Palestinians Fume: Saudi Peace Plan Biased Toward Israel, NYT Reports

White House denies report that parts of Trump peace plan were presented to Abbas during visit to Riyadh; plan would see very few settlement removed; Israeli lawmaker quoted in report calls it 'fake news'

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 7, 2017.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 7, 2017. Credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS

The New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia presented Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with parts of the Trump administration's peace plan that reportedly included a Palestinian state without territorial continuity and without Jerusalem as its capital.

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The report described the Palestinians as fuming at the Mideast peace plan that would be more "tilted towards Israel" than any other previously endorsed by a U.S. administration, The New York Times reported.

During a visit by Abbas last month to Riyadh, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman reportedly presented him with the details of the plan that would include a non-contiguous Palestinian state with Abu Dis, a Palestinian town that borders Jerusalem, as its capital, The Times reported.

According to officials cited in the article who heard Abbas's version of the conversation, the Saudis presented him with a plan that "no Palestinian leader could accept."

>> Jared Kushner at Saban Forum: Israel needs peace with Palestinians before it can form alliance with Arab states <<

Among its features: limited Palestinian sovereignty in parts of the West Bank, no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, no declaration of East Jerusalem as a capital, and a provision that most Jewish settlements in the West Bank would remain in place.

Reports of the plan were denied by the Palestinian Authority, the Saudis and the White House itself. The White House said a consolidated draft of a Mideast peace plan was still months away.

Ahmed Tibi, a prominent Israeli Arab lawmaker who is considered close to Abbas, was quoted in the NYT report as validating the plan. But on Tuesday, Tibi told Haaretz the report was "fake news."

"The claim that the Saudis proposed to Abbas that Abu Dis serve as the Palestinian capital is nonsense, fake news. The Saudis warned the Trump administration that for Trump to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel would destroy the peace process, because Jerusalem is a red line."

Prof. Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington said that perhaps 15 percent of the details in the report are right and called it an attempt to distort the Saudi position. "The proposals in the article could be part of an interim plan, but it is certainly not a plan for a permanent arrangement between the parties," Ibish said.

Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, who was given the Mideast peace deal portfolio by Trump, said Sunday at the Saban Forum in Washington an annual conference on U.S. policy in the Middle East, organized by the Brookings Institution that Israel needs to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians before it can form an alliance with the greater Arab world.

The New York Times report follows a Bloomberg story over the weekend that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is concerned that sensitive "secret talks" between the Saudi prince and Kushner. Tillerson is reportedly concerned that such a sensitive backchannel , without oversight and review by the State Department, could backfire and spark violence in the region.

News of the reported tension comes amid other reports that Trump was considering firing Tillerson.

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