By Lilach Shoval, Daniel Siryoti, Nitzi Yakov and Erez Linn
(Israel Hayom via JNS) The Palestinian Authority is furious over the White House’s intent to push a regional peace plan regardless of P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas objections, Ramallah sources told Israel Hayom on Sunday.
The plan being devised by the United States will focus on resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip prior to dealing with the other cardinal issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Abbas declared that he would not engage with the United States on peace talks after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year and subsequently relocated the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—moves the Palestinian leader maintains illustrate Trump’s pro-Israel bias and disqualify America from acting as an impartial peace broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
The moderate Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have said that given Abbas’s position, they see no other choice but to go over his head and have decided to back Washington’s decision to present the peace plan to the Palestinian people directly.
According to Arab diplomats familiar with the details of the plan, the American scheme includes a long-term cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist groups.
Once the cease-fire agreement proves lasting, a series of economic programs will be implemented to improve the situation in Gaza, where unemployment nears 50 percent. These projects, as well as a series of infrastructural rehabilitation plans, including the construction of a special Palestinian port in Cyprus, will be sponsored by the international community.
The moderate Arab countries have urged Abbas to engage with the Americans, saying that otherwise, he risks rendering his government irrelevant, but to no avail.
“Washington and Tel Aviv have decided to take out a hit on Abu Mazen [Abbas] and delegitimize him in the eyes of his own people. This is nothing short of a coup,” a senior Ramallah official told Israel Hayom.
Hamas declined to officially comment on the White House’s intention, but one official noted that “Trump and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu can make all the plans they want for Gaza. It’s nothing but empty words. Only the Palestinian people will decide their future.”
Over the past few months, the defense establishment and several international agencies have been working on several plans to alleviate the dire situation in the coastal enclave.
Among the plans currently considered are one devised by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, which includes increasing Gaza’s fishing zone and allowing more materials into the enclave; one put together by U.N. envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov; and one suggested by the Americans, which includes investments in infrastructure and employment initiatives.
Senior Israeli defense officials told Israel Hayom that any humanitarian aid to Gaza is conditioned on the return of the Israelis being held there.
Hamas is holding the remains of Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed in the Gaza in 2014. Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu and Bedouin Israeli Hisham al-Sayed, both suffering from mental-health issues, crossed into Gaza willingly in 2014 and 2015, and were captured by the terrorist group.
“It’s unthinkable that we keep hearing reports about a humanitarian solution to the crisis in Gaza, but not one word about Hadar and Oron,” said Goldin’s father, Simcha.
“No one is talking about how the majority of government ministers vowed that ‘no deal would take place until we bring our boys home.’ No one is saying anything about the fact that we have to ensure—from an international standpoint—that the captives are returned before any deal is finalized,” he said.
A statement by the U.S. National Security Council spokesperson said, “The U.S. wants to help the people of Gaza and prefers to work with the P.A. to help fix the situation there. We continue to consult with key partners and allies about the best way of accomplishing that goal. Nevertheless, we cannot allow the P.A. to stop our efforts to help the Palestinians in Gaza, or to increase the difficulties in Gaza, and we are monitoring their actions very closely.”
CAP: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in arrival ceremonies with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. Credit: White House/Shealah Craighead.