Palestinians look to regroup after unveiling of US peace proposal

One official calls it an ‘Israeli plan in an American envelope,’ while another says it is so one-sided that it simply has to be rejected

PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.  (photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas reacts to the Mideast peace plan Wednesday in Ramallah – ‘A thousand no’s’.
(photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
Palestinian leaders are continuing their regional and international blitz to counter US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which they totally reject.
On Monday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said it, too, rejects the proposal.
The 57-member body said in a closing communique that it "calls on all member states not to engage with this plan or cooperate with the US administration in implementing it in any form."
The summit, convened at the request of the Palestinian leadership, came two days after the Arab League unanimously turned down the plan during an emergency meeting Saturday in Cairo.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party, insisted to The Media Line that the plan introduced at the White House had not been authored by the Trump Administration.
“It's an Israeli plan, designed and written by [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, in an American envelope," he stated.
Barghouti says the Palestinians have collectively dismissed the proposal.
"It’s a plan against peace. It kills the potential for peace. It kills the so-called two-state solution. It kills any right of the Palestinians to a sovereign, democratic and free state,” he said.
“It subjects us to a system of Bantustans and ghettos and apartheid under Israeli control,” he continued. “And it is aimed at legitimizing illegal Israeli actions, including settlement building, land appropriation and annexation. It violates all international laws and violates UN resolutions."
The US proposal, titled “Peace to Prosperity,” was crafted by President Trump's son-in-law and senior Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner. It is almost universally viewed as being overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals. Palestinian leaders say they were never consulted.
The plan gives Israel the green light to annex settlements in the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley. It allows for a Palestinian state only under strict conditions.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called the plan "historic madness" during a Ramallah press conference last week that was attended by The Media Line.
"The president of the United States of America says it is an American plan. No. For the sake of accuracy, this is the Netanyahu plan and the Israeli settlement council plan adopted by the so-called American peace team," he said, echoing Barghouti’s sentiments.
Erekat warned that security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians was now on shaky ground, saying that if the plan is implemented, the Palestinian Authority will end the coordination.
"We've told the Israelis about the consequences of such an idea, and they know it," he said.
The Palestinians have made similar threats in the past, but without following through.
Erekat went on to say that the White House proposal could be disastrous for all covenants and agreements signed by the US and Israel. 
"The Trump and Netanyahu announcement is a declaration of withdrawal from the United Nations Charter, from international law, from international legitimacy, from the Oslo Agreement, and from signed agreements,” he stated, “and this is why it has gone to ruin."
Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science at Ramallah’s Birzeit University, told The Media Line that the plan was so one-sided in Israel's favor that it left the Palestinians no choice but to reject it.
"Personally, I didn’t believe it's possible to have a plan that doesn’t include anything for the Palestinians,” he said. “I read it word for word… and I didn’t find in it anything that could tempt the Palestinians to look at it even in a selective way…. All of it, with no exception, is based on well-known Israeli positions and practices that have always been illegal in our view, and in the view of the relevant international parties."
In unveiling the plan on January 28, President Trump promised $50 billion in investments and mega projects for the Palestinians. Abbas responded by saying: “Jerusalem is not for sale; our rights are not for sale.”
Khatib says it is not about money.
"The priority for the Palestinians is freedom, human rights, dignity [and] self-determination,” he explained. “The economic problems of the Palestinians are the result of the Israeli occupation, so if Trump or anybody wants to improve the standard of living of the Palestinians, he should help end the illegal occupation because that will automatically take care of the economic situation of the Palestinians."
Barghouti disputes all of the plan's numbers and accuses the Trump Administration of providing misleading information.
"The $50 billion is the biggest lie we have ever heard,” he said. “We know what they are talking about – they are talking about $ 25.3 billion that will come in loans with high interest. We are not interested in that. The rest will be distributed… to other Arab countries…. It’s not like Mr. Trump said, that it will be $50 billion for Palestinians."
Barghouti believes that the goal of the US plan is to eliminate the Palestinian refugee issue.
“If you calculate the amount, it is less than what UNRWA gets today,” he said, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which assists Palestinian refugees. “That money will be used to liquidate Palestinian refugee rights."
Although the Trump plan refers to East Jerusalem when discussing the capital of a possible Palestinian state, critics note that it calls for Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, meaning a Palestinian capital only in the suburbs.
"He [President Trump] doesn’t mean the East Jerusalem that we know,” Barghouti said. “He means an… extended Jerusalem, a municipal area that was greatly expanded by the Israeli authorities. Abu Dis is not Jerusalem. Shuafat is not Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the Old City."
Many Palestinians were also offended when President Trump mistakenly called the Aqsa Mosque on the Haram a-Sharif, which Jews refer to as the Temple Mount, as “al-Aqua” mosque.
"The guy is ignorant,” Barghouti proclaimed. “Al-Aqsa is a Palestinian site. It’s an Arab site, a Muslim site, as much as the Church of the Nativity [in Bethlehem] and Holy Sepulcher [in Jerusalem] are for Christians."
During the unveiling of his long-awaited plan, President Trump made a statement that many found puzzling. He said it would double the territory controlled by Palestinians.
"Nobody understood that,” Barghouti said, “because most probably he was comparing what he was offering to Area A or areas A and B, according to the Oslo agreement. And if this is correct, it reflects a very dangerous misunderstanding of what the Oslo agreement was about."
The Oslo Accords divided the West Bank into three distinct areas for purposes of temporary administration prior to a final peace deal. Area A would be under the sole administrative and security control of the PA. Area B would be under Palestinian administration but Israeli security control. Area C would be under complete Israeli control.
"The area that Palestinians should have for a state is along the pre-1967 borders, which means the whole of the West Bank, including the Gaza Strip,” Barghouti explained.
“He [Trump] has to remember that when we accepted the two-state solution, we were accepting what was already an unjust resolution because we were accepting a state in only 22% of historic Palestine while the UN had decided we should have 44%,” he said. “So after this huge concession, he comes after us to deduct about half of that. This will not work. And more importantly, [the Palestinian enclaves that] remain are not going to be in a contiguous area."
Three ambassadors from Sunni Gulf states – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – were present in the East Room of the White House during the unveiling of the plan. Their presence has troubled many Palestinians, who see this as a sign that Arab support for their cause cracking.
Khatib has tried to downplay that disappointment, focusing instead on the glass that is half-full.
“The positions of the other Arab countries,” he said, “were positive because they didn’t accept the invitation and didn’t attend the ceremony."
Perhaps most notably, Palestinians are divided between Abbas's West Bank-based PA and his Fatah party, on the one hand, and the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Barghouti, however, says the Palestinian leadership still has a few options.
"We are working to bring back unity and end internal divisions,” he explained. “Second, we are [working to expand] popular non-violent resistance. Third, there is the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. And fourth, we are working very hard at mobilizing the Arab and international communities against what is a very serious violation of human rights and international law."