Published:  01:50 AM, 10 September 2019

Middle East peace is an uncertain goal

Middle East peace is an uncertain goal Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and US President Jimmy Carter at Camp David.

While the US convened the workshop in Bahrain, Israelis and Palestinians had more pressing issues to deal with than paying lip service to an event that failed to address the myriad challenges on the ground. The Palestinians are in the midst of an economic crisis.

The PA has, for the third time, rejected Israel's clearance revenues, the tax and customs duties it collects on behalf of the PA, due to a dispute over a portion of the funds Israel deducts each month under a new anti-terrorism law. If the PA is unable to meet its financial obligations, which appears imminent, this could spark a wave of protests leading to violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

On the Israeli front, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fearing indictment on corruption allegations and elections in September, is consumed with efforts to hold onto power. U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown municipal airport en route to Washington after a weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, US , August 4, 2019. President Abbas is the leader of the Palestinians, so we hope that he will be able to come to the table,

President Donald Trump hasn't decided whether to unveil his Middle East peace plan before or after Israeli elections set for next month, and the U.S. hopes eventually to engage with the Palestinian Authority on an accord, special envoy Jason Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt, who along with Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been drafting a Middle East peace proposal for the last two years.

But the US isn't looking for regime change with the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank. But he signaled the US would continue to avoid any dealings with Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. President Abbas is the leader of the Palestinians, so we hope that he will be able to come to the table," Greenblatt said in an interview Monday with Kevin Cirilli on Bloomberg Television, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.We do hope to have continued engagement or an eventual re-engagement with the Palestinian Authority.

Greenblatt gave no indication of what the political plan would look like, but said Trump would have to "decide soon" whether to roll it out before the Israeli elections or after and whether to wait until after a new government has been formed. Those elections are set for Sept. 17 and surveys indicate a close race between blocs led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz.

An election earlier this year ended in stalemate after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition. This conflict will only be resolved by direct negotiations between the parties," Greenblatt said. It's not for the United States or the European Union or the United Nations to demand how this conflict can be resolved.

Kushner promoted the economic component of his proposal in Bahrain in June, but the event was deliberately short on key political questions, and the conference didn't include Palestinian officials.

Also Kushner called for about $50 billion in proposed investments in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries that host refugees. The plan is something that is up in the air. Without a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and its identity as a viable and sovereign state, there is not going to be any peace in the Middle East. Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Thus, it was of no surprise when during a recent interview in London, the Prince Turki cast doubt over the peace plan being peddled by Kushner and company. Kushner had come to Bahrain to push forward and economic plan meant to encourage Palestinians to give up a sizeable portion of their lands for economic gains.

Previously also Prince Turki accused US administrations of their pro-Israel bias and protecting Israel's nuclear programme from international scrutiny, and had called on President Obama to support the two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis.

The Palestinians on their part have rejected Kushner's overtures, saying that any plan must include 'the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.' Contact between the Palestinian leadership and the US administration was stopped in December 2017 after Trump recognized contested [occupied] Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia recently garnered a lot of appreciation among the Arab world for his straightforward analysis of the latest peace plan being pushed by the Trump administration through Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. It is a plan that is heavily slanted to promoting further expansion of Israeli colonies on Palestinian lands and when details of the plan began to leak out, many denounced the biased nature of such a proposal.

Stating emphatically that the US administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan will not move forward unless it recognizes a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, Prince Turki said, "The plan is something that is up in the air. Without a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and its identity as a viable and sovereign state, there is not going to be any peace in the Middle East." Without recognition of Palestine rights over their lands, Prince Turki added that the economic plan can only succeed if it is part and parcel of a broader political proposal that would ensure the rights of all parties.

Prince Turki has in the past been a vocal critic of American foreign policy in the region which is favorable to Israel. He was critical of Israel's refusal for not accepting the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by the late King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, which offered a blanket normalization of relations in exchange for Israel's withdrawal to 1967 borders. Unfortunately, Israel rejected such a plan.

That move was also severely criticized by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia who emphatically stated, "We reiterate our rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem," during a speech last year. The wave of war crimes has intensified in recent years as Israel chooses to ignore all international condemnation and censure of their actions and proceeds to promote their apartheid policies in the country.

If that is indeed the direction that Israel will continue to run, then the prospect of peace will certainly be dimmed and no amount of external pressure will let the Arab world give in to Israeli expansion and injustice. The Arabs of the 21st century want peace with their Jewish neighbors, but one based on justice and recognition of Palestinian rights.

For it to happen, I suggest they go back to the peace plan proposed by the late King Abdullah and give it another look. It is a descriptive definition of what the Middle East neighborhood could very well become. The Saudis and other Arab countries have made their position clear on the proposed Trump-Kushner peace plan.

They will not be able to support it if it doesn't include a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. This is the position that the kingdom has taken and has not wavered since. And it is a matter of right and justice for the Palestinians whose lands today are being steadily encroached upon by Jewish colonists coming from all parts of the world and colonizing Palestinian property. Now Prince Turki is no lightweight when it comes to global politics.

A member of the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, Turki Al Faisal is generally looked upon as an astute Saudi politician and a seasoned diplomat. His resume includes being the head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency for 24 years after which he was appointed as the country's ambassador first to the United Kingdom, and then to the United States. He is also looked upon as one who has been promoting a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The US peace team has also refrained from mentioning the two-state solution or Palestinian sovereignty in its official statements. This break with decades of U.S. policy and international consensus leads Palestinians to assume the administration plans to trade advances in the economic sphere and standard of living with Palestinian self-determination and the right of return.

Two days after the workshop, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt announced that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which he referred to as "neighborhoods and cities" were not an obstacle to peace.

He also blamed the Palestinians for boycotting the conference and for attempting to prevent others from attending. This is consistent with the position presented at the workshop: not once was Israel's military occupation or blockade of the Gaza strip mentioned as an obstacle to Palestinian economic advancement, rather Palestinian intransigence was blamed as the main problem.

Rayhan Ahmed Topader is a writer and columnist.
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