TEL AVIV – The Palestinians are turning to Russia for help in bypassing the long-anticipated U.S. “deal of the century” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in the coming months.
Putin in the past has called for a summit hosted by Russia for direct negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas. PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki on Tuesday said that under such an umbrella Abbas would agree to meet with Netanyahu without preconditions.
A PA official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA was working with Russia to play a greater role.
“We are working to convince Russia and other countries to increase their intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Trump prepares to announce his unacceptable plan,” he said.
“We have no confidence in the Trump administration, whose representatives have fully endorsed the positions of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Russia’s envoy to Ramallah, Aganin Rashidovich, was the first foreign official to congratulate PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh since his appointment over the weekend.
Shtayyeh called on Rashidovich to urge his country into pressuring Israel to walk back its decision to cut tariff monies owed to the PA — a decision that Israel made over the PA’s so-called “pay-for-slay” scheme paying monthly stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families.
Shtayyeh further demanded that Russia sanction dual Russian-Israeli citizens who live in settlements in the West Bank, a PA official said.
Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh on Tuesday said the PA called on the international community to oppose President Donald Trump’s peace plan if it did not include a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as the capital.
“As long as Jerusalem is off the table, then Trump is off the table as well,” Abu Rudeineh said.
Abu Rudeinah noted that the final proposal has yet to be unveiled but added, “[W]hat we have seen from this plan is not acceptable at all. The issue of Jerusalem, the issue of settlements is not on the table. Unless these issues are on the table, we will never accept the [plan].”
“The Americans are not working in an honest way. They are biased and this situation is not going to lead anywhere,” he said.
The Palestinian leadership has boycotted the Trump administration since Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Abbas will “inform all the Arab countries that we cannot accept the situation in which we are living now” at a meeting in Cairo next week, Abu Rudeineh said, after which the aging PA president will travel to Brussels to meet with EU chiefs.
Abu Rudeineh further called for a peace deal to be drawn up with the P5+1, or Russia, China, Great Britain, France, the US and Germany, as was the case with the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump’s Special Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt said that while he and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, “sincerely appreciate all of the interest in our peace efforts” over the past two years, they were not going to “reveal details of the plan ahead of time.”
He added that speculation only harms the efforts.
“We kindly suggest a stop to the guessing games,” Greenblatt tweeted. “We’ve been working hard drafting what we believe is a fair, realistic [and] implementable plan. Fair agreements require compromises. Only the parties themselves can resolve the conflict; we believe our plan can help them do this.”
Shtayyeh on Tuesday declared that the Trump proposal would be “born dead” and further claimed that the international community, including U.S. allies in the Arab world, would also reject it outright.
“There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh said.
U.S. officials have made it clear that the proposal will include strong economic incentives for the Palestinians. However, Shtayyeh said the only thing that mattered was statehood.
“Where are we going to have the Palestinian state?” he asked. “We are not looking for an entity. We are looking for a sovereign state.”
“Palestinians are not interested in economic peace. We are interested in ending occupation,” he said. “Life cannot be enjoyed under occupation.”
Abbas, in the past has said the proposal was nothing more than a “conspiracy designed to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”
Senior Abbas advisor Nabil Sha’ath on Tuesday also called on Arab countries to join the PA in opposing Trump’s peace plan, which he called the “deal of shame” that would deny Palestinian refugees and their descendants the “right to return to their country.”
The so-called Palestinian right of return is one of the core issues at the heart of the conflict and one that Israel will never agree. It calls for Palestinian refugees from 1948’s War of Independence and their descendants to return to their ancestral homes in Israel proper, a move that would spell the end of the Jewish state by demographic means.
“They want to devour the West Bank. Israel is taking advantage of unlimited US support to pursue its frenzied assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque, steal Jerusalem, increase settlements in the West Bank, steal land, and continue its aggression on the Gaza Strip and detach it from the West Bank,” Sha’ath said.
“We are a tiny people facing an international conspiracy that produced the Balfour Declaration, the occupation of our country and the deal of the century,” Sha’ath said at the Arab Labor Conference in Cairo. “Our people, their leadership and millions of Arabs and Muslims are standing against the deal of shame that wants to extract Jerusalem from our hearts, minds and reality.”
“[O]ur people will not sell their lands and Jerusalem and rights in return for American money. We reject not only the deal of shame, but also a unilateral American role in dominating the peace process in the Middle East,” Sha’ath said.
On Sunday, the Washington Post cited anonymous U.S. officials as well as Arab officials as saying the plan would probably bypass the issue of statehood altogether.
While the proposal, dubbed by Trump as the “deal of the century,” will include major economic and other incentives for Palestinians, it will likely stop short of establishing a Palestinian state, the report said.
However, a U.S. official told the Post that while the economic incentives were a vital part of the equation, the proposal would still address the issues at the heart of the conflict.
“But this is not a so-called economic peace. We are taking very seriously both aspects of this, the political, which deals with all the core issues, and the economic,” the official said.
“Core issues” generally refers to borders, status of Jerusalem, and the so-called right of return in which Palestinian “refugees” in the diaspora and their descendants will have the right to move inside Israeli proper, something that has always been a red line for Israel since it would spell the end of the Jewish state by demographic means.
Days before the April 9 elections, Netanyahu historically declared that he fully intends to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. The incumbent prime minister also said he had told Trump that would not evacuate “a single person” from the 400,000 or so Jews residing in the area.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Netanyahu’s talk of annexation would damage the peace plan.
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could harm the Trump proposal, Pompeo answered, “I don’t.”
“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.
“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”
The Trump administration, he said, wants “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.
“We hope that we can get to a better place,” he continued. “Everyone wants this conflict resolved. We want a better life for the Israelis without this conflict, and we certainly want a better life for the people of — the Palestinian people, both in the West Bank and in Gaza.”
Netanyahu also told Army Radio that the Palestinians would not have a state or security control.
“There will be no Palestinian state,” he said, “not like the one people are talking about. It won’t happen.”
During a heated debate with Senator Tim Kaine last week, Pompeo refused to outright endorse a two-state solution to the conflict.
In his comments Tuesday, Sha’ath seemed to refer to Netanyahu’s annexation pledge when he accused the U.S. of delaying the unveiling of the peace proposal over “new Israeli conditions that serve Israeli interests.”