Palestinians reject U.S. Middle East plan before rollout

Former PA minister tells Media Line: ‘I doubt the Americans will put forward the so-called Deal of the Century because there is no Palestinian or Arab acceptance of this deal. It will be born dead’

By MOHAMMAD AL-KASSIM/THE MEDIA LINE
May 13, 2019 09:52
4 minute read.
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy.

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, attends a reception hosted by the Orthodox Union in Jerusalem ahead of the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

 
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In an interview with Fox News on Saturday, the Trump administration’s top peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, criticized Palestinian leaders for rejecting the White House’s Middle East peace plan before even knowing what’s in it.

“It’s very frustrating for ordinary Palestinians,” Greenblatt told Fox News.

Greenblatt said he meets with Palestinians on a regular basis.

“They tell me that they understand they may not like aspects of the plan, but are upset that their leaders are saying they won’t even take a look at it," he said. "I feel terrible for the Palestinian people."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Friday that Washington was seeking to renew contact with the Palestinian Authority as it gets ready to roll out its vision for Middle East peace.

Maliki said that US officials had recently attempted to re-initiate communication with the PA, but "contact is still completely cut off." The Palestinian Authority severed all official ties with Washington in December 2017 and boycotted the US peace effort, led by Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law, following the president’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize the city as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of US policy.

Trump's Middle East team, which consists primarily of Greenblatt and Kushner, is preparing to introduce its long-awaited Middle East plan or, as it is widely known, the “Deal of the Century,” after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in mid-June.

The Palestinian leadership has long voiced its skepticism of the plan.

“From what was leaked and from the behavior of the Trump Administration, Palestinians expect nothing but bad things,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who told The Media Line that the plan was biased and completely ignored Palestinian demands.

“There’s a denial of Palestinian rights for freedom and statehood, and American denial of our right to have Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine," he said. "Unfortunately, this is not a deal to initiate a peace process or even negotiations."

Rafaat Alyan, a Fatah leader, cast doubt on Washington’s intentions. He told The Media Line that Trump wasn’t a veteran politician and had failed in his handling of the conflict.

“It’s obvious that the US administration continues to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and with the Israeli occupation as a business deal," Alyan said. "We reject this approach. We have said this before."

US officials are mum about the details of the plan, but Palestinians say they already know what it entails. In fact, Barghouti says the biggest US secret has been out of the bag for a while.

“The talk about the launching of their Mideast plan is all about rolling out a phase that has already been introduced,” he told The Media Line. “They recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and they gifted it to Israel. They continue to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, and they continue to cut off aid to the Palestinian people.” Trump has promised a new approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, saying the old way has not yielded any major results.


His senior Middle East adviser says that the promise of a Palestinian state as the starting point to peace negotiations has failed. US officials now are talking about economic development and autonomy for the Palestinians. All that for the Arab states’ recognition of Israel and normalization of relations.

This has infuriated PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been vocal in his criticism of Trump. Abbas has said that for Ramallah to reconnect with Washington, the US must reverse its decision regarding Jerusalem. This stance has earned him much support, and Alyan says the Palestinian people are standing firm in support of their leader.

“The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership have said their piece," Alyan said. "We cannot allow this deal, whose parameters are clear and excludes Jerusalem and the rights of refugees, and we cannot deal with the American administration as an intermediary. We appeal to the international community to shoulder its responsibilities toward the Palestinian cause."

But not everyone is convinced that Washington will go ahead with its decision to introduce the plan.

Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former minister of prisoner affairs in the PA, told The Media Line: “No one can impose a deal on the Palestinians. The US has failed to convince Arab leaders to support the plan. I doubt that the Americans will put forward the so-called Deal of the Century because there is no Palestinian or Arab acceptance of this deal. It will be born dead.”

Barghouti rejects the economic approach, saying that Palestinian rights cannot be bought.

“It’s not about money,” he told The Media Line. “What we are demanding is not much: We are demanding our own independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. We want our rights and freedoms.”

One thing all Palestinians seem to agree on is how they view the current US administration.

“The Palestinians will not accept the deal because without Palestinian consent, there will be no deal and it will not succeed,” Ajrami told The Media Line. “Add to this Palestinian diplomatic efforts and international support. America is no longer an honest broker.”

Barghouti warned of consequences.

“It is clearly a plan to change the American positions and make them participate with Israel in violating international law," he said. "That’s dangerous not only for the Palestinians, but for the entire world.”

For more stories, go to themedialine.org

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