By Arab News
By Daoud Kuttab
Palestinian officials have increased their diplomatic efforts in a last-ditch effort to stop the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told reporters on Tuesday that a political counter-offer has been handed to the Quartet, the group established by the UN Security Council in 2002 and made up of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN.
The key substantive part of the letter is the willingness of Palestinians to “accept a demilitarized state with minor border adjustments.”
Ibrahim Milhem, the Palestinian government spokesman said that the offer was more than four pages long and was submitted to members of the Quartet in Jerusalem.
Majdi Khalidi, a senior advisor to president Abbas, told Arab News that the letter is similar to the Palestinian peace plan presented at the UN in New York in 2019.
“The Americans keep wanting us to comment on their plan but this counter-offer is a genuine peace initiative that is based on international law.”
Riyad Mansour, the head of the Palestine’s mission at the UN, said that the Palestinian initiative was built on the concept of global consensus.
“Palestinians accept the basic international principles for peace, including the various references that the Americans have been part of with the administration of George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barak Obama.”
He said that the only president to deviate from those US positions had been the current US President Trump.
Mansour revealed that the Palestinians would seek to articulate their desire for peace to the world in various forums during the coming weeks.
“We are hoping to have a special session of the UN Security Council at a ministerial level and we expect that the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain will head that session.” Mansour believed that this session, which will take place on June 24 or 26, would focus on the illegality of any annexation.
The Palestinian diplomatic effort, however, has not been convincing to many observers.
Hani Al-Masri, the head of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah, said that the Palestinian leadership was working in a haphazard way and without a clear strategy.
He said that President Abbas had taken the decision to break all relations with Israel, but this was not done as part of a comprehensive plan.
Al-Masri thought that the coronavirus would result in a major change in the Arab world and might contribute to triggering a new Palestinian uprising. “But in order for a new intifada to happen, we should make sure that the conditions for its success are met so that it is not just another page of glory in the Palestinian cause.”
Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Washington DC-based Middle East Institute, said that Abbas’s counterproposal underscored his leadership’s overall lack of strategy for confronting Israeli annexation or achieving Palestinian statehood.
“The ideas presented in it seem to be more or less the same as those presented to (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert in 2008. It was also telling that Abbas delivered his proposal to the Quartet, an institution that is basically dormant and which has not played a meaningful role in the peace process for more than a decade.”
Diana Buttu, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said that Palestinians need not keep thinking that they have to offer counter-proposals.
“Anyone following this rhetoric will get the feeling that Palestinians are occupying Israel and not that Israel is occupying Palestine. The only legitimate counter-proposal is to end this Israeli occupation.” Buttu says that the problem with counter-proposals is that it is self-destructive. It is like saying my counter-proposal is that I shall cut off my right arm or another part of my body.”
Buttu, however, encourages Palestinians to imagine rather than react. “Politically we need to imagine the implementation of interactional law including the removal of the settlements, and it can happen. We can’t fall into the trap of believing that it is up to us to accommodate our occupiers.”
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow of geo-economics and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former US Middle East negotiator, said that in the current environment the counter-proposal spoken about by Shtayyeh was about all Palestinians could do tactically but wouldn’t have any impact.
“The US and Israel are proposing 70 percent of West Bank for a state which the US Ambassador to Israel said would only happen if Palestinians become Canadians. Palestinians are looking for a real state with only minor modifications to June 1967 borders. This is a gap too wide to bridge.”