Palestinians call on world to reject Trump peace plan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Palestinians call on world to reject Trump peace plan

  • The US proposal may also seek to give Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley, a key territory that constitutes around 30 percent of the West Bank

RAMALLAH: The Palestinians on Monday urged world powers to reject Donald Trump’s peace plan, which they said President Mahmud Abbas had refused to discuss with his US counterpart despite several outreaches.
Trump is due to unveil his proposal for Middle East peace this week in Washington, where he is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz.
Palestinian leaders, who have not been invited to the White House, have already rejected the US initiative and insist that Trump’s administration has forfeited its role as an honest broker in the conflict due to what they say is the president’s pro-Israel bias.
“We call on the international community to not be partners in this (plan) because it contravenes international law,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told journalists ahead of a weekly cabinet meeting.
The details of Trump’s initiative, which has been in the works since 2017, are not yet public.
But his administration has already recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and stopped referring to the West Bank as “occupied” territory.
It also no longer considers Israeli settlements there as inconsistent with international law and most analysts expect his proposal to reaffirm his administration’s positions.
Trump also broke with decades of international consensus that the fate of Jerusalem should be negotiated between the parties when he recognized the disputed city as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
He is releasing the plan as he faces impeachment hearings over abuse of office and while Netanyahu battles serious corruption charges during a neck-and-neck election against Gantz.
“This a plan to protect Trump from impeachment and protect Netanyahu from prison. It is not a Middle East peace plan,” Shtayyeh told a Cabinet meeting.
Previously released parts of the Trump initiative purport to offer the Palestinians substantial economic incentives.

FASTFACT

US President Donald Trump is due to unveil his proposal for Middle East peace this week in Washington, where he is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz.

“The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale,” Shtayyeh said. “This plan gives Israel sovereignty over Palestinian territory.”
Three Palestinian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Monday that Trump had made several attempts to discuss the plan with Abbas in recent weeks, but the Palestinian president had rejected those outreaches.
“There will be no discussion with the Americans until they recognize the two-state solution,” one senior official said.
A spokesperson for the American Embassy in Jerusalem was not immediately available for comment.
Some have speculated that the US proposal could pull back from supporting the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, the common definition of the two-state solution.
The US proposal may also seek to give Israel the green light to annex the Jordan Valley, a key territory that constitutes around 30 percent of the West Bank.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri toured the Jordan Valley Monday, saying they were taking steps toward the move — a central election promise of right winger Netanyahu.
“As interior minister I’d like to tell you, we’ve started to prepare for an annexation — we are getting the paper-work ready,” Deri said in a statement.
In Gaza on Monday a few hundred Palestinians protested against the Trump plan, which Palestinians ironically call the “Deal of the Century.”
Further protests were expected on Wednesday, when the plan is expected to be public.


Iranian VP and 1979 embassy hostage spokeswoman infected with coronavirus

Updated 27 February 2020

Iranian VP and 1979 embassy hostage spokeswoman infected with coronavirus

  • Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women’s affairs, is being treated for the coronavirus
  • Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, also contracted the illness

TEHRAN: The coronavirus epidemic in Iran has cost 26 lives, the health ministry announced Thursday, with a vice president becoming the latest top official to be infected as the spread appeared to accelerate.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that the tally of infections had risen to 245 with 106 more cases confirmed — the highest number for a single day since Iran announced its first infections on Feb. 19.
The Islamic republic has the highest death toll from the virus outside China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
Among the latest coronavirus sufferers is one of Iran’s seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women’s affairs.
Ebtekar, a former spokeswoman for students who took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, is being treated at home and members of her team have been tested, state news agency IRNA reported.
Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, also contracted the virus, appearing in a video posted by Fars news agency saying he was in self-quarantine.
The cleric is a deputy for the Shiite holy city of Qom in central Iran where the country’s first cases were detected.
According to media reports, among the deceased in Qom on Thursday was theologian Hadi Khroroshahi, who in 1981 was named Iran’s first ambassador to the Vatican.
The announcement by Zolnour comes two days after another top official, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, head of the government’s coronavirus task force, said he too had contracted the virus.
On Wednesday, Iranian authorities announced domestic travel restrictions for people with confirmed or suspected infections.
They also placed curbs on access to major Shiite pilgrimage sites, including the Imam Reza shrine in second city Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.
Visitors to the shrines will be allowed to visit on condition they are provided “with hand-washing liquids, proper (health) information, masks,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
They must “not gather together in groups but just pray and leave,” he said.
In a rare move, authorities announced the cancelation of the main Friday weekly prayers in Tehran, Qom and Mashhad as well as in the capitals of 22 of Iran’s 31 provinces and other infected areas.
School closures have been extended in affected areas and universities are to remain closed for another week starting from Saturday.
“All of these decisions are temporary and if the situation changes, we might intensify or ease them,” Namaki said.
In a message of thanks to doctors and nurses, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he hoped their efforts would help “eradicate this sinister virus soon.”
International health experts have expressed concern about Iran’s handling of the outbreak. But Tehran insists the situation has been “improving.”