Above Photo: Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Trump’s initiative would turn Israel’s ‘temporary occupation into a permanent occupation’ of Palestinian territory (AFP)
Palestinian leaders have made clear that they no longer recognise Washington’s historic role as mediator, given Trump’s repeated backing of Israeli demands
Palestinian leaders threatened on Sunday to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords, which define arrangements with Israel, if US President Donald Trump announces his proposal for Israel and Palestine this week.
The Oslo Accords resulted in Israel’s recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation as a representative of the Palestinian people and a party to the peace negotiations, while the PLO, in turn officially recognised Israel’s right to exist peacefully and renounced the use of violence to achieve its goals, according to AMN.
Trump was scheduled to unveil his proposal, dubbed by some as the “deal of the century”, ahead of his meeting in Washington early this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who has called Trump “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had”, said he hoped to “make history” in Washington this week.
Still, the Palestinian leadership was not invited to the talks and has rejected Trump’s initiative amid tensions with the US president over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
World powers have long agreed that Jerusalem’s fate should be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that the PLO reserved the right “to withdraw from the interim agreement” of the Oslo pact if Trump unveils his plan.
The Trump initiative will turn Israel’s “temporary occupation into a permanent occupation” of Palestinian territory, Erekat said.
The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, signed in Washington in 1995, sought to put into practise the first Oslo peace deal agreed two years earlier.
Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
The interim pact was only supposed to last five years while a permanent agreement was finalised, but it has tacitly been rolled over for more than two decades.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
More than 600,000 Israelis now live there in settlements considered illegal under international law.
The Trump administration last year announced that it no longer considered Israel’s settlement of civilians in the West Bank as “inconsistent with international law”, further outraging the Palestinians.
Trump’s initiative has been in the works since 2017, and its economic component was unveiled in June, calling for $50bn in international investment in the Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab countries over 10 years.
Despite this apparent economic incentive, Palestinian leaders have made clear that they no longer recognise Washington’s historic role as mediator in the conflict, given Trump’s repeated backing of Israeli demands.
“The US administration will not find a single Palestinian who supports this project,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “Trump’s plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday said that Trump’s plan “will not pass”. In a statement from the Gaza Strip, Haniyeh said: “We firmly declare that the ‘deal of the century’ will not pass. The new plot aimed against Palestine is bound to fail,” and may lead the Palestinians to a “new phase in their struggle” against Israel.
Netanyahu’s political rival Benny Gantz has also received an invitation to attend the White House talks. Gantz showered Trump with praise during a news conference.
“I wish to thank President Trump for his dedication and determination in defending the security interests that both Israel and the US share,” Gantz said.
Trump will hold back-to-back meetings with Netanyahu and Gantz on Monday, where he will likely share some details of his Middle East plan, a US source familiar with the plan said on Sunday, according to Reuters.
Trump will meet first with Netanyahu and then with Gantz, the source said, with talks continuing on Tuesday. Netanyahu has said he would meet with Trump on both days. Gantz has said he would meet with the US president on Monday.
Trump’s planned separate meetings with Netanyahu and Gantz come a little more than a month before new Israeli elections, with polls showing Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party running neck-and-neck.
Israeli media speculated that Trump had chosen to unveil his plan in support of Netanyahu’s election bid – the third in a year, but the first since Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.
Netanyahu is seeking immunity from Israeli lawmakers through hearings due to start this week.
“Immediately after news of the plan was reported, it became plainly evident based on the reactions that this wasn’t a Trump plan, but a Bibi-Trump plot,” analyst Ben-Dror Yemini wrote in Sunday’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
“Yet another election ploy that was designed to extricate Netanyahu from the clutches of his immunity hearings.”