Saudis offer Jerusalem-adjacent city as alternative Palestinian capital: report
GALI TIBBON (AFP/File)
Saudi Arabia has reportedly proposed a peace initiative which offers the Palestinians the Jerusalem-adjacent village of Abu Dis as an alternative capital in their future state, in an effort to overcome competing Israeli and Palestinian claims over the holy city that pose a major hurdle in reaching any peace agreement between the two sides.
According to a report by The New York Times published Sunday, the proposal offers the Palestinians a non-contiguous state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over which they will have only partial sovereignty. The plan is said to leave the majority of Israeli settlers in the West Bank in place and will not grant Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in other countries the right of return to Israel.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman presented the proposal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his surprise visit to Riyadh last month, the Times said.
The report cited unnamed Palestinian officials from both Fatah and Hamas, Lebanese officials, and several other people briefed on the initiative, as saying that the Saudi Crown Prince offered the Palestinians a significant increase in financial aid as incentive for accepting the deal, but also said that if Abbas were to reject the terms of the agreement he would be pressured to resign.
The status of Jerusalem is a flashpoint issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have long demanded East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel has declared the undivided city as its capital.
Abu Dis is a Palestinian town which lies in the Jerusalem Governorate beyond the West Bank separation wall bordering Jerusalem proper.
The Saudi-backed plan also reportedly includes the addition of parts of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in exchange for certain West Bank territory which will be annexed by Israel. Netanyahu proposed a similar solution in 2010, which former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak said last week was rejected.
Both the White House and Saudi Arabia denied the plan.
“There is constant speculation and guessing about what we are working on, and this report is more of the same,” White House spokesman Joshua Raffel told the Times. “It is not reflective of the current state of the plan we are working on or the conversations we have had with regional players.”
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said in a statement emailed to the Times that “the Kingdom remains committed to a settlement based on the Arab peace initiative of 2002, including East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. To suggest otherwise is false.”
The report comes amid speculation that US President Donald Trump is readying a declaration on Wednesday that the US supports Israel's claim on Jerusalem as its capital.
Trump has until Monday to renew a rolling waiver which delays implementing a 1995 decision by Congress to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. While Trump is expected to begrudgingly do so, his recognition of Israel's claim over the holy city would mark a major shift in US policy.
Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington D.C. on Sunday, Trump's son-in-law and adviser on the Middle East peace process Jared Kushner said that the US leader is close to reaching a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Kushner added that the Saudi king and crown prince -- with whom Kushner is reported to have developed a deep relationship -- have made clear that they "care a lot" about the Palestinian people and that they "should have the same hope and opportunity as everyone else in the world."
Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, are lobbying desperately against such a move fearing it could provoke such fury in the Arab world it could sink peace hopes for a generation.
Abbas reportedly sent a delegation to Washington on Friday to meet with Kushner and deliver a warning that recognizing Israel's claim over Jerusalem would challenge Washington’s role as “an honest broker” for peace negotiations.
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So far Bin Salman is true to his words. Leaving Islamofascism once for all. It goes with the future of the young generation, > 60% of the population.