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Thursday, 19 July 2018

'Deal of the Century': Unacceptable to Palestinians

Trump can propose what he likes, but he will never force a deal on the Palestinian people - this is the unanimous position of Palestinian officials

Haitham Ahmed , Monday 7 May 2018
Palestinians
Palestinians attend a tent city protest along the Israel border with Gaza, demanding the right to return to their homeland, east of Gaza City March 30, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
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The so-called “deal of the century” is unrealistic and unacceptable to Palestinians regardless of its substance and how its announcement is timed, say Palestinian politicians.

They hold that the US cannot act as a fair mediator, should negotiations resume, especially given Washington’s repeated stances in international forums indicating its unmitigated pro-Israeli bias in spite of Israel’s cold-blooded slaughter of defenceless Palestinian demonstrators who have taken part in peaceful protests against the Trump administration’s recent decisions.

Trump's decisions include recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US embassy to the city, abolishing the Palestinian Right of Return and to destroying the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides humanitarian relief to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said last week that the PLO could not even speak with the US administration as long as it considers Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

There is no sense of a Palestinian state without Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in its capital he said.

Responding to Israeli press reports that the US plans to propose its “deal of the century” after it opens the US Embassy in Jerusalem 14 May, Erekat stressed that Trump’s deviation from international law and its frames of reference “put him outside the game”.

“Trump has isolated himself from the peace process,” Erekat continued. “His administration cannot act as a mediator or partner unless it changes its position on Jerusalem.” He cautioned against tendentious rumours and fabrications regarding the Palestinian position.

“President Mahmoud Abbas’s position is clear and succinct. Unless the US retracts its decision to regard Jerusalem as a capital of Israel the US cannot be a sponsor or a mediator in the peace process, whatever pressures are brought to bear and regardless of the fabrications and falsehoods that do not fool our people who have expressed their pride and esteem with regard to the historic stance taken by President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in reaction to the decisions of President Trump.”

He added that in the face of the Washington’s decisions to cut humanitarian aid from the Palestinian people and UNRWA, to close the PLO office in Washington and to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, “We should not succumb to the illusion that it has anything balanced to offer.”

“What does Trump have left to offer without Jerusalem and the refugees?” he asked, stressing that the Palestinian people could not agree to a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital. He added that the US administration had become “part of the problem, not part of the solution”.

Nabil Shaath, political affairs adviser to the Palestinian president, reaffirmed these stances. The Palestinian people will continue to reject the deal of the century; it cannot be forced on them, he said.

“American President Donald Trump can say what he likes, but we will not allow him to impose a deal on us. He should realise, as should we all, that the US no longer owns this world as it had following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, because things have changed. This is why he threatens Mexico and backs down, threatens China and backs down, threatens North Korea and backs down, threatens to abolish NATO and backs down. So, he can propose his deal of the century as he likes, but we will not accept it. We will never accept it.”

“We have said this repeatedly,” Shaath continued. “This is not about accepting or rejecting the deal of the century. It is about rejecting the US as a manager of the peace process. Its role has become suspect. This is why we will reject anything it has to offer.”

Conflicting stances have emerged from the US on the matter. New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a press conference in Amman, said that Washington supported the two-state solution although the borders of Israel would remain open to discussion.

He also said that the deal of the century had to be approved by both sides and stressed the need for them to return to the negotiating table.

At the same time, however, a high level Israeli political source said that Trump would unveil a new peace plan, the so-called “deal of the century”, after the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May.

The plan, according to the source, calls for payment of compensation to the Palestinian Authority, as an inducement to coax the Palestinians back to negotiations.

The Hebrew media that published the remarks by that source also reported that Israeli authorities were taken by surprise by Trump’s announcement that he was studying the possibility of personally attending the opening of the embassy, which is timed to coincide with the commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes.

Trump has said that all US presidents made the same pledge to move the US embassy but never had the courage to fulfil it. “I did. This is why I might go there,” Israeli i24 news reported him as saying.

Meanwhile, demonstrations for the Right of Return are still in progress and are likely to continue. Nevertheless, there are growing fears that the situation will escalate to military clashes because of the repercussions of the massacres perpetrated by the Israeli army.

Israeli officials have threatened to expand the violence and to strike the interior of Gaza as a means to end the protests.

The casualty toll has risen to 44 dead and more than 6,000 wounded since the beginning of the Great March for Return on 30 March.

The Gazan Ministry of Health has announced that it suffers the most acute medical supply shortage in 11 years.

Fifty per cent of medicines and basic medical supplies have been depleted in hospitals and clinics, and especially emergency service centres in Gaza.

The ministry attributes the shortage to the occupation forces’ targeting of 7,000 civilians who took part in the demonstrations for the right of return.

Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti said that when the Palestinians used armed resistance against the occupation, Israel described the resistance as terrorism.

When they used popular resistance, Israel described the peaceful movement as violent. When the Palestinians and their supporters launched the peaceful boycott movement, Israel described the movement as anti-Semitic.

When the Palestinians criticise and expose the crimes committed by Israel and the occupation and its racist nature, they are accused of incitement. When humanitarian-spirited Jews reject Israeli policies and the occupation, and declare their support for Palestinian rights, Israel condemns them as “self-haters”.

Barghouti stressed that it matters little what Israel says. Like every repressive and racist regime, it uses every means to falsify the facts and distort the truth.

But the problem is that other countries, governments and some politicians parrot everything the Israeli government says without bothering to think about the substance.

He continued, “when, as occurred in the Security Council with Nikki Haley, the insolence reaches the stage of criminalising the victims and defending the criminal murders, in spite of the fact that Israel has been exposed and all other members of the Security Council are unanimous in their opposition to the use of deadly live ammunition against defenceless demonstrators, it becomes hypocrisy to pay lip service to international law and human rights and double standards prevail.

"This begs the questions to whether we are living in an era in which the law of the jungle rules. Has mankind undergone centuries of regression to the point where the arrogance of might and the barbarity of colonialism and hegemony have become acceptable?”

The PNI secretary-general added that the German parliament’s endorsement of a bill recognising the “Jewishness” of the State of Israel and the unsuccessful bid on the part of certain quarters in Romania, the Czech Republic and some other countries to have their governments move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem in contravention of international law, “confirm that the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice extends around the world”.

*This story was first published under the title "Deal of the century" in Al-Ahram Weekly 

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