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).”


Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

An Iranian army soldier walks through a temporary hospital in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)
Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

Iran warns of lengthy ‘new way of life’ as virus deaths rise

  • Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible”

TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani has warned that “the new way of life” in Iran was likely to be prolonged, as its declared death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 2,640.
Iran is one of the countries worst-hit by the virus, which first originated in China.
Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January.
At his daily news briefing, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 123 more people in Iran had died from the virus in the past 24 hours.
He reported 2,901 new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the overall number of officially confirmed cases to 38,309.
According to the official, 12,391 of those hospitalized have recovered and 3,467 are in “critical” condition.
“We must prepare to live with this virus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered, which has not yet happened to date,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting.
“The new way of life we have adopted” is to everyone’s benefit, he said, adding that “these changes will likely have to stay in place for some time.”
After weeks of refraining from imposing lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided Wednesday to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.
Without an official lockdown in place, the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay home “as much as possible.” Schools and universities in some provinces were closed in late February and the measure was later extended to the whole country.
After Rouhani’s warning, the reopening of schools following this year’s new year holidays of March 19 to April 3 appears unlikely.

FASTFACT

Iran announced its first infection cases on Feb. 19, but a senior health official has acknowledged that the virus was likely to have already reached Iran in January

On a positive note, Rouhani said he had been told by top health experts and doctors that “in some provinces we have passed the peak (of the epidemic) and are on a downward trajectory.”
Several Iranian government officials and notable figures have been infected by the new coronavirus, some of whom have died.
The most recent case of infection was Mohammed-Reza Khatami, brother of former president Mohammad Khatami and an ex-deputy speaker of parliament.
He is currently hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, a deputy health minister who tested positive for the virus in late February, has returned to public life and appeared on state television to emphasize safety precautions.