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Palestinians to raise Trump’s ‘draconian’ policy shift with UK government

Manuel Hassassian

LONDON: A key Palestinian diplomat plans to raise the “draconian” US shift in Mideast policy with the UK government, urging the British to push for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel.
The US President Donald Trump on Wednesday veered away from the long-established US commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I’m looking at two states and one state,” Trump said ahead of his first official meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”
Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to the UK, told Arab News that he plans to raise the shift in policy with the UK government next week.
“We were dismayed, we were surprised (at) this draconian shift in policy… from a position that has been held for more than two decades by the US in promoting a two-state solution,” he said.
Hassassian said he has a meeting scheduled next week with Tobias Ellwood, parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) with special responsibility for the Middle East and Africa.
“I will tell (Ellwood) that we would like to see the UK more proactive on the two-state solution, and that what Trump is supporting (with) Israel is going to be detrimental to the entire peace and security of the region,” he said.
Hassassian also plans to request that the UK government urge Trump not to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as has been suggested.
“This act would be cataclysmic on the relations between Palestinians and Israelis,” the diplomat said.
Hassassian also plans to urge the UK government not to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 letter that pledged support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this month extended an invitation to Netanyahu to attend the centenary.
“This is an insult to Muslims, Palestinians, Arabs — that you are celebrating the creation of Israel at the expense and the destitution of the Palestinian people,” Hassassian said of the centenary event.
He was speaking to Arab News at the Mission of Palestine in London, which does not enjoy the status of a full embassy given the ongoing disputes over the status of Palestine. Ellwood and the FCO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite his “dismay” at the apparent shift in US policy, Hassassian said he was hopeful that the Palestinians could work well with Trump.
“I said, give (Trump) a chance. We cannot really just make generalizations about him (after) one meeting with Netanyahu, and try to draw the inferences that he’s an enemy of the Palestinians.
“I think he will become more and more pragmatic when he understands the intricate issues… Let’s cultivate our friendship with Trump as Palestinians, and try to give the right signals of peace and the conciliation with the Israelis, that a two-state solution is the best option for both.”
Hassassian pointed to the recent meetings between US and Palestinian security officials, and said it would be right for Trump to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We should be hopeful,” Hassassian said of a possible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “If we lose hope, we pave the way for extremists, and that is a recipe for disaster.”

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