(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a bold move, a Palestinian businessman from Hebron announced over the weekend the establishment of a new party that calls for focusing on economic prosperity for Palestinians.
The founder of the party, called Reform and Development Party, is Ashraf Jabari, 45, who belongs to a prominent clan from Hebron.
Palestinian Authority officials claimed that Jabari is working with the US administration to undermine the PA. They said that the timing of the announcement of the party was linked to US President Donald Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “deal of the century.” The PA is strongly opposed to the plan on the pretext that it aims to “liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post
, Jabari said that he has long been thinking of establishing a party that would offer hope to Palestinians. “Three days ago, I launched my new party together with many people,” he said. “We’re not offering ourselves as an alternative to anyone. We just want to focus on the economy and ensure a better future for our people. The status quo can’t continue.”
Jabari, who previously worked for the Palestinian Authority security forces, said that his party’s platform supports the idea of a one-state solution “because the two-state solution is no longer viable.”
The Palestinians, he said, are anyway living under Israeli rule. “We are all living under Israeli military rule,” Jabari added. “Even the Palestinian Authority, which is a self-rule authority, is under Israeli control. The Palestinian Authority is not a state; rather, it’s a self-rule authority. Israel controls everything. The ID cards the Palestinians hold are written in Arabic and Hebrew. Besides, Israel has full control over the borders.”
Jabari said that Palestinians prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty. “We want to have the same rights of Palestinians living under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he explained. “Of course, it would be better for Israel if it accepted an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. But no Israeli prime minister would dare to accept such a solution. On the other hand, no Palestinian leader can give up Jerusalem or make concessions.”
The Reform and Development Party, he said, seeks to solve the economic problems of the Palestinians, including high unemployment. “We have an army of university graduates who are unemployed,” he said. “We’ve reached a situation where a young man holding a Master’s degree in law has to work as a street vendor because he can’t find work.”
Referring to talk in Israel about the possible annexation of parts of the West Bank, Jabari said that such a move would leave the PA with nothing to offer its people. “[PA President Mahmoud] Abbas recently threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority if Israel annexes the West Bank because that would mean the end of the two-state solution,” he said. “That’s why we are proposing the one-state solution to Israel. We want an end to violence and bloodshed. We want to end the suffering of our people, which has been going on for the past 70 years. Violence is the tool of the desperate and those who have lost hope in the future.”
Jabari said he believes that his party’s focus on economic issues will attract many Palestinians, especially the young generation. “We need a breakthrough,” he added. “The Palestinians don’t have the means to wage war on Israel. The young people care more about a strong economy. They want jobs. They want economic stability. Look at the Gaza Strip, where the rate of unemployment has reached 60% or 70%. We can’t continue living like this.”
Jabari said that most Palestinians today share his view that the two-state solution is no longer viable. “The Oslo Accords have failed,” he said. “Most people realize that the economic situation was much better before the Oslo Accords. Let’s focus now on the economic track. We can deal with the political track later. The people are caught hostage to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The situation is very bad, and people want economic stability.”
Asked about charges by some Palestinians that he’s engaging in promoting normalization with Israel, Jabari said: “Nearly 100% of the Palestinians are already doing business with Israel in all fields. We buy food from Israel. We have industrial and trade ties with Israel. Every day, some 200,000 Palestinians enter Israel, legally and illegally, for work and business. Two-thousand Palestinian businessmen have special permits to enter Israel. The permits are called BMC – Businessman Cards. We are living under Israeli rule. With who are we expected to do business? We have no other choice.”
Jabari said he was not afraid of threats by some Palestinians, including the ruling Fatah faction. Some PA and Fatah officials have accused him of working with the US administration and settlers in the West Bank to establish an alternative leadership for the Palestinians.
“Sadly, we’ve been attacked by Fatah although they haven’t read our program,” Jabari told the Post
. “We’re not offering ourselves as an alternative to the PLO or Palestinian Authority. We’re not even offering ourselves as negotiators with Israel. We established our party to achieve the goals of the silent majority among Palestinians, who want economic stability. We continue to see the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. All we are saying is that the economy is our No 1 priority.”
Last February, Jabari participated in an Israeli-Palestinian economic conference in Jerusalem, where US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was the key speaker. In his speech, Friedman described Jabari as a “man of courage and vision who is practical but committed to peace and to coexistence.” The US administration, Friedman said, “couldn’t ask for a better partner in this effort. I’m proud to call you my friend.”
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