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).”

Eritrean navy urged to free dozens of Yemeni fishermen from custody

Fishermen work on their boats in the southern city of Aden, Yemen, in this file photo taken on March 18, 2015. (AP)
Updated 07 June 2020

Eritrean navy urged to free dozens of Yemeni fishermen from custody

  • Naval attacks getting more brazen, say Yemenis

AL-MUKALLA: There have been calls for Eritrea to release dozens of Yemeni fishermen who were caught last week after sailing into a maritime flashpoint.

On Wednesday 15 armed boats from Eritrea’s navy seized 120 Yemeni fishermen from the Red Sea between Hanish Islands and the coast of Khokha.

Eritrea briefly occupied the Hanish Islands in 1995 before retreating after the international arbitration court granted Yemen sovereignty over them. But Yemeni authorities complain that the Eritreans have attacked and seized hundreds of Yemeni fishermen over the last couple of years.

The most recent incursion triggered a brief clash with the Yemeni coastguards that ended with the capture of seven Eritreans, local security officials said. On Thursday the Eritreans released 62 Yemeni fishermen after confiscating their boats.

“We demand all concerned authorities to work on releasing our colleagues and their boats that are in Eritrea’s custody,” Khaled Al-Zarnouqi, the head of Yemen’s Shabab Al- Khokha fishery association, told Arab News on Saturday. “We demand the international community, the (Saudi-led) coalition and the (Yemeni) government to protect us from the repeated attacks by Eritrea’s navy that violates Yemeni sovereignty, attacks Yemeni fishermen and seizes boats.”

Hashem, one of the fishermen who was released on Thursday, said that armed Eritrean vessels approached their boats on Tuesday and asked them to sail to Eritrea’s Ras Tarma.

“They were tough,” Hashem told Arab News, preferring to be identified by his first name. “Before releasing us, they gave us little fuel and rickety boats and asked us to sail back home.”


120 Yemeni fishermen were captured by Eritrea’s navy on Wednesday from the Red Sea between Hanish Islands and the coast of Khokha.

The Eritreans refused to release their boats. “Each boat costs YER2.5 million ($9,987). They seized the finest and most expensive boats and allowed us to sail back with the worst ones.”

Local security officials and fishermen say that Eritrea’s naval attacks have become more brazen and are getting closer to the Yemeni coastline.

“They have attacked Yemeni fishermen less than 17 miles from the Yemeni coastline,” a local security official who documents Eritrea’s navy attacks on Yemeni fishermen told Arab News. “The Eritreans are also still holding 24 fishermen who were detained in the Red Sea on Dec. 1, 2019 and refuse to release them,” he said, adding that many fishermen were thinking of taking up arms to protect themselves.

Yemen’s coast guard authority crumbled in early 2015 when the Iran-backed Houthis expanded across Yemen after taking over Sanaa, triggering heavy clashes with their opponents.

Since the beginning of its military operations in Yemen in support of the internationally- recognized government, the Saudi-led coalition has trained and armed hundreds of coast guard troops and deployed them along the country’s coastline.

Yemeni officials say they are battling Eritrea’s navy attacks, Houthi arms' smugglers and drug gangs.