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Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at Burj Al Barajneh refugee camp, south of Beirut, Lebanon, on January 31, 2020. Image Credit: AP

The long-awaited Middle East peace plan proposed by the US has drawn muted responses from Arab states and rightly so.

Palestinians have long complained that the chief architect on President Trump’s team, his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner has had an uncertain record when it comes to promoting a fair and just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. They have brought up allegations of biases on more than one occasion. Two years ago, Kushner failed to disclose his role as a director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, a family group that funded an Israeli colony considered to be illegal under international law.

“It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid. Moving to the de jure annexation of colonies is something that was given the green light yesterday.”

- Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator

They also lamented the fact that shortly before Trump’s first diplomatic trip to Israel in May 2017, when he was accompanied by his trusted adviser on Middle East affairs, Kushner, the New York Times broke the news that Kushner’s family real estate company had received $30 million (Dh110 million) in investments from one of Israel’s largest insurers and financial institutions. The agreement had previously been kept secret.

The Palestinian leadership views Kushner as being the golden boy of AIPAC, a powerful Israeli lobby that operates in the US purely for the promotion of Israeli interests, and Israeli interests only. In a tweet shortly before another Kushner Middle-East trip, AIPAC tweeted: “We appreciate the commitment of Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell to peace and to Israel’s security.”

Aipac tweet

This latest peace plan whose details were under wraps for the past two years by Kushner and other close advisers became even more apparently one-sided when only the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to Washington for the unveiling. No Arab or Palestinian leaders were invited, which decreased the credibility of the whole issue, increasing suspicions on the side of Arabs.

Slap of the century

The plan which recognises Israel’s ownership of West Bank colonies, considered illegal under international law (as they were built on land taken by forcible eviction of the legal Palestinian owners), also provides for Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Additionally, [occupied] Jerusalem would be the undivided capital of Israel, a decision decried by many countries in the world including Saudi Arabia.

With such credentials, it was only natural that any plan proposed from that quarter was bound to be looked at with suspicion, if not dismissed altogether.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called the US plan the “slap of the century” after it was announced. The Palestinian leadership also charged that Trump’s team had ‘simply copied and pasted the blueprint that Netanyahu and the illegal colonies leaders’ wanted to see enforced.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator stated that “It’s about annexation, it’s about apartheid.” “Moving to the de jure annexation of colonies is something that was given the green light yesterday.”

Apartheid state

Others have charged that the plan provides clear green light to Israel to establish an apartheid state. Hussam Zomlot, a former head of the Palestinian mission to Washington, dismissed the plan as “a political circus, a sad piece of political theatre. It’s a Mickey Mouse state. January 28, 2020, will mark the official legal stamp of approval from the United States for Israel to implement a fully-fledged apartheid system.”

King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia called Abbas assuring him that the Palestinian people would back him in his decisions. The king had previously publicly denounced in no uncertain terms the US recognition of [occupied] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it an impediment to just and lasting peace.

King Salman also reiterated the kingdom’s support for the Palestinian cause. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that “The Kingdom reiterates its support for all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian cause.”

Peace attempts will be futile if there is no legitimate effort to ensure impartiality in the process, something many dismiss in the current plan with its heavily Zionist leaning ideology.

- Tariq A. Al Maeena, Saudi commentator

The statement added: “The Kingdom appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.”

The Saudi leadership is very keen that the legal rights of Palestinians be not dismissed in the face of the new plan. Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman himself assured Abbas that his country’s position on the Palestinian issue, “has not changed, all the Arabs and we are with you.”

That is indeed the stance of all Arabs who have seen the key points of the plan which left little to the hapless Palestinians. Peace attempts will be futile if there is no legitimate effort to ensure impartiality in the process, something many dismiss in the current plan with its heavily Zionist leaning ideology.

The Palestinians are not ready to go in the way of the native Americans, herded out and deprived of their natural rights and resources. And while the Arab world would welcome a lasting peace with its Israeli neighbours, it would not do so in the face of apartheid policy.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena