Palestinian activists in the West Bank said over the weekend they have received a green light from the Palestinian Authority to organize protests against US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East.
The decision to launch the protests came following the recent visit to the region by US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. The Palestinians believe the two emissaries, who did not meet with any representative of the Palestinian Authority during their visit, came to the region to lay the final touches on the Trump plan before presenting it to Israel and the Arab countries.Trump has referred to his upcoming plan as the “deal of the century,” while PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinians have denounced it as the “slap of the century.”The new campaign is seen as the PA leadership’s response to the Hamas-sponsored “March of Return” demonstrations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The PA leadership is hoping to show that it too is capable of sending Palestinians to the streets to stage protests.“We believe that the countdown for publicly announcing the Trump plan has begun,” a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. “This is why we have decided to act quickly in order to thwart this evil plan, which is aimed at liquidating our national rights and the entire Palestinian cause.”The first protest is expected to take place in Ramallah on Monday.A group called The National and Islamic Forces on Saturday called on Palestinians to gather in the center of the city to voice their opposition to the Trump plan. The group also urged Palestinians to use the protest to express their support for the PA leadership.The protest in Ramallah will be followed by similar demonstrations in other Palestinian communities in the coming days and weeks. Last week, Palestinian activists launched an online campaign with the sole goal of “thwarting” Trump’s plan. The campaign is being waged under the title, “The National Campaign to Down the Deal of the Century.”Organizers of the campaign said over the weekend they were extremely encouraged by the “widespread support” the drive has received from Palestinians. They claimed more than three million Palestinians have interacted in different ways with the campaign on social media.“We are planning to expand our activity to as many places as possible in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and our lands that were occupied in 1948,” said a spokesman for the campaign, referring in the last part of his statement to Israel. “We are also hoping to win the support of Palestinians and Arabs living around the world until we achieve our goal.”The Palestinians, the spokesman added, are capable of foiling the Trump plan in the same way they had thwarted previous “suspicious schemes” directed against the Palestinian people. “The Trump administration will not find one Palestinian loyal to his people and cause who would accept its plan to destroy our rights,” he said.Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank on Saturday expressed its full support for the campaign against Trump’s “deal of the century.” It also called on Palestinians to participate in the planned protests against the “big US conspiracy.”“Fatah calls on Palestinians belonging to all Palestinian groups to take part in this new campaign to thwart the deal of the century,” said Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesman for the faction. The Palestinians, he added, see the Trump plan as “ideas coming from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”Palestinian sources in Ramallah said Fatah has instructed its loyalists in the West Bank to play an active role in the campaign against the Trump plan. Hundreds of Fatah activists have been instructed to participate in the demonstrations, which the faction is hoping to turn into a show of support for Abbas and the PA leadership. “The planned demonstrations are not only against the Trump peace plan, but are also intended to send a message to the world that the Palestinians stand behind President Abbas and his leadership,” a Ramallah- based political analyst told the Post.He noted that the PA leadership, which has been facing growing criticism for its refusal to lift its sanctions against the Gaza Strip, is hoping the protests would show that Abbas continues to enjoy widespread support among Palestinians in the West Bank despite his punitive measures against the residents of the coastal enclave.IN RECENT WEEKS, PA security forces have used force to break up demonstrations in some Palestinian cities in protest against Abbas’s sanctions on the Gaza Strip, which include cutting off salaries to thousands of PA civil servants and forcing thousands others into early retirement. In addition, Abbas has suspended welfare assistance to thousands of families in the Gaza Strip.Sheikh Ekrimah Sabri, a top Palestinian Islamic cleric, warned on Friday that Trump’s plan was aimed at “prolonging the occupation and liquidating the Palestinian cause.” Sabri, who previously served as the mufti of Jerusalem, said in a sermon during Friday prayers at Aqsa Mosque: “Anyone following the statements of politicians can realize how dangerous the ‘deal of the century’ is. This deal calls for removing Jerusalem from any future negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinians].” Sabri said the Trump plan was also “dangerous” because it is designed to “wipe out the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homes.”The “right of return” refers to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their former homes inside Israel.Also on Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Nablus to demand that the PA lift the sanctions it imposed last year on the Gaza Strip. The protesters held placards that read: “We want electricity in Gaza” and “With blood, with soul, we redeem you, Gaza!” Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Saturday that Abbas refused to meet with Kushner in the presence of Arab leaders to discuss the Trump peace plan. The report claimed that the initiative to hold the meeting came from the Americans, who in turn relayed the request to Abbas through Egypt. The PA president rejected the offer to meet with Kushner, dubbing it an “American maneuver aimed at dragging the Palestinians to become part of the so-called ‘deal of the century.’”
Kushner says U.S. peace plan coming soon after Middle East visit, June 24, 2018 (Reuters)