U.S. Sounds Abbas Out on Palestinian-Jordan Confederation

(Bloomberg) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of Israeli lawmakers and activists on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s negotiating team had asked whether he would agree to a confederation with neighboring Jordan.

Peace Now’s executive director Shaqued Morag, who attended the meeting, said Abbas told the U.S. that he would agree to a trilateral confederation that includes Israel. Decades ago, Israeli officials mooted the notion of a confederation between the Palestinians and Jordan, but not one that would include Israel. Israeli government spokesmen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

U.S. Sounds Abbas Out on Palestinian-Jordan Confederation

A statement from Abbas’s office said the president emphasized in the meeting that “peace must be reached no matter how great the challenges and difficulties it faces.” The statement didn’t mention a confederation proposal. Mohammed al Madani, head of communication with the Israeli society, declined to elaborate.

Jumana Ghunaimat, the Jordanian minister for media affairs, said the idea of a confederation between Jordan and Palestine isn’t a subject of discussion. Jordan’s position is based on the proposed two-state solution and establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, she told the told the Ammon News agency.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks sputtered to a halt in 2014. The Trump administration has said it’s working on a plan to end the 70-year-old conflict, but has yet to decide when to release it. In the meantime, Trump has taken a series of measures that have been welcomed by Israel and condemned by the Palestinians, who say they hurt international efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On Friday, the Trump administration said it will halt contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

UNRWA administers aid to 5.4 million Palestinians in the Middle East. It allows descendants of Palestinians who lost their homes as a result of the 1948 conflict to be registered as refugees in perpetuity -- long drawing criticism from the Jewish state. Critics warn that cutting off assistance that goes toward food, education and health care could deepen hardship, stoke unrest and boost the appeal of radical groups.

The U.S. earlier this year relocated its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, sparking violent protests on Gaza’s frontier fence. Israel responded with deadly force, killing more than 50 people in a single day and wounding hundreds more.

A confederacy with Jordan would likely mean an end to Palestinian aspirations for independence. The idea has long been advocated by Israelis who are generally opposed to an independent Palestinian state. Gideon Sa’ar, a member of the Likud party, recently floated it as a way to leave the Palestinians with less than full sovereignty.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.