US, Arab nations prepare timeline for Palestinian state to be announced in weeks: Washington Post

Ahram Online , Thursday 15 Feb 2024

The US administration and some Arab partners are rushing to complete a detailed, comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and Palestinians, including a firm timeline for establishing a Palestinian state, to be announced as early as the next several weeks, the Washington Post reported.

Palestinians fleeing the Israeli offensive on Khan Younis arrive at Rafah, Gaza Strip, Feb.2024. AP


The urgency of the effort is tied directly to a proposed pause in fighting and the release of captives held in Gaza that is being negotiated by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt. 

An initial ceasefire, projected to be at least six weeks, would provide time to make the plan public, recruit additional support, and take the initial steps toward its implementation, including the formation of an interim Palestinian government, the Post said citing US and Arab officials. 

The plan includes the withdrawal of many, if not all, settler communities on the West Bank; a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem; the reconstruction of Gaza; and security and governance arrangements for a combined West Bank and Gaza, according to the officials. 

The hope is that Israel would also be offered specific security guarantees and normalization with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that would be hard to refuse, the Post said. 

Planners hope a captive agreement can be reached before the beginning of Ramadan.  

US officials said the menu of actions under consideration includes early US recognition of a Palestinian state — even as elements of political reform, security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians, normalization, and reconstruction are being implemented. 

Countries involved hope to discuss their plans with leaders from Europe and beyond at the annual Munich Security Conference that begins Friday. 

Post-war Gaza rule

Arab officials insist they are optimistic about bringing Palestinian groups together to establish a government of technocrats, rather than politicians, that would focus on revitalizing the Palestinian economy, improving ownership over security, and rebuilding Gaza, followed by elections. Abbas has agreed in principle, several Arab officials said, and could perhaps retain his position as head of state, the Post said. 

Participants in the talks are putting forward their favored candidates to serve in other top government roles and debating whether Hamas’ political leadership would have any role in post-war Gaza. 

One Arab official said Hamas’ political wing should be included in the talks, if not in the future government. “We need someone there who represents them to ensure they’re on board with this,” the official said. 

“If not, and they’re not happy about it, we will have Fatah and Hamas all over again,” the official added, referring to earlier confrontations between the two Palestinian groups that ultimately led to Hamas’ election as the governing power in Gaza. However, if they can achieve two years of stability and prosperity under a revitalized government, the official said, “no one will choose Hamas” at the ballot box. 

Even as planning participants — including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Palestinian representatives, in addition to the United States — work to reach an agreement among themselves, there are new fears that a looming Israeli attack on Rafah will throw the Gaza crisis into overdrive and bury both the captive deal and long-term peace efforts. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not indicated that he is ready to budge on either Hamas’ demands for a hostage deal or his opposition to a Palestinian state.

Extremists’ backlash

In response to the Washington Post report, Israeli far-right extremist Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich rejects a reported US plan to present a framework peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the next few weeks that would recognize a Palestinian state.

“We will never agree, under any circumstances, to this plan that says the Palestinians deserve a prize for the terrible massacre they carried out against us: A Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem,” Smotrich posted on X with a link to a report on the emerging plan.

“The intention of the US, together with the Arab states, to establish a terror state alongside the State of Israel is delusional and part of the misguided conception that there is a partner for peace on the other side,” the Ynet news site quoted the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir as saying.

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