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Abbas says Trump team proposed a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, embraces King Abdullah II of Jordan as he arrives at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday, August 8, 2018.
(Khalil Mazraawi/Pool Photo via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday told Israeli lawmakers and peace activists that US President Donald Trump's team of peace negotiators proposed that Palestinians join a confederation with Jordan, according to Israeli media reports.

"I was asked if I believe in a federation with Jordan," Abbas said of talks held with White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, according to Haaretz newspaper.

"I answered: Yes, I want a confederation with Jordan and Israel. I have asked the Israelis if they would agree to such an offer," the report quoted Abbas as telling Sunday's meeting, which included Peace Now Director-General Shaqued Morag, Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz and Zionist Union politician Ksenia Svetlova. 

A Peace Now spokesman briefed on the meeting could not confirm the exact quotes published by Israeli media outlets but said the president "did not detail the administrative implications of such a plan and what level of autonomy a Palestinian state would have under a Jordanian confederation."

"According to him, he completely rejected the offer as long as Israel is not mentioned as a party."

The spokesman added it was likely Abbas's comment was tongue-in-cheek, because including Israel in such a confederation would be instantly rejected by Jerusalem. 

Some type of political union between the West Bank and Jordan is a popular idea on the Israeli right, who often refute calls for a Palestinian state by saying Jordan is already such a state by virtue of its demographics.

Autorité palestinienne

Confederate forms of government vary widely but are underpinned by the idea that the states in the arrangement retain their sovereignty.

The Israeli reports did not say if Abbas mentioned when the meeting with Kushner and Greenblatt took place. The PA cut off talks with the Trump administration after it recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December.

Jordan quickly poured cold water on the idea. A government spokeswoman said a confederation between Jordan and the Palestinian territories "is not up for discussion," adding the kingdom is "fixed" on a two-state solution. 

Abbas also said the Trump administration wants to "completely sabotage" UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, according to Haaretz. On Friday it announced it would no longer provide funding for the body.

The WAFA news agency quoted Abbas as saying he remained committed to negotiating a peace agreement with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution.

Abbas, who heads the Western-backed PA, has had a rocky relationship with the Trump administration.

In June, the White House's Greenblatt suggested to Palestinians that they shunt their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who retaliated by branding Greenblatt a "spokesperson for Israel."

Last month, Trump said Palestinians would get "something very good" after his controversial decision on Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as a capital for their future state.

“We took it off the table. In past negotiations, they never got past Jerusalem," Trump said at a political rally. "Now Israel will have to pay a higher price, because it’s off the table. The Palestinians will get something very good, because it’s their turn next,” he added.

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