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

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

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit (not pictured) in Cairo, Egypt January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

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 potential rebuke to the Trump plan, a draft U.N. Security Council resolution being circulated to council members by Tunisia and Indonesia would condemn an Israeli plan to annex its settlements in the West Bank.

If put to a vote, the text would face a certain U.S. veto but nonetheless reflected some members’ dim view of the peace plan that Trump rolled out two weeks ago with great fanfare.

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.

“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. He rejected traditional U.S. mediation in resolving the conflict and called for an international conference.

“The U.S. cannot be the sole mediator,” he said.

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.” He later 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 that they may be prioritizing ties with the United States 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.

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 and Howard Goller

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via Reuters