U.S. Says Palestinians Should Follow Trump Peace Deal Instead of U.N., Europe, Russia-Backed Talks

The United States is calling on Palestinian leadership to pursue peace within the framework laid out earlier this year by President Donald Trump rather than through an international group involving the European Union, the United Nations, the U.S. and Russia, as proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

With global efforts to solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict essentially frozen, Abbas offered Wednesday to enter into negotiations under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet established in 2002 by the EU, U.N., Washington and Moscow. The offer after a series of Palestinian frustrations, including a normalization of ties earlier this month between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and a new plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace marked dead on arrival by Abbas after being presented by Trump in January.

The Trump plan is officially titled the "Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and a Brighter Future for Israel and the Palestinian People," is called simply "The Vision" by the State Department, and has earned the moniker of "deal of the century." The release of the plan angered the Palestinian leadership, and led them to publicly reconsider the longstanding role the U.S. has played as arbiter in the conflict, striking a blow to Trump's stated goal of Middle East peace.

Asked if the U.S. would consider mediating alongside Quartet partners, the State Department told Newsweek the administration was fixed on the president's roadmap.

"We continue to pursue the path that the President set out in January when presenting the U.S. Vision for Peace between Israel and the Palestinians," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. "We encourage the Palestinians to bring any concerns to the negotiating table within the context of direct talks based on the Vision."

As for the Palestinian side, Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization - Negotiations Affairs Department, stressed the focus remained on resolving issues with Israel on the basis of international law developed by multilateral institutions.

"Palestine remains committed to the internationally endorsed solution, the two-state solution, on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine," Erekat told Newsweek. "International law and UN resolutions are the references for a genuine peace process with clear terms of reference and timeline towards achieving the end of Israel's occupation."

us, peace, talks, israel, palestine, quartet
A placard showing the space for the United States, sits on a table before a meeting of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators September 21, 2010 in New York City. Russia is looking to revive the Quartet format as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seeks international support against a combined U.S.-Israel strategy. Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Abbas' offer to rejuvenate the Middle East Quartet, which had not released a statement in nearly two years, came the same day as the U.N. Security Council held a virtual conference that touched upon the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Participants discussed worsening violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias in Gaza, a coastal strip run by the Islamist Hamas movement, as well as a deteriorating humanitarian situation, and the best way to bring the rival parties together for talks.

During the discussion, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft touted the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan, which essentially recognizes parts of Israel's annexation of internationally-unrecognized West Bank settlements and occupied territories in exchange for a path to potentially endorsing Palestinian statehood as long as Palestinians renounce violence and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It would also endow $50 billion in investment—hoped to be provided by wealthy Arab states—to provide jobs, develop infrastructure and alleviate poverty in the remaining Palestinian-controlled territories.

Craft also advertised the U.S. role in establishing peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, only the third Arab country to do so after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. A third, Mauritania, fostered ties for a decade before breaking them off during a war in Gaza in 2009.

"Arab nations making peace with Israel does not diminish the need for peace with the Palestinians," Craft said. "America wants to see peace between the Israeli and the Palestinian people. [The] Trump administration's blueprint for peace is a testament of earnest concern."

Others, including Germany and Russia, instead looked to the Quartet, which held a teleconference on Wednesday.

Moscow "stressed the need to create conditions for the launch of direct Palestinian—Israeli negotiations on a set of final status issues," according to a Russian Foreign Ministry readout. The Russian side also "emphasized that a sustainable and just settlement should be achieved" in accordance with the two-state solution and international resolutions.

In a diplomatically phrased jab at Washington's attempt to link the Israel-UAE agreement to the Israel-Palestinian peace initiative, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov "also noted that the normalization of interstate relations in the Middle East, being a positive phenomenon, cannot substitute for the task of achieving a comprehensive solution to the complex of regional problems in their totality."

This position, the readout said, "was supported by representatives of the U.N. and the EU," with no mention of the U.S.

Bogdanov also met Wednesday with Qais Abd al-Karim, leader of the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who "welcomed the proposal of the Russian side to organize in Moscow another pan-Palestinian meeting to develop a consolidated position in the interests of realizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

Russia has agreed to host the leaders of different Palestinian factions under Abbas' presidency in order to "strengthen the unity of the Palestinian position in the face of Trump's plan and the Israeli expansionist plans for annexation, and the normalization breakthroughs of some Arab countries, and in order to unify the working strategy to confront these dangers to the Palestinian cause," the Palestinian side said.

palestine, president, mahmoud, abbas, israel, uae
President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership to discuss the United Arab Emirates' deal with Israel to normalize relations, in Ramallah, Israeli-occupied West Bank, on August 18. The Palestinian government withdrew its envoy in the UAE in response to Abu Dhabi's move, which was met with mixed reactions across the Middle East. MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/AFP/Getty Images

While Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan billed the UAE's decision to build bridges with Israel as a bid to halt Israel's planned annexation of West Bank areas, Emirati officials have also used the development as a basis to request advanced F-35 fighter jets from the Trump administration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would suspend annexation plans "for the time being," but voiced opposition to any U.S. plan to sell F-35s to the UAE.

Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, had earlier teased at the possibility of other Arab countries soon establishing relations with Israel. So far, however, Sudan and Bahrain have openly rejected U.S. calls to do so.

Palestinian leadership has welcomed these refusals, as it condemned Abu Dhabi's decision.

Abbas' administration deemed the UAE's move a "betrayal," as did other Middle East powers such as Turkey and Iran, whose rising military power and regional influence has commanded the attention of many Arab nations. The U.S. and Israel have set out to contain the Islamic Republic and its regional allies, which include Sunni Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Lebanon's powerful Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement.

Israel accused Hezbollah on Tuesday of attempting to infiltrate the northern disputed border known as the Blue Line, where violence erupted in the latest incident between the two sides. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah simply noted Wednesday that something "important and sensitive" had occurred and that he would comment later on what the Israeli military described as "a severe event."

israel, west, bank, settlements, growth, chart
A graphic provided by Statista shows the growth of internationally-unrecognized Israeli settlements in the West Bank between 1976 and 2018 as reported by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics via Peace Now. Statista

The above graphic was provided by Statista.

This article has been updated to include comment from Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization - Negotiations Affairs Department.