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).”

Pressure piles up on Turkey ahead of EU leaders’ meeting

Updated 18 September 2020

Pressure piles up on Turkey ahead of EU leaders’ meeting

  • A European Parliament resolution called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with Greece and Cyprus
  • Turkey criticized the resolution, saying it was biased, and insisted on the need for completely demilitarizing Greek islands in the zone.

ANKARA: European pressure is piling up on Turkey ahead of a meeting next week about the country’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean, with the European Parliament urging the immediate end to “illegal exploration and drilling” in the region.

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels on Sept. 24 and 25 to discuss the single market, industrial policy and digital transformation, as well as external relations, particularly with Turkey and China. 

The situation in the eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey were raised by some member states during an EU leaders’ video conference of Aug. 19. Leaders expressed their concern about the growing tensions and stressed the urgent need to de-escalate. 

A European Parliament resolution on Thursday called for sanctions against Turkey unless it showed “sincere cooperation and concrete progress” in defusing tensions with EU members Greece and Cyprus.

Parliamentarians also want it to “immediately end any further illegal exploration and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, by refraining from violating Greek airspace and Greek and Cypriot territorial waters and by distancing itself from nationalistic warmongering rhetoric.”


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But Turkey criticized the resolution, saying it was biased, and insisted on the need for completely demilitarizing Greek islands in the zone.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, said the resolution reflected the views of a democratically elected parliament from across the bloc.

“This is not ‘country X against country Y,’ it is the aggregated view of the European Parliament,” he told Arab News.

Germany is pushing for mediation efforts, while France is campaigning for punitive measures to stay united with Cyprus and Greece.

Following talks with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia, French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said the EU should consider employing sanctions, among other available tools, if Turkey continued to “endanger the security and sovereignty of a member state.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that nothing could justify Turkey’s coercion in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over energy resources.

“Turkey is and will always be an important neighbor,” she said, a day after Turkey said the operations of its drilling vessel Oruc Reis were extended until Oct. 12. “But while we are close together on the map, the distance between us appears to be growing.”

Fiona Mullen, director of the Nicosia-based research consultancy Sapienta Economics, said that the European Parliament was less important for the east Mediterranean issue than the European Council heads of government.

“But in the European Council it looks as though momentum is building for serious sanctions,” she told Arab News. “I think this is why we saw the removal of the Oruc Reis vessel for maintenance. Turkey cannot afford big sanctions when the lira in such a vulnerable state.”

If backstage diplomacy was successful, she said, the removal of vessels around Cyprus would likely be a carrot for Turkey in terms of the customs union. “It is in everyone’s interests to find a win-win result out of this,” she added.

Pierini anticipated that three elements would stand out in the upcoming European Council debate: EU solidarity with Cyprus and Greece; availability for dialogue but not under threat; and ongoing work on possible graduated sanctions should the need arise.

The parliamentary resolution included the possibility of further restrictive measures to be “sectoral and targeted.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a phone call with European Council head Charles Michel on Thursday and urged Brussels to adopt an “impartial stance” toward Turkey.

The US is “deeply concerned” about Turkey’s moves in the region, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ankara told Washington to stay neutral on the row.