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PA: US 'working hard' to topple Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian leaders react with fury after Jared Kushner questions Palestinian president's ability to make peace deal.

Saeb Erekat

A senior Palestinian negotiator has accused the United States of trying to topple the government of President Mahmoud Abbas, insisting that Washington has disqualified itself from any possible role in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Saeb Erekat's comments on Sunday came after Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held meetings with the leaders of Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a weeklong trip around the Middle East.

In an interview published in the Arabic language al-Quds newspaper on Sunday, Kushner said the US administration will soon present its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, with or without input from Abbas while also questioning the Palestinian Authority president's ability to make a deal.

"Mr Kushner's interview further clarified that the United States administration of President Trump has actually moved from the squares of negotiations to the squares of dictations. They are determined to dictate a solution," Erekat told reporters in Ramallah.

"They are working and trying to work hard in a regime change, because Palestinian leadership under the leadership of President Abbas wants genuine, lasting, comprehensive peace, based on international law," Erekat added.

Abbas cut communications with the Trump administration after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.

The Palestinian leadership see East Jerusalem as their future capital, insisting the status of the disputed city is an issue to be negotiated between them and the Israelis.

Kushner interview

Trump has called peace between Israel and the Palestinians the "ultimate deal" and has tasked Kushner with formulating a plan to that end.

In his al-Quds interview, Kushner said they were "almost done" preparing the plan. He offered, however, few details, saying only the White House would present an economic plan to promote "massive investments" in the Palestinian territories and the region.

In his rare interview, Kushner questioned the ability and willingness of Abbas to make concessions for a peace agreement with Israel.

"President Abbas says that he is committed to peace and I have no reason not to believe him," Kushner said. "However, I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal," he added.

"He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years. There has been no peace deal achieved in that time.

"To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions. I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that."

Kushner said the Palestinian leadership is "scared" that the Palestinian public may approve of the US peace initiative and called on Palestinians to not "let your leadership reject a plan they haven't even seen".

'Deal of the century'

His comments were met a fierce response from Erekat, who said the US administration believes "there will be a better economic situation by pulverising the political rights" of Palestinians.

"This is an attempt to push forward a plan that consolidates Israel's colonial control over Palestinian land and lives while telling the Palestinian people that money will compensate for our inalienable right," he added.

Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina meanwhile said on Saturday that US efforts, which "ignored" Palestinian positions on issues such as Jerusalem, statehood and refugees, were doomed to fail.

While the details of the so-called "deal of the century" have not officially been released, leaks have suggested that the Palestinians would initially control the Gaza Strip and less than half of the occupied West Bank, while a Palestinian capital would be created from villages surrounding Jerusalem.

The Israelis would retain security control over the Jordan valley and have total control over Palestinian travel between the West Bank and Gaza, while a corridor will be created between Palestinian territory and Jerusalem's holy sites.

It appears meanwhile that Palestinians would have to surrender the principle of the right of return of Palestinian refugees expelled during the creation of Israel, while the future of illegal Israeli settlements and the final border between Palestine and Israel would be decided at a later date.

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