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The Financial Express

Palestinian President Abbas: US offers Palestinians 'Swiss cheese' state  

Arshad Mohammed and Steve Holland   | Published: February 12, 2020 20:15:50


Palestinian President Abbas: US offers Palestinians  'Swiss cheese' state   

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appearing before the United Nations Security Council, on Tuesday rejected US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace proposal as a gift to Israel and unacceptable to Palestinians.

Waving a copy of a map that the US plan envisions for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Abbas said the state carved out for Palestinians looked like a fragmented "Swiss cheese."

In a setback for the Palestinians, a draft Security Council resolution circulated by Tunisia and Indonesia that would have implicitly criticised Trump's plan, including Israel's retention of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, was not put to a vote.

The text, which faced a near-certain US veto, did not go forward in part because it failed to garner the support needed by the Palestinians to isolate the United States, two diplomats at the United Nations said.

One said the draft, which the United States wanted to water down, attracted 11 or 12 votes in favour on the 15-member council. A second diplomat said it would have required too many compromises to achieve the 14-1 vote the Palestinians may have sought.

"Today, by not putting forward a polarising resolution, the United Nations Security Council demonstrated that the old way of doing things is over," a senior Trump administration official said.

Released on January 28, Trump's plan would recognise Israel's authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a difficult series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.

"This is the state that they will give us," said Abbas. "It's like a Swiss cheese, really. Who among you will accept a similar state and similar conditions?"

Speaking at an election rally in the Israeli town of Bat Yam, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the criticism and hinted at the possibility that Arab states might entertain the Trump plan even if Palestinians do not.

"This is not Swiss cheese. This is the best plan that exists for the Middle East - for the Middle East - and for the State of Israel and for the Palestinians, too," he said, adding that the plan "recognises reality and the rights of the people of Israel, both of which you constantly refuse to recognise."

Abbas urged Trump to disavow the plan and seek a return to negotiations based on existing UN resolutions that call for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 border lines.

"The US cannot be the sole mediator," he said, rejecting the traditional US role in seeking to broker an end to the conflict and calling for an international conference.

Suggesting violent protests could break out, Abbas said "the situation could implode at any moment. ... We need hope. Please do not take this hope away from us."

Later, however, he said Palestinians would not "resort to terrorism."

Although Trump's stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favoured Israel, underlined by the Palestinians' absence from his White House announcement with Netanyahu at his side.

While Arab League foreign ministers on February 01 rejected the plan, three Gulf Arab states - Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - were represented at the White House announcement, suggesting they may be prioritising ties with Washington and a shared hostility toward Iran over traditional Arab alliances.

Abbas said the deal is not an international partnership, but rather a proposal from one state supported by another state to be imposed on Palestinians.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, accused Abbas of being unrealistic and said peace was not possible while he remained in power.

—Reuters

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