US advancing long-term plan for Palestinian state: report

US advancing long-term plan for Palestinian state: report
Palestinian representatives and Arab officials are said to be involved in long-term peace talks with the US that would include a Palestinian state.
4 min read
15 February, 2024
The proposed peace talks are said to include designating East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine [GETTY]

The US and a group of select Arab officials have been working to hash out a detailed long-term plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a larger peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a report.

The proposed peace deal hinges on ensuring Hamas and Israel agree to a ceasefire deal, which has been repeatedly stalled amid intense US, Egypt, and Qatar mediation efforts, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The truce proposes a six-week cessation of hostilities, alongside the release of hostages held by Hamas, which would give space and time for the concerned parties to garner support, hold meetings, and even see the formation of an interim Palestinian government, the report said.

However, on Thursday, Israel hit back at the alleged plans for a Palestinian state detailed in the report, saying that it would not be discussing the future until "total victory over Hamas".

Avi Hyman, the spokesperson for Israel's prime minister's office, in comments to the press said: “Now is not the time to be speaking about gifts for the Palestinian people."

"All discussions of the day after Hamas will be had the day after Hamas," he said.

But officials are eager to ensure such a deal is reached before the start of the holy month of Ramadan on 10 March, which in previous years has seen bouts of violence in the occupied territories triggered by Israeli settler groups assaulting Palestinians going to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Palestinian representatives alongside officials from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia are said to be involved in the long-term peace plan discussions which include the withdrawal of "many, if not all" settlers from the West Bank, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, Gaza’s reconstruction, and a combined government authority for the Palestine Territory.

But the report said that it remains to be seen whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition government of far-right extremists will consent.

Hopes are being pinned on the offer of normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to win Israel over.

US officials cited but not named by The Washington Post said that some of the pointers under consideration include the US recognising a Palestinian state before the end of the war and prior to features like security, reconstruction and normalisation being drawn up.

But analysts quoted in the report cast doubt on how likely the US would be to do so and suggested that unless it came alongside a viable plan, a statement of recognition would have little worth.

In addition, the weak position of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who has lost credibility among Palestinians over the course of his 19-year rule of the West Bank – has also raised doubts over the ability of officials to push statehood through.

Equally, some Western officials have voiced concern over Netanyahu’s suitability for peace negotiations considering his repeated refusal to consider Palestinian sovereignty under the 1967 borders.

This would entail the removal of vast amounts of illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank and likely be unpopular domestically.

The report said that Arab officials are optimistic about a formation of Palestinian groups for future governance, which could include technocrats over politicians and focus efforts on restarting the local economy and rebuilding Gaza.

According to The Washington Post, Abbas is said to be warming to such a notion, which could see him take on a ‘presidential’ role rather than as an active lawmaker.

One Arab official quoted by media aid that Hamas must be included in a future government to avoid a repeat of past clashes between the Islamist movement and Fatah, the main party of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which ultimately resulted in Fatah’s expulsion from and Hamas’s takeover of Gaza.

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As the war in Gaza has waged on, there have been regular meetings between diplomats and concerned parties, the report noted.

US’s top diplomat Anthony Blinken has been on regular trips to Arab capitals as well as to Israel and Ramallah, where he met with Abbas.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been busy meeting world leaders this week on a round trip from Washington to Ottawa to London and Paris where he has been attempting to drum up support for a ceasefire.

Blinken has voiced the White House's wish for Palestinian statehood, noticeably commenting last week that he has been working on "a practical, timebound, irreversible path to a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel".

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron on a recent trip to Lebanon said that the UK could recognise a Palestinian state before a deal with Israel which marked a small but significant shift in rhetoric.

However, The Washington Post report cautioned that Biden’s push for a peace deal should be seen in the shadow of the upcoming US election with the president keen to win some political capital to boost his chances of re-election, which a new Middle East peace plan could potentially provide.