Palestinians warn Israel, US as Trump discusses new 'peace plan'

Palestinians reject US meeting with Netanyahu, promise not to recognise peace plan expected to favour Israel.

    Tensions have soared between the Palestinian Authority and the US since Trump took office [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
    Tensions have soared between the Palestinian Authority and the US since Trump took office [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

    The Palestinian Authority (PA) has warned Israel and the United States against "crossing red lines" promising not to recognise any Middle East peace plan it had previously rejected as US President Donald Trump prepares to present the plan in the coming days.

    Trump said on Thursday he will likely release the long-awaited plan before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington, DC next week.

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    "Probably we'll release it a little bit prior to that," the US leader told reporters travelling with him to Florida on board Air Force One, referring to the White House meeting on Tuesday.

    "It's a great plan. It's a plan that really would work," he added.

    The Palestinians, who were not invited to the White House meeting with Netanyahu, immediately rejected the US-hosted talks, as they reject the peace plan itself, which has been in the works since 2017. Its release has been delayed repeatedly.

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    The economic part of the plan was shared in June and calls for $50bn in international investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries over 10 years.

    The Palestinians rejected Trump's peace efforts after he recognised disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.

    Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman of the Palestinian presidency, said in a statement the Palestinian leadership will reject any steps by the US that would breach international law, the official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

    "If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power," Abu Rudeineh said.

    He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the PA, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.

    "We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines," Abu Rudeineh said.

    He reiterated the call for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and said an independent Palestinian state should be established with occupied East Jerusalem recognised as its capital.

    'It's all about Israel'

    On the plane on Thursday, Trump said he was pleased that Netanyahu and his main electoral rival Benny Gantz, the head of the centrist Blue and White party, would visit the White House in the middle of the campaign for Israeli elections on March 2.

    "We have both candidates coming - unheard of," Trump said.

    Asked if he had contacted the Palestinians, Trump said: "We've spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time.

    "And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I'm sure they maybe will react negatively at first but it's actually very positive for them."

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    Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, told AFP news agency that Trump hosting two Israeli leaders and no Palestinians showed the meeting was about influencing domestic Israeli politics, rather than a genuine attempt at peace.
         
    "This is confirmation of their policy from the beginning - it is all about and for Israel."

    The plan is expected to strongly favour Israel and offer it control over large parts of the West Bank.

    The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state, as part of the two-state solution which most of the international community supports.

    Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the occupied Jordan Valley as well as illegal Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.

    Netanyahu has tried to make that pledge the cornerstone of his campaign for re-election following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.

    Trump's 'ultimate deal'

    Trump, whose team has long been working on the outlines of a secretive peace plan, has repeatedly boasted that he is the most pro-Israeli US president in history.

    Abbas cut off all ties with the US in December 2017 after Trump broke with decades of international consensus and recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

    The Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state and world powers have long agreed that Jerusalem's fate should be settled via negotiations.

    Trump came to power in 2017 promising to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, which he labelled the "ultimate deal".

    But he has since taken a series of decisions that outraged the Palestinians, including cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and declaring that the US no longer considered Israel's West Bank settlements illegal.

    His plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is believed to revolve around encouraging huge economic investment.

    After many postponements, the peace initiative was expected several months ago.

    But it was delayed after September elections in Israel proved inconclusive, and it was not expected to be released until after the March 2 polls.

    Israeli media discussed what it said were leaked outlines of the deal on Thursday, saying the US had acquiesced to many key Israeli demands.

    The meeting in Washington, DC will come about a month before new Israeli elections, with polls showing Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's Blue and White neck-and-neck.

    The meeting on Tuesday coincides with an expected session in the Israeli parliament to discuss Netanyahu's potential immunity from prosecution over a series of corruption charges.    

    Israeli media speculated that Trump had chosen to announce the event in support of Netanyahu's election bid - the third in a year.

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    SOURCE: News agencies