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Former Palestinian Diplomat Reacts to Trump's Middle East Peace Plan


With Israel's prime minister by his side, President Trump stood before cameras today and unveiled his plan for peace in the Middle East.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel's security.


Now, notably missing from that White House podium was any Palestinian representative. In fact, the Palestinians have been absent from the entire process. So let's hear a Palestinian voice on this deal.

SHAPIRO: We're joined now by Ambassador Maen Areikat. He's the former chief of mission for the Palestinian delegation in Washington, D.C., and a former member of the Palestinian negotiation team.


MAEN AREIKAT: Thank you, sir.

SHAPIRO: I want to begin by making clear that you're not representing the Palestinian leadership view today. The official response is being crafted separately. But after watching today's press conference and reviewing the plan, what is your reaction?

AREIKAT: My reaction - I think what we saw is a total charade, a circus in which - a plan that was submitted without even any prior consultation with the Palestinian side. And this realistic plan that President Trump announced today actually is going to lead to Israel's total control of 30% of the West Bank, which is supposed to be the future Palestinian state, along with the Gaza Strip. So even the language of the plan - it must have been written by Israeli officials and not by American officials.

SHAPIRO: You say there was no consultation with the Palestinians. The Palestinian negotiators ended contact with the U.S. after President Trump moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Do you think that that was the right choice now that you've seen this proposal?

AREIKAT: Absolutely. That was the right choice because for the last two years, everybody around the world, include some in the Arab countries, have been asking us to be patient and to wait for that plan to be submitted before we can judge what is the substance of such a plan. After two years of not discussing the plan with the American side - because from the beginning, we sense a biased approach toward the whole conflict.

The plan that was submitted today exactly was as we expected. We did not expect it to be impartial. We did not expect it to be fair. President Trump talked about an independent Palestinian state, yet the map that they were showing in the plan keep the Jordan Valley under Israeli control, which means that this Palestinian state will never be totally sovereign or independent.

SHAPIRO: Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, calls this plan, quote, "a cynical maneuver calculated to be rejected by the Palestinians and then greenlight illegal annexation." If that's the case - and it sounds like Palestinians are likely to reject this plan, based on what you're saying - what option do the Palestinian people have?

AREIKAT: Well, first of all, let me say this. We both are very, very much privy to the political circumstances that both President Trump and the prime minister are in currently.

SHAPIRO: Prime Minister Netanyahu under criminal indictment and President Trump under impeachment.

AREIKAT: Absolutely. So this is like - was a dialogue between two people who are desperately trying to salvage their political futures. This is one. Secondly, there are many options for the Palestinians. You know, our people are not going to accept any solution that will not provide us with self-determination, the right to establish our own independent state and end to the Israeli military occupation.

What President Trump is advocating is actually a Palestinian state that would be under Israeli occupation. And this is something that the Palestinians will never accept. We will continue to rely on international legitimacy. We will continue to work with different partners around the world. This is something, like the Palestinian leadership said today - is not going to be determined at the White House. It's not going to be determined by Israel. There has to be an international consensus to this solution. Otherwise, there will be no stability in the region.

SHAPIRO: Ambassador Maen Areikat, former chief of mission for the Palestinian delegation in Washington, D.C., and former member of the Palestinian negotiation team.

Thank you for speaking with us today.

AREIKAT: Thank you, sir. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.