as an airport, a seaport, an industrial zone and power stations are envisaged, Palestinian sources briefed on the plan said.

On the West Bank, the plan is for Israel to annex and join up the settlements, take the Jordan valley and make it the Israeli border with Jordan, and leave the Palestinians a bit less than half as “an autonomous mini-state under some form of self-government”, the senior Palestinian leader said.

As for Jerusalem, Palestinians would get neighborhoods on the outskirts such as Abu Dis and Beit Hanina and Silwan: “not the real Jerusalem (but) they will tell them this is your Jerusalem”, the Palestinian leader added.


Western diplomats and intelligence sources worry about how the plan might affect Egypt and Jordan.

However much money is offered, these sources question whether Egyptians would happily relinquish territory.

And Jordan fears a Trump-backed Israel is returning to an old theme: Jordan is Palestine and that is where the Palestinians of the West Bank should go, they say.

(This story was refiled to correct spelling of surnames in paragraphs 10 and 37)

Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous, Eric Knecht, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Giles Elgood

 

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