(CNSNews.com) – Palestinian leaders have, as anticipated, roundly rejected President Trump’s Mideast peace proposal, but the stance of some key Sunni Arab states is more nuanced, characterizing it as an important basis from which to move ahead.
At the plan’s unveiling at the White House Tuesday, both Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the presence of the ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman.
Trump thanked the three Gulf states “for the incredible work they’ve done, helping us with so much,” while Netanyahu said of the ambassadors’ participation, “what a sign it portends – I was going to say ‘of the future.’ What a sign it portends of the present.”
UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba in a statement afterwards called the plan “a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”
“The plan announced today offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a U.S.-led international framework,” he said.
Also noteworthy was the reaction from Saudi Arabia, whose custodianship over Islam’s two most revered sites accords it a leading standing in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
“The kingdom appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,” response was a reiteration of the kingdom’s stance that the only path to peace is an independent Palestinian state along the “pre-1967 lines” with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace alongside Israel.
Political and economic vision
None of the four reaction statements addressed specifics of the plan – a 180-page document outlining a political and economic framework for a comprehensive agreement to end the drawn-out conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Among the more controversial elements, the plan provides for an extension of Israeli sovereignty over blocs of Israeli cities and towns (“settlements”) built on disputed territory, and over the strategic Jordan Valley that abuts the border with Jordan.
It lays out a pathway to a Palestinian state – albeit a demilitarized one, with other limitations on sovereignty, some of them temporary. (For example, Gaza will have to wait five years before getting a port and airport, before which time the Palestinian state will use and manage specified facilities at the Israeli ports of Haifa and Ashdod, and at Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba.)
The Palestinian state will have its capital in eastern Jerusalem, and the status quo at Al-Aqsa mosque compound will be maintained. Islam’s third holiest site falls under overall Israeli sovereignty, but Jordan has custodianship.
The Palestinian state will be significantly bigger than the area currently under Palestinian Authority (P.A.) control. Proposed land swaps include the withdrawing of Israel’s border to incorporate into the new state a group of Arab towns near the Green Line but inside Israel, known as the “triangle communities.”
Non-adjacent portions of Palestinian territory would be connected by bridges, roads and tunnels, with a high-speed transportation link between the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza must be disarmed.
The plan provides for an end to all claims between the parties. Israel will recognize Palestine and vice versa, and all countries will be encouraged to recognize both. The U.S. will establish an embassy in the capital of the new state.
Palestinian refugees will have no “right of return” to Israel, but will have the option of being absorbed into the Palestinian state, integrating into their current host countries, or applying for resettlement in Islamic states that agree to participate in such a program.
The proposal envisages $50 billion in commercial investment in the future Palestinian state, some of which will be used to replace refugee camps with new housing developments.
The economic framework lays out ambitious plans to halve the Palestinian poverty rate, create more than one million Palestinian jobs, slash the Palestinian unemployment rate (currently around 32 percent) to close to 10 percent, and more than double the Palestinian GDP – all within ten years.
Even before the plan was unveiled, Palestinian leaders had shot it down, and on Tuesday, P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas underlined the rejection, telling Palestinian TV: “No, a thousand times no.”
The region’s two non-Arab giants, Iran and Turkey – both of whose leaders support Hamas – also unsurprisingly rejected it. Turkey described the plan “stillborn” while the regime in Tehran called it “the treason of the century.”
At Abbas’ request, Arab League foreign ministers plan to meet in emergency session in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the issue.
Also rejecting Trump’s plan were a dozen Democratic senators, including 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.).
“Unilateral U.S. endorsement of Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, over all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley guarantees Palestinian rejection and paves the way for full or partial Israeli annexation of the West Bank,” the 12 said in a letter to the president led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
“It is clear that this latest White House effort is not a legitimate attempt to advance peace. It is a recipe for renewed division and conflict in the region.”