Trump’s Middle East plan forges unexpected unity in Palestinian ranks

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump's Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Trump’s Middle East plan forges unexpected unity in Palestinian ranks

  • Reactions of rivals to Palestinian president's call for a meeting spark hopes of a unified response
  • No Palestinian official was present at the launch ceremony in the White House on Tuesday

AMMAN: US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan appears to have produced an unexpected result: It has forged a tenuous unity among Palestinian politicians.
Local media reports suggested that both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group accepted a call by President Mahmoud Abbas for a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at the presidential compound in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on Tuesday night.
No Palestinian official was present at the launch ceremony in the White House on Tuesday. Palestinian leaders had rejected the plan in advance, saying it aimed to impose permanent Israeli rule over the West Bank.
There was no immediate reaction from Abbas, but a spokesman for his Fatah party said Trump’s plan “will go to the trash (heap) of history.”
Meanwhile, Arab League secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Wednesday a first reading of the Trump peace plan indicated a great waste of legitimate rights of Palestinians.
Hussein Hamayel told Palestine TV that Trump was trying to “shift focus from his impeachment in the US,” but “neither Trump, nor anyone other than Trump can end the Palestinian cause.”
Reacting to the formal unveiling of the White House plan's political framework, Sami Abu Zuhri, an official of Hamas, the Palestinian group in control of the Gaza Strip, said: “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger.
“Trump’s statement about Jerusalem is nonsense and Jerusalem will always be a land for the Palestinians ... The Palestinians will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a Palestinian land.”
On Sunday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The US administration will not find a single Palestinian who supports this project.

“Trump’s plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, said: “What the Palestinians are being offered right now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts.”

Equally scathing was the statement of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington D.C., which said: “With this new plan, there is uncertainty in what the future holds for Palestinians.”
Other reactions were more measured. Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said: “Jordan supports every genuine effort aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace that people will accept.”
He said the only path to a comprehensive and lasting peace was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 lines and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
A spokesperson for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, said: “The leaders discussed the United States’ proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which could prove a positive step forward.”
The Arab League has said it will convene an urgent meeting on Saturday.
Trump presented his long-awaited plan, promising to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
Standing alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, at the White House, Trump proposed a two-state solution and said no Israelis or Palestinians would be uprooted from their homes.

The blueprint was drawn up under the stewardship of Jared Kushner, Trump's Middle East adviser and son-in-law.
Earlier in the day, the Israeli military deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank and thousands of Palestinians protested in the Gaza Strip.
Hani Al-Masri, executive director of Masart, a think-tank in Ramallah, said the semblance of Palestinian political unity is welcome but not sufficient.
“This is a positive move but what is needed is a holistic strategy in which all are involved,” he told Arab News.
Al-Masri called for a leadership-level meeting of all sectors of Palestinian society.
“We need political faction leaders, civil society leaders, leaders of women and youth groups to meet in order to agree on a comprehensive plan, not simply a one-time reaction to the latest Trump plan.”
Kayed Ma’ari director of the Witness Center for Citizens Rights in Nablus, told Arab News that President Abbas is trying to convey the message that there is a unified, not isolated, Palestinian rejection of the Trump plan.
“This call shuts all the cracks in the internal Palestinian wall that is facing up to the deal of the century,” he said, adding that “this will strengthen the efforts to show publicly this Palestinian rejection.”
However, Ma’ari warned that it is important “to build on this decision so that it is not an isolated reaction.”

Hamas politburo member Khalil Hayeeh said the group would join the Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah. “We welcome the call by Abu Mazen (Abbas) and we declare our full support to this call,” he said.
Ayman Daraghmeh, a former Hamas legislator, said he received a phone invitation from Fatah central committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad, who conveyed the invitation in the name of President Abbas to all former members from Hamas of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Khaled Batsh, head of the national relations committee of Islamic Jihad, said that the group would participate in the evening meeting in Ramallah on Tuesday.
“This meeting is not an alternative to a much wider meeting on the national level, which will agree on a national strategy to face up to the challenges confronting Palestinians,” he said.
Fahmi, a political analyst from Gaza, told Arab News that the Palestinian leadership and Hamas both need each other at present.
“This meeting doesn’t seem to be based on a change of attitude or thinking, he said, “but it is clearly a response to the fact that both sides are facing an existential crisis and therefore are clutching each other (for support).”

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”