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New US, Saudi deal snubs Palestinian rights and international law

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US President Donald Trump in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 23 May 2017 [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

President Donald Trump is reported to be working on a deal that does not even guarantee the minimum rights of the Palestinians. The deal, which is yet to be announced, presented to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, falls way short of the guarantees granted to Palestinians under international law and underpins the basic framework of a two-state solution.

According to the New York Times, Palestinian, Arab and European officials who have heard Abbas’ version of last month’s conversation with Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman reported that he was offered a plan more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever; one that no Palestinian leader could ever accept.

Abbas revealed details of the meeting with Mohamed Bin Salman, who had summoned the Palestinian President to Riyadh last month. While it was widely reported that the de-facto Saudi King had offered the PLO leader an ultimatum, facts around the peace plan devised by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had been sketchy.

Many suspected that the plan by the Trump administration, which includes sympathisers with right wing Israeli groups and setter organisations, would attempt to force a deal on the Palestinians.

Read: Saudi abuse of Palestine is a stigma, claims journalist

If Abbas’ account of the meeting is to be believed, it would mean that Palestinians will be denied sovereignty; they will be deprived of a politically and economically sustainable state; millions of Palestinian refugees will not be granted their rights under international law to return and be compensated by the Israeli state and a new non-contiguous Palestinian state offered to them would not include East Jerusalem as its capital.

There is further speculation that as compensation to the Palestinians for the loss of territory, sections of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, a rocky desert plagued lately by military confrontations between the Egyptian regime and militant forces, will be allocated to them. A Western official, according to the New York Times, rejected that idea.

In his statement to MEMO, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, denounced the deal. “Trump’s ‘peace’ plan is utterly unacceptable and will be categorically rejected as it does not fulfil the national aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own sovereign state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said. “The current legal and political status of Jerusalem defines it as occupied territory, as is the case with the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The proposed plan violates the global rule of law and should be speedily and unequivocally condemned by the entire international community.

Officials in Riyadh and Washington have denied that such a deal had been offered. The Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid Bin Salman, said in an email that “the Kingdom remains committed to a settlement based on the Arab peace initiative of 2002, including East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. To suggest otherwise is false,” reported the New York Times.

However, Trump’s commitment to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US embassy to the occupied city appears to suggest that ideas once considered beyond the pale are now seriously being considered.

Senior members of the PA are deeply uneasy over plans which the US and Saudi may force the Palestinians to accept. Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that a deal which includes non-recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine would be “international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law”.

He went on to add that the United States would be destabilising the region, discouraging supporters of a peaceful solution and “disqualifying itself to play any role in any initiative towards achieving a just and lasting peace”.

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