Archive for February 2, 2020

After peace plan rejected, US laments Arab League’s approach as outdated

February 2, 2020

Source: After peace plan rejected, US laments Arab League’s approach as outdated | The Times of Israel

Senior official says Palestinian fate won’t change if group of 22 countries doesn’t alter methods; CIA chief said to visit Ramallah, assure PA of opposition to snap annexation

Jared Kushner (R) joins US President Donald Trump as he holds a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 1, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

A senior US official on Saturday lambasted the Arab League’s rejection of the recently released Trump peace plan, saying in a statement that such dismissals would not benefit the Palestinian people.

“It is only by having a wiliness [sic] to try a new approach that we will make a breakthrough in a conflict that has left the Palestinian people to suffer for decades,” a senior administration official said in a written statement.

“Past Arab League resolutions have placated Palestinian leadership and not led to peace or progress and it is important to try a new approach or the Palestinian people’s fate will not change.” the official added.

The comments from Washington came after the Arab League voted during an emergency meeting in Cairo to unanimously rejected US President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East plan, calling it “unfair” to Palestinians.

This picture taken on February 1, 2020 shows a view at an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo, as delegates take to their seats (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

The official attempted to highlight “positive remarks” from some Arab foreign ministers who did not dismiss the peace plan out of hand in speeches before the unanimous vote to totally reject the proposal.

“It is important … to come out with a constructive stance, a realistic stance and a positive strategy that goes beyond just condemnation,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, according to Riyadh-based Arab News.

Nonetheless, the Arab League, a pan-Arab bloc of 22 countries, said in its statement Saturday that it “rejects the US-Israeli ‘deal of the century’ considering that it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.”

Arab leaders also vowed “not to… cooperate with the US administration to implement this plan.”

The League warned that Israel must not act on the plan unilaterally — a reference to Israel’s stated intention to move on annexation as soon as possible.

The US proposal would grant the Palestinians a state with restricted sovereignty in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements and keep nearly all of East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians would control scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

Immediately after, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to bring the issue for a vote in the cabinet on Sunday, but has since backtracked after the US administration indicated that while it does not oppose annexation, it was not ready to see it happen until at least after the coming Israeli elections on March 2.

After initial mixed messages, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner clarified on Thursday that the US would not approve of Israeli annexation efforts before the March election.

Reports on major Israeli television networks Saturday said CIA Director Gina Haspel had secretly visited Ramallah in recent days and met with Palestinian officials.

Channel 12 news reported that Haspel assured them Washington would seek to prevent Israel from annexing West Bank land before the March 2 election, as Netanyahu has indicated he would like to do.

CIA Director Gina Haspel testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats” on January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

According to Kan TV, Palestinian officials told Haspel they would not cut security ties with US agencies. The network also reported that Haspel met with Israeli officials during her visit but did not provide further details.

There was no official confirmation of Haspel’s visit from Israel, the US or the PA.

Channel 13 on Saturday reported White House officials were surprised by the unanimous rejection of the plan by the Arab League, as several Arab nations had initially voiced cautious support for the proposal.

Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Araba, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco all issued statements following the release of the plan calling it a welcoming step. But on Saturday all backed the Arab League rejection.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of (L to R) “historical Palestine,” the 1947 United Nations partition plan on Palestine, the 1948-1967 borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel, and a current map of the Palestinian territories without Israeli-controlled areas and settlements, during an Arab League emergency meeting discussing US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal, at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

An unnamed Arab diplomat told the Haaretz daily that the US had not fully briefed envoys from Bahrain, the UAE and Oman on the details of the plan before they agreed to attend its unveiling ceremony on Tuesday.

The disappointment with the details of the plan led the three countries to join the other Arab League member states in voting Saturday to reject the plan, he said.

The proposal unveiled Tuesday by US President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday recognizes Israel’s rights to the Jordan Valley, all West Bank settlements and their surroundings — some 30% of the West Bank in total.

US President Donald Trump, left, listens as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, January 28, 2020, to announce the Trump administration’s much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Channel 12 reported Saturday that Washington wants Israel to accept the plan in its entirety before it goes ahead with any annexation push — a possibly difficult request, given much of the Israeli right’s refusal to accept the notion of a Palestinian state, no matter how small and non-contiguous it might be.

Nonetheless, the network reported that Netanyahu is planning on bringing the plan before the cabinet soon for a symbolic vote. The measure would be strictly declarative in nature, but Netanyahu is hoping to use the government’s approval to convince Washington to green-light a measure of limited annexation in the West Bank before the election.

On Friday the network reported that Netanyahu is eager to secure backing for a symbolic “mini annexation” in the coming days to appease his right-wing voters after his plans to quickly annex the Jordan Valley and West Bank Jewish settlements were stymied by US opposition.


Arab League rejects Trump Mid-East peace plan. Not all members agree – DEBKAfile

February 2, 2020

Source: Arab League rejects Trump Mid-East peace plan. Not all members agree – DEBKAfile

Arab League foreign ministers rejected President Donald Trump’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan at an emergency meeting in Cairo, on Feb.1, called by the Palestinian leader.

They said “it does not satisfy the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people” and warned Israel against “implementing it by force.” The US and Israel will be responsible for the consequences of Israel annexing any part of the West Bank. The closing statement said that the Arab countries “will not engage with the US on the plan” and will not cooperate with the Trump administration in its implementation.”

Sources in Cairo add, however that the Arab foreign ministers were not of one mind on this statement. Some of them pointed out that the Trump plan contained some positive elements and it should not be summarily rejected but rather the subject of negotiations..

President Trump and the plan’s co-authors, senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, did not expect all Arab governments to buy the new Israel-Palestinian peace plan as a seamless, non-negotiable product, but rather as a framework with movable parts.

What the White House tried to achieve with the plan’s formal unveiling on Tuesday, Jan. 28, was: –

  1. To loosen up with practical ideas the most intractable issues between Israelis and Palestinians held in deep freeze for too many years.
  2. To lay down the Trump administration’s positions on the fundamental issues of the dispute and chart a framework for resolving them. The White House would feel vindicated, if only by a small step forward, if the Arabs and/or the Palestinians came forward with demands for changes in the plan.
    They were encouraged in this hope when Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE advised the Palestinians before the Cairo session not to reject the Trump plan forthwith but to first study it in detail. On Friday, Jan. 31, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al- Nahyan made this advice public when he quoted a NYT article with this heading: “Refusal today will almost inevitably lead to getting less tomorrow.”

The UAE, Oman and Bahrain sent their ambassadors to the plan’s formal presentation at the White House. And the foreign ministers’ communique fell short of going all the way to meet the all-or-nothing demand from Ramallah: “Tell the Americans, ‘What the Palestinians accept, we accept. And what the Palestinians reject, we reject.’”

This demand was laid down by Hussein a-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister in charge of interrelations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Therefore, from Washington’s point of view, the Trump plan could have fared worse than it did in Cairo on Saturday.

To that end, Trump’s “peace envoys” went out of their way to pour cold water on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s eagerness to immediately announce the extension of Israeli sovereignty to all Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, as provided for in the new peace plan. Those envoys, led by Kushner, explained that a unilateral Israeli move for large-scale annexations would shut the door against negotiations, which were likewise an integral element of the Trump plan. Therefore, it is to be expected that the Israel chapter in this plan will be open for dialogue like all its other sections.

Meanwhile, following intense discussions between Washington and Jerusalem over the timing of the annexation process. The Americans urged its delay until after Israel’s general election on March 2. The upshot of these talks is that the Netanyahu will have to be satisfied for the moment with a token step, such as extending sovereignty to one place. The small town of Maale Adummim, east of Jerusalem, tops the list.