Arab Envoys at Trump's Peace Plan Unveiling Were Misled, Diplomat Says

A vague outline of the plan sent by the White House ahead of the event left out key parts, diplomat argues, which is why three Arab states sent diplomats to it

Jack Khoury
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Arab League FMs at an emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, Cairo, February 1, 2020
Arab League FMs at an emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict, Cairo, February 1, 2020Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

The United States did not disclose the full details of its Mideast peace plan to Arab states before its release, an Arab diplomat has told Haaretz, which according to him is why representatives of three Arab countries attended the event unveiling it, a move that was sharply criticized by the Palestinians.

Representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Bahrain – all members of the Arab League – were present when details of the long-awaited deal were released in a press conference by Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The same three countries joined the other members of the Arab League in rejecting the plan on Saturday.

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According to the diplomat, a document sent by the White House to Arab countries ahead of the conference calling for their support included general statements about “a Palestinian state and a capital in East Jerusalem.”

However, “when they got into the minute details of the plan, we understood that there is no Palestinian state in practice and there is no capital in East Jerusalem, and more importantly, that there is an attempt to divide al-Aqsa Mosque,” the diplomat added. “These are clauses that no Arab or Islamic countries can agree to,” he argued, “and so ultimately all the foreign ministers fell in line with the position opposing the Trump plan, and reiterated their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Talks between the Palestinian delegation to the Arab League and representatives of those member countries who greeted the Trump plan with optimism continued up to the last minutes before the Arab League session began. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the representatives that he was not asking them to speak out against the United States, but rather to express support for the Palestinian position.

Abbas stated that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Jordanian King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi voiced support for the Palestinian stance without hesitation.

On Saturday, the Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the White House’s proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing U.S. foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared, calling for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for them both.”

The Arab League’s final communique described the deal as “a new setback for three decades of peace efforts.” Arab foreign ministers “reject the U.S., Israeli deal of the century because it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” its said, citing the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as an acceptable settlement to the conflict. The initiative offers Israel normal ties with Arab states in return for Palestinian statehood on territory captured in 1967.

President Trump unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday in Washington. It would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — and the entirety of the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the demilitarized state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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