February 11, 2020 / 4:42 PM / 5 days ago

Palestinians' Abbas, at U.N., says U.S. offers Palestinians 'Swiss cheese' state

(Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, appearing before the United Nations Security Council, on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal as a gift to Israel and unacceptable to Palestinians.

Waving a copy of a map that the U.S. plan envisions for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, Abbas said the state carved out for Palestinians looked like a fragmented “Swiss cheese.”

In a setback for the Palestinians, a draft Security Council resolution circulated by Tunisia and Indonesia that would have implicitly criticized Trump’s plan, including Israel’s retention of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, was not put to a vote.

The text, which faced a near-certain U.S. veto, did not go forward in part because it failed to garner the support needed by the Palestinians to isolate the United States, two diplomats at the United Nations said.

One said the draft, which the United States wanted to water down, attracted 11 or 12 votes in favor on the 15-member council. A second diplomat said it would have required too many compromises to achieve the 14-1 vote the Palestinians may have sought.

“Today, by not putting forward a polarizing resolution, the United Nations Security Council demonstrated that the old way of doing things is over,” a senior Trump administration official said.

Released on Jan. 28, Trump’s plan would recognize Israel’s authority over West Bank Jewish settlements and require Palestinians meet a difficult series of conditions for a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.

“This is the state that they will give us,” said Abbas. “It’s like a Swiss cheese, really. Who among you will accept a similar state and similar conditions?”

Speaking at an election rally in the Israeli town of Bat Yam, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the criticism and hinted at the possibility that Arab states might entertain the Trump plan even if Palestinians do not.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds a map while speaking during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations in New York, U.S., February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“This is not Swiss cheese. This is the best plan that exists for the Middle East – for the Middle East – and for the State of Israel and for the Palestinians, too,” he said, adding that the plan “recognizes reality and the rights of the people of Israel, both of which you constantly refuse to recognize.”

Abbas urged Trump to disavow the plan and seek a return to negotiations based on existing U.N. resolutions that call for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 border lines.

“The U.S. cannot be the sole mediator,” he said, rejecting the traditional U.S. role in seeking to broker an end to the conflict and calling for an international conference.

Suggesting violent protests could break out, Abbas said “the situation could implode at any moment. ... We need hope. Please do not take this hope away from us.”

Later, however, he said Palestinians would not “resort to terrorism.”

Although Trump’s stated aim was to end decades of conflict, his plan favored Israel, underlined by the Palestinians’ absence from his White House announcement with Netanyahu at his side.

While Arab League foreign ministers on Feb. 1 rejected the plan, three Gulf Arab states - Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates - were represented at the White House announcement, suggesting they may be prioritizing ties with Washington and a shared hostility toward Iran over traditional Arab alliances.

Abbas said the deal is not an international partnership, but rather a proposal from one state supported by another state to be imposed on Palestinians.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, accused Abbas of being unrealistic and said peace was not possible while he remained in power.

Slideshow (7 Images)

In a show of support for Abbas, Ehud Olmert, a former centrist Israeli prime minister who had claimed significant progress in talks with the Palestinians aimed at securing a final peace deal, later stood by him at a joint appearance.

Olmert, once a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, resigned in 2008 and eventually spent 16 months in jail for corruption linked to his position as mayor of Jerusalem.

A Feb. 5-8 poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 94% of Palestinians reject the plan, which Trump has called the “Deal of the Century.”

Reporting by Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller and Dan Grebler

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