PA’s Zomlot calls for US forces in the West Bank

WASHINGTON – In a lengthy briefing with reporters on Monday, Husam Zomlot, a top Palestinian diplomat, called for American soldiers to provide security in the West Bank during the implementation of a final status peace deal. While ruling out any Israel Defense Force (IDF) presence in the Palestinian territories, Zomlot, who serves as the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)’s General Delegation to the U.S, explained: “We demand a third party presence. We even welcome American forces to be our guard… The Marines would represent for us a third party.”

Commenting on President Donald Trump’s meeting last month with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in New York, Zomlot said, “each time we leave the meeting, we leave it with a sense of renewed hope and a sense of renewed inspiration.” The senior Palestinian diplomat added that Trump was in a “listening and attentive mood.” However, Zomlot provided no concrete examples to explain the PLO’s change in attitude towards the Trump administration’s peace efforts. Earlier this summer, multiple top Palestinian officials slammed the Trump White House for its perceived bias against Ramallah, particularly on the issue of settlements.

In addition to the political track, Zomlot noted that the Trump administration is discussing investing “billions” in the Palestinian territories in a “Marshall plan-like” effort. At the same time, the State Department has announced that they support the Taylor Force Act, which would sever economic aid that directly benefits the Palestinian Authority until they end payments to families of terrorists.

Zomlot also issued a list of ultimatums. “We will never accept a state-minus,” he asserted, responding to Israeli proposals to offer Palestinians autonomy but not sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian official also vowed that during a Trump-led peace process, Ramallah would never accept provincial borders. “This brings me to the last thing that we will not accept: all of the talk about the outside-in and the regional pact… is not going to happen.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has discussed the route of Jerusalem working directly with the Arab Gulf States to reach a deal, before having those countries lean on the P.A. to accept the agreement.

When asked about the likely passage of the Taylor Force Act, Zomlot declared “We were given a choice by Congress that we should cease these payments, and we choose our people, proudly so.” He added that during the beginning of the Trump administration, the Palestinian leadership offered to set up a trilateral committee with the U.S. and Israelis to deal with the payment issue but were rebuffed.

While Zomlot urged the Trump administration to publicly endorse the two state solution, he declined to elaborate if the White House has supported a future Palestinian state during private conversations. Yet, the Palestinian envoy insisted that the PA was supportive of Trump’s statement that the administration could accept either a two-state or one-state formula. Zomlot added that a one-state solution would have to be “one equal egalitarian state, one man, one woman, one vote… living in the historic land of Palestine.”

Acknowledging that the Trump administration has yet to submit a diplomatic initiative to the Palestinians, the top PLO diplomat clarified that Ramallah will continue to engage “if time means weeks not years, it’s worth waiting.” Zomlot previously threatened at a briefing with reporters in August that “it’s now or never for the Trump administration’s peace efforts.”

Turning to the reunification efforts in Gaza this week, Zomlot called the developments “very good news” and praised Egyptian and Saudi Arabia mediators for bringing progress after ten years of division between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Responding to proposals of dividing the West Bank and Gaza, Zomlot vowed, “There will never be a state in Gaza. This is a fallacy. Second, there will never be a state without Gaza.”

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