Trump peace plan ‘born dead,’ says new PA prime minister

“There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Shtayyeh said in his first interview with international media since taking office.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

The new Palestinian prime minister said on Tuesday that an American peace plan purported to be in the works will be “born dead.”

“There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump,” Mohammad Shtayyeh said during a wide-ranging hour-long interview.

Despite the tensions with Israel and the U.S., Shtayyeh said the Palestinians remain committed to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war. That includes establishing a capital in east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and claims as part of its eternal capital.

The two-state solution has enjoyed overwhelming international support for the past two decades.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who secured another term in office in elections last week, is expected to form a new coalition with religious and nationalist parties that oppose the two-state solution. On the campaign trail, Netanyahu even raised the possibility of annexing Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, a step that could extinguish any remaining hopes for an independent Palestine.

His position appears to be popular with Israelis, who have endured thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip since unilaterally withdrawing in 2005. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, an estimated 1,600 Israelis have been killed and 9,000 wounded in terror attacks, “nearly four times the average death toll of the preceding twenty-six years,” according to Middle East historian Efraim Karsh.

The foregoing experiences have left Israelis leery of more land for peace deals. This partly explains why a decisive majority of 55 percent of Israelis voted for the Likud party or other right-wing and religious parties, all of which have declared their intention to support Mr. Netanyahu as prime minister.

Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys close support from President Donald Trump, who has given Mr. Netanyahu a number of diplomatic gifts since taking office. Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there. He has also slashed aid to the Palestinians and shuttered the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. Most recently, the president has recognized Israeli sovereignty on the Golan.

In a departure from Republican and Democratic predecessors, the president also has notably refused to endorse the two-state solution. According to a Washington Post story this past Sunday, the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan drops the idea of a Palestinian State.

President Trump’s peace team, led by son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, has repeatedly pushed back the release of a peace plan it says it is preparing, and it remains unclear if or when it will be released.

Mr. Kushner and his team has said little about the proposal. But their limited public statements have indicated it will call for large amounts of economic investment for the Palestinians.

Shtayyeh said that after all of the U.S. moves in favor of Israel, particularly the recognition of Jerusalem, there is nothing left to negotiate.

He said any proposal that ignores key Palestinian demands will be rejected by the international community. The European Union this week reiterated its call for peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state.

“Where are we going to have the Palestinian state?” he asked. “We are not looking for an entity. We are looking for a sovereign state.”

“Palestinians are not interested in economic peace. We are interested in ending occupation,” he said. “Life cannot be enjoyed under occupation.”

Shtayyeh, a British-educated economist, takes office as the Palestinian Authority is mired in a financial crisis.

Not only has the Trump administration slashed hundreds of millions of dollars of aid, including all of its support for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, but Israel has withheld tens of millions of dollars of tax transfers to punish the Palestinians for their “martyrs’ fund,” a program that provides stipends to the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed for engaging in terror against Israel.

The Israelis say the fund rewards violence, while the Palestinians say the payments are a national duty to families affected by decades of violence. Furious about the withholding, the Palestinians have in turn refused to accept partial tax transfers from Israel.

Without its key sources of revenue, the Palestinian Authority has begun paying only half salaries to tens of thousands of civil servants, reduced services and increased borrowing. Notably, it continues to pay families of terrorists. PA President Mahmoud Abbas said when Israel announced its intention to withhold some tax revenues, “every penny we have – we will transfer to the families of the martyrs.”

In a new report released Wednesday, the World Bank said the Palestinian deficit will grow from $400 million last year to over $1 billion this year.

“Israel is part of the financial war that has been declared upon us by the United States. The whole system is to try to push us to surrender” and agree to an unacceptable peace proposal, Shtayyeh said. “This a financial blackmail, which we reject.”

Shtayyeh laid out a number of proposals for weathering the storm. He said he has imposed spending cuts by reducing perks for his Cabinet ministers.

He said he would seek to develop the Palestinian agricultural, economic and education sectors and seek ways to reduce the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel. For example, he proposed importing fuel from neighboring Jordan, instead of from Israel, and even floating a Palestinian currency. He also said the Palestinians would seek financial backing from Arab and European donors.