Jan 19, 2018

Scoop: What the Palestinians expect from Trump's peace plan

Palestinian President Abbas (R) and chief negotiator Erekat (L) attend Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo. Photo: Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Image

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat sent a long and pessimistic preview of the Trump peace plan to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of the PLO central committee.

Erekat's report, which I obtained a copy of, is based on the information gathered by the PLO negotiations department and shows the Palestinian understanding of the plan. Senior White House officials dispute Erekat's description of the Trump plan and claim his information is false.

“It is unfortunate that some parties are seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which the Palestinians have not seen. This outline is false and the Palestinians should not be basing their reaction, public or private, on it. In the meantime, we remain hard at work on the real draft plan that will benefit both sides.”
— Senior White House official

Erekat sent the 92-page report to Abbas and the other officials 10 days ago. Some of the points in the report turned into lines in Abbas's Anti-Trump speech in front of the council few days later.

Here are the main points of the Trump peace plan, according to Erekat's report:

  • Jerusalem – The Palestinian capital will be in the suburbs of Jerusalem according to its 1967 borders. Israel will commit to maintain the status quo and maintain freedom of worship in the holy sites in the city.
  • Borders - 10% of the West Bank will be annexed by Israel and the other 90% will be the Palestinian state. Erekat wrote that Trump will announce in two to three months that he gives a green light for Israel to annex the big settlement blocks in the West Bank. According the Erekat, the Trump plan also states that the final border line will be drawn in negotiations between the parties.
  • Timetable for implementation – According to Erekat, the Trump plan will include a defined and agreed upon timetable for concluding the negotiations. But, he added, the plan will not include a timetable for Israeli withdrawal but only state that the IDF pullout from most of the West Bank will be gradual and follow security benchmarks that the Palestinians will have to reach.

Security arrangements:

  • Erekat claims that the Trump plan calls for a joint Israeli-Palestinian security architecture but stresses that Israel will have overriding security responsibility everywhere in the Palestinian state with full security authority.
  • According to Erekat, the Trump plan will allow the IDF to maintain its presence on the Jordan river and in strategic points on the West Bank hills in order to keep both states secure.
  • Erekat wrote in the report that according to the Trump plan special parts of Ben Gurion airport and Haifa & Ashdod seaports will be designated for Palestinian use but the security responsibility will stay in Israeli hands.
  • Erekat added that the Trump plan includes a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty and also states that the border crossings of the future state of Palestine with Egypt and Jordan will be operated by Palestinians but the security will be in Israeli hands.
  • According to Erekat, the Trump plan gives Israel control of the airspace, maritime borders and electromagnetic frequencies without harming the needs of the Palestinian state.

The refugees issue – The Trump plan will call for a just solution to the refugees issue in the Palestinian state, without a right of return to Israel, Erekat reports.

Mutual recognition – Erekat wrote that the Trump plan states that the international community will recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people.

Erekat recommended in his report that President Abbas reject the Trump peace plan out of hand. Erekat wrote that considering the Trump plan will give legitimacy to the Trump strategy of "imposing dictates" on the Palestinians "and will entrench the status quo and form an eternal autonomy" instead of a real independent Palestinian state.

Go deeper: Macron sent aide to lobby Palestinians over Trump peace plan

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