Palestinians announced Tuesday that they have submitted a “counter-proposal” to the US Middle East plan and called on Europeans to pressure Israel to avoid annexation of swathes of the occupied West Bank
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Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gradually re-emerging on the regional and international scenes? Certainly, Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and UN officials are busy these days as a key deadline approaches.
From July 1, the new Israeli unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz must present its strategy to put into effect the plan of the Trump administration, hailed by the Israeli side as “Historic opportunity”.
Announced at the end of January in Washington, the plan notably provides for the annexation by Israel of its settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – occupied since 1967 by the Hebrew State – and also a Palestinian state demilitarized on a limited territory and not contiguous, and without East Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinians have blasted this plan, but have so far failed to provide alternatives.
“We submitted a counter-proposal to the Quartet (European Union, UN, Russia and the United States, editor’s note) a few days ago,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Tuesday, adding that the text, “four pages and half “proposed the creation of a” sovereign, independent and demilitarized Palestinian state “.
The text also proposes “minor modifications to the line of borders when necessary”, he indicated during a meeting with foreign journalists in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, specifying that the proposed transfer of territories will take place of “equal to equal” in terms of “size and value”.
Over the past decade, the population of the hundreds of Israeli settlements in the West Bank has jumped 50% to more than 450,000. More than 2.7 million Palestinians also live in this territory.
Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saëb Erakat said on Tuesday that he had met with representatives of Russia, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations to discuss the project annexation, but not of the United States, the Palestinians having cut political bridges with Washington since its recognition in December 2017 of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Erakat said he gave these members of the Quartet a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “demanding the formation of an international coalition against annexation and a meeting of all countries opposed to it.”
The EU opposes the annexation project without announcing at this stage any measures against this plan which must be at the heart of Wednesday the visit to Jerusalem and Jordan of Heiko Maas, head of German diplomacy, whose country will take the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1.
Recognition of a Palestinian State, sanctions against Israel or others: many European countries are questioning the line to be adopted to dissuade Israel from moving forward with this plan, and what measures to take in the event of effective annexation, underline diplomatic sources.
“We want Israel to feel international pressure (…) For the first time, European political allies are discussing sanctions against Israel because we asked for them,” said Shtayyeh.
“Recognition (of a Palestinian state, editor’s note) is a preventive measure against annexation and sanctions are another, additional,” he added.
In recent days, protests have multiplied in the West Bank but also in Israel against the annexation project, without however rallying large crowds so far on the Palestinian side.
“The anger is there, the dissatisfaction is there, the frustration is there and all that is a recipe for more problems,” said Shtayyeh, however, assuring that the Palestinian Authority of Mahmous Abbas, wishes to avoid “chaos “