Trump peace plan pushed back again as Palestinian cash crisis deepens

The plan is expected to be vague on core issues like borders, but prescriptive on economic matters


Mid-June, once the month of Ramadan is over, appears to be the new date for the unveiling of Donald Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan.

There were expectations it would be publicly presented in early May, shortly after the Israeli election, and while few will be surprised if it is delayed yet further, it is already the subject of intense lobbying.

The main targets for persuasion are Sunni Arab leaders who are also allies of the United States — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Palestinian Authority has already said it will reject the plan, so Sunni Arab support will be key.

The leaders of Arab countries that sponsor the PA and its diplomatic patrons could conceivably pressure them to at least enter a new round of negotiations.

From what is speculated so far, the Trump plan includes a major chapter of economic inducements to the Palestinians.

The chapter may prove to be the largest and most detailed of the entire plan, while the diplomatic section is expected to be more vague and non-commital on core issues such as borders.

Under the plan, the Saudis and Emiratis have been cast by the Trump administration as the source of much of the funding.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has paid multiple visits to Arab capitals in recent months in an effort to shore up opposition to the deal.

In two recent Arab League summits, he received the kind of lip-service to the Palestinian cause to which he is accustomed: both summits resulted in statements rejecting any peace plan that does not take into account the Palestinians’ claims for statehood — but at the same time there was no categorical rejection of the Trump plan.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is hard at work, too, trying to lobby its Arab allies to support the plan, or at least to accept it as a basis for further negotiations.

One recent sign of the administration’s efforts comes in reports that the US will declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organisation — which would greatly please Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The Arab League has also promised the Palestinian Authority a life-line of $100 million (£76 million) to make up for the shortfall in its budget caused by the Israeli government’s decision to fine the PA for the monthly payments it makes to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails convicted of terror attacks.

For the past two months, the PA has refused to accept any of the taxes that Israel collects on its behalf until it restores the sums it deducted. Last month, Israel transferred the money — minus the prisoners’ salaries — directly to the PA’s bank, but the payment was not accepted.

Instead, the new PA government has prepared an emergency austerity plan that includes less reliance on Israeli services and appeals to the Sunni Arab states for funds.

These may be forthcoming, but the deeper concern in Ramallah will be for the strings attached — in the form of pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to reject the Trump plan outright.

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