Report: Saudi Arabia Presented Abbas with Plan that Retains Most Israeli Settlements

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, shown here on October 24, 2017, has denounced Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the "new Hitler of the Middle East"
AFP/ FAYEZ NURELDINE

TEL AVIV – Saudi Arabia has reportedly endorsed a U.S. peace proposal that adheres closely to Israel’s vision while ignoring core demands on the Palestinian side, the New York Times reported on Sunday. 

The peace plan was presented to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the PA leader’s visit to Riyadh last month, the report said, citing Palestinian, Lebanese and Western officials. According to the deal, the Palestinians would get a state with limited sovereignty over non-contiguous areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, the vast majority of West Bank settlements would not be evacuated and eastern Jerusalem would not become the capital of a Palestinian state. Instead, the possibility was raised that Abu Dis, just outside of Jerusalem, would become the capital. Lastly, Palestinian refugees and their descendants would not be allowed to return to Israel.

The news came ahead of reports that President Donald Trump may issue a formal declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday.

Palestinian, Arab and European officials said the proposal was “more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government, one that presumably no Palestinian leader could ever accept,” according to the report.

It also speculated whether the crown prince was acting on behalf of the Trump administration in order “to curry favor with the Americans.”

According to one Palestinian official in Lebanon, the Saudis also raised the idea of compensating the Palestinians for the loss of West Bank territory by adding portions of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip. Egypt has in the past rejected such proposals and did so again, the report said.

The Times also said the Saudis told Abbas he had two months to either accept the proposal or resign.

Israel’s Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi confirmed the details of the proposal, says the Times. However, on Monday, Tibi said the report was “fake news.”

Washington also denied the report’s verity, saying that as yet there was no blueprint to a peace proposal.

The Palestinian leadership has warned that any moves regarding Jerusalem would spark a new wave of violence against Israel and may overturn any chances at a peace deal.

Turkey also warned of a “major catastrophe” if Trump goes ahead with recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening on Tuesday to sever ties with Israel should it occur.

Trump reportedly spoke to Abbas on Tuesday, although details of the call are not known, AFP reported. He is also scheduled to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan.

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