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Palestinian Leaders Reject Trump's Middle East Peace Plan

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump has outlined his plan for peace in the Middle East. He announced the deal yesterday at the White House. He was with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It calls for two states, Israel and a, quote, "future state of Palestine."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want this deal to be a great deal for the Palestinians. It has to be. Today's agreement is a historic opportunity for the Palestinians to finally achieve an independent state of their very own. After 70 years of little progress, this could be the last opportunity they will ever have.

KING: The envisioned Palestinian state would remain under Israeli security control, which was something that Palestinians say is unacceptable. And the president says Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel. The Palestinians want at least part of Jerusalem as their own capital for any future state.

On the line with me now from Ramallah is Hanan Ashrawi. She's an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main political body representing Palestinians. This group rejects the plan. Ms. Ashrawi, thanks for joining us.

HANAN ASHRAWI: Thank you. It's my pleasure, Noel.

KING: Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, was quoted as saying of this plan, "a thousand times no." Why no?

ASHRAWI: Well, it's not the Palestinians who are saying no. I think we should put things in proper perspective. It's the Israelis and Americans who are saying no to justice, no to international law, no to recognition of signed agreements, no to international humanitarian law and no to the global consensus on the requirements of peace.

What they're doing is forging or working together for an agreement that is an Israeli American agreement, first of all, cynically timed in order to meet the needs of Netanyahu's corruption charges and Trump's impeachment trial and, of course, both the impending elections, and, at the same time, totally meeting Israeli needs, accommodating land theft, accommodating settlements, the annexation of Jerusalem - all of these are war crimes - negating the borders of Palestine, maintaining the occupation or reinventing, redefining the occupation to become a system of control while telling the Palestinians down the road, if you're good little boys and girls, you may have a hypothetical state.

This is certainly not a recipe for peace. It's a recipe for the perpetuation of the occupation and the conflict.

KING: Let me ask you something. You mentioned the Palestinians being cut out of this. The Palestinians did stop talking to the Trump administration after President Trump said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

ASHRAWI: Yes, yes.

KING: I wonder now, looking back, do you think it was a mistake to not be part of this process?

ASHRAWI: Well, there was no process, frankly speaking.

KING: What do you mean by that?

ASHRAWI: There was no process because the Americans were busy coordinating with the Israelis and then delivering to Israel illegal, unilateral steps. When the - this administration - I'm not saying the U.S. has - when this administration, or Trump decided that he's going to recognize Israel's illegal annexation of Jerusalem, our capital, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel - not only to recognize it, to move unilaterally and illegally the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and then closing the embassy - the consulate from Jerusalem, which was the diplomatic mission to Palestine in 1844, closing our mission and palace in Washington and then defunding everything Palestinian and then attacking the refugees. And so it meant that the Americans have become, really, partners with Israel in the war crime of annexation...

KING: You are saying there was no point to have been part of this process. It wouldn't have made any sense the way this situation was going. Let me ask you about some of the specifics in the plan. It would allow - this plan - it would allow Israel to annex some contested settlements in the West Bank. Israel is planning a vote on that as soon as this weekend. What would your response be if Israel does vote to annex those settlements?

ASHRAWI: Yes. Well, first of all, these are not contested settlements. These are illegal settlements built illegally on Palestinian land. They're stealing our land, bringing Israeli, Jewish-only settlers to steal that land. So it's like telling the Israelis - telling them that you can decide yourselves whether - what you want to do. No. The question is they shouldn't have the right to decide. This should be decided in accordance with international law that has deemed these as illegal. And, of course, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court calls them a war crime.

KING: It's fair to say Israel shouldn't have the right to decide, but the facts remain Israel is planning a vote on these settlements as soon as this weekend. And what I'm wondering is how do you respond to that? If the vote is, yes, we're going to annex them, what do you do?

ASHRAWI: When they're doing this, frankly speaking, they're annexing. And they are extending Israeli law on the settlements. And what they're doing is giving themselves the right to continue with a process that's been taking place. They have expanded. They have brought in more than half a million settlers into the West Bank. They have stolen a lot of land already. So they're saying, we're going to vote that we're going to keep it, and we're going to expand.

What we're saying is that there has to be accountability for Israel. There have to be curbs on Israeli behavior and lawlessness. And, of course, the U.S. has only emboldened and supported these moves.

Now, if they take such a step, of course there will be protest, of course - most of the world. I mean, people have been issuing statements. We have hundreds of U.N. resolutions, and they haven't been implemented. And everybody says, no, we cannot accept this; this is illegal, from the EU to everybody else to the U.N. And yet, nobody does anything because Israel enjoys full impunity. And it is being covered by this U.S. administration's positions and actions and partnership in crime.

This is extremely dangerous. If this is how international relations are going to be done, then it means the law can no longer prevail, and it is the law of the jungle.

KING: Hanan Ashrawi is a senior member of the PLO. Ms. Ashrawi, thank you so much for your time.

ASHRAWI: You're most welcome, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.