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US officials say peace plan will launch soon with or without PA: report

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

US President Trump’s long awaited Middle East peace which is in the "pre-launch face", will go on with or without participation from the Palestinian Authority, according to senior US administration officials cited by Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

"We are in the 'pre-launch' phase of the plan and still need to put the finishing touches on it, although that can happen very quickly. And, in an ideal world, we want to put forth a plan at a time that gives it the best chances of achieving success,” Jerusalem Post quoted the official saying.

On Friday, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt used the same phrase to describe the phase of the peace plan in an interview with Reuters this week, but Jerusalem Post did reveal the identity of their sources.

Trump’s son in law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Greenblatt have been working on the peace plan for some 19 months, with the Palestinians having rejected it outright before its release.

The relationship between the Trump administration and the Palestinians saw a new low this week when the PLO mission in Washington was closed by the US.

Additionally, the US cut funding last week for six Jerusalem hospitals that provide treatment for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Greenblatt announced on Friday that the decision to cut $10 million in US funding for co-existence programs between Israelis and Palestinians.

(AFP/Abbas Momani)

The US also cut its funding to UNRWA, the UN body for Palestinian refugees as well as a $200 million cut in economic aid to the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

The US senior administration officials told Jerusalem Post that the punitive measures were not part of a diplomatic effort to jump start peace talks, but they understood that they will have an effect on the efforts to achieve peace.

"These decisions have to be made regardless, but we do understand, like the Jerusalem announcement, that they may have some impact on the peace effort," an official reportedly said.

“But this is not a political strategy. The US needs to make decisions about certain issues all the time. The president wanted all foreign aid reviewed. That included aid to the Palestinians. And while in prior administrations aid to the Palestinians has been viewed in the context of the peace process, we don't look at these decisions through that lens. We look at it through the lens of how the United States benefits from the use of its money," the official added.

The official clarified that the peace plan will bring both sides to the table regardless of the recent decisions by the Trump administration to cut funding to the Palestinians.

Ahmad GHARABLI (AFP)

"If we're successful at reaching a comprehensive peace agreement, which is our goal, then all of these decisions become moot. If the parties agree on a solution to Jerusalem, then the Jerusalem decision and embassy move become moot. If the parties agree on a solution to the refugee question, then the UNRWA decision becomes moot because UNRWA itself becomes moot. What will bring both sides to the table is the peace plan itself," the official concluded.

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters on Saturday that he did not think a US peace plan will ever be introduced.

“I don’t think they will ever introduce a plan. The whole world is rejecting their ideas. They are already implementing their plan by changing the terms of reference,” Erekat said.

“The Kushner truth and the Netanyahu truth is that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, no right of return to refugees, settlements are legal, no Palestinian state on 1967 (borders) and Gaza must be separated from the West Bank and this is absolutely unacceptable. The only thing this (US) administration did since it came to office is just to take Israelis and Palestinians off the path to peace, off the path of the two-state solution,” he added.

In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Jared Kushner defended the series of measures against the Palestinians, saying “Nobody is entitled to America’s foreign aid,” adding that years of funding to the Palestinians came without a vision towards making them self-reliant.

One of the most controversial decisions made by US President Trump was the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump later declared the issue of Jerusalem “off the table” in future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We took it off the table. In past negotiations, they never got past Jerusalem. 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,” Trump said in August.

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