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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

Palestine denies receiving specifics of US peace plan

Washington is waiting for Israeli elections to roll out its long-awaited plan

A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during clashes over an Israeli order to shut down a Palestinian school in the town of as-Sawiyah, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on October 15, 2018. AFP
A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli soldier during clashes over an Israeli order to shut down a Palestinian school in the town of as-Sawiyah, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on October 15, 2018. AFP

A senior Palestinian official has dismissed reports that a former Israeli minister met with a Palestinian delegation to discuss details of US President Donald Trump's long-awaited peace plan.

On Wednesday, Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat reported Palestinian officials as saying that specifics of the American peace plan were shared with former Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman before his resignation in November.

The plan reportedly allocates Gaza as the Palestinian state and makes concessions to give limited autonomy to Palestinians without land to live in small designated areas of the West Bank.

The London-based newspaper reported Mr Lieberman meeting with unnamed Palestinian officials weeks before his resignation to convey details of the plan.

However, a Palestinian official told The National, that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation has already disqualified Washington's peace plan under Mr Trump's increasingly hostile policies supporting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As part of the plan reported by Al Hayat, Palestinians will be designated to live in small areas of the West Bank. It allocates the entirety of Area A in the West Bank, which is currently under Palestinian Authority control, and then small parts of Area B and Area C, the latter being the area that is under Israel civil and security control.

According to the newspaper, Mr Lieberman told the Palestinian officials that Israeli authorities will be responsible for security within and retain control of border checkpoints surrounding the West Bank.

Mr Trump's plan looks to legitimise the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, and allegedly aims to provide large economic incentives provided by the international community to build besieged Gaza Strip's ailing infrastructure – including promises of an airport and a seaport.

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Washington said it is waiting to factor in the results from the Israeli elections on April 9 before rolling out the plan. But speculation has mounted in the build-up to the long-anticipated peace plan, which Mr Trump’s administration refers to as “the deal of the century”.

Naftali Bennett, the far-right Israeli education minister looking to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming elections, said the peace plan would include a Palestinian state, a prospect he has opposed.

Mr Bennett has in the past called for a much tougher response to Palestinian border protests and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. He also is an outspoken opponent of Palestinian independence.

The Trump administration’s plan is expected to be presented in coming months, but early signs from the Palestinians have shown an opposition to many if not all the stipulations in the plan.

“The PLO has nothing to do with negotiations. And we’re not waiting for anything. We have already said that the US has disqualified itself from playing any role,” a senior Palestinian official told The National.

UN-condemned settlements in the West Bank have witnessed a surge under the current US administration, which has grown increasingly hostile to Palestine.

With little resistance from the White House, last week an Israeli committee advanced plans for thousands more settlement homes on war-won Palestinian lands. The move has only deepened Palestinian mistrust of the Trump administration as it says it is preparing to roll out the peace plan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has boycotted the Trump administration since it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.

Updated: January 2, 2019 04:23 PM

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