London: As the Palestinian leadership tries to drum up foreign support to push back on a plan being devised by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, Riyad Al Maliki said the proposals amounted to the return of colonialism.
Speaking at Chatham House in London, Al Maliki, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was prepared to hold direct talks with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the invitation of Russia’s Vladimir Putin as long as the meeting was well prepared and was likely to have concrete results.
But he urged Europe to stop being a bystander in the Middle East peace process.
“When it comes to taking the lead on peace efforts, the world left the steering wheel in the hands of reckless driver,” he said.
“We disregard the view that we should wait until the reckless driver goes over the cliff or runs over the Palestinian people before doing something about it. The deal of the century will be a consecration of the Palestinians’ century-old ordeal: no independence, sovereignty, freedom and no justice.”
Al Maliki added: “If people think this will have no consequences for Israel and the future of the region one way or another, they are delusional. This cannot be the future of Palestine. Our people have not struggled for so long and endured so much simply to change the size of their chains. They want freedom, not conditional liberty; they want sovereignty, not limited autonomy; they want peace and coexistence, not subjugation.”
There is little likelihood that the EU and Britain will regard the Kushner plan, largely focused on regional economic development, as adequate. But an intense debate is already under way on whether it will be seen as something on which to build, or instead as a cue for the UN, Russia or even the EU to try to take a lead in new talks in which Netanyahu is unlikely to engage.
The Palestinians are involved in last-minute lobbying for European powers to try to influence Washington before the publication of the Kushner plan, due within weeks.
“Defeating colonialism cannot be our responsibility alone”, Al Maliki said.
“We need more than ever a coalition of the willing to salvage peace.”
He claimed the Palestinians had been cut off from all links with the Trump administration.
They met Kushner 36 times in 2017, then suddenly all links were broken and the Palestinian embassy in Washington was shut down, the US moved its embassy in Israel to Occupied Jerusalem and it cut funding for UN relief work in Palestine.
He likened Trump’s actions to a declaration of war.
He said the Palestinians had been committed to and cooperating with efforts for peace when ties were cut.
Al Maliki said the Palestinians were still investing hope in a letter sent by the Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, to Trump in the wake of meetings hosted by the Irish government with Arab ministers in Dublin in February.
One proposal is to convene an international conference of the kind hosted by the French three years ago.
He said Gaza was close to collapse, the Arab world was distracted by other issues and he feared Netanyahu was betting that the world would look away and embrace Israel regardless of its attitude towards the Palestinians, including its threat to annex the Occupied West Bank.