While US President Donald Trump’s administration has resisted taking a clear position on the two-state solution, senior Fatah official Jabril Rajoub said he remains hopeful about the American president’s efforts to advance the peace process.“I was born optimistic and I do not plan to change that,” Rajoub, who serves as secretary- general of the Fatah Central Committee, told The Jerusalem Post when asked if he is still hopeful about Trump’s efforts. “I believe Trump is trying to protect American interests, values and ethics, of which I believe the core is human rights. So I don’t think Trump or anyone else will tolerate this occupation, which Palestinians have been living under for 50 years.”Rajoub’s comments came as Trump and his aides continue to hold off from explaining their position on the two-state solution, a policy which both the Obama and Bush administrations supported. Over the past several weeks, Palestinian officials have made a number of public appeals to the Trump administration to endorse the two-state solution.The senior Fatah official added that a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and other American officials in Ramallah some two weeks ago was “positive.”“They said they want a few weeks to study how they can make a breakthrough,” Rajoub said.It is not clear what exactly Kushner envisions. The next major meeting between Palestinian and American officials is expected to take place at the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, where Abbas will reportedly meet Trump.Rajoub said Abbas’s speech at the General Assembly will focus on “the need to reach a solution that creates a Palestinian state along 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.” “This is the only game in town,” Rajoub said.
“If Israel wants security, official recognition, and normalization, it needs to recognize the Palestinian people and their right to have a state next to the State of Israel.”Abbas is slated to speak during the first few days of the General Assembly meeting.When asked if the Palestinians plan to renew their international campaign for recognition in the case the White House fails to make a breakthrough, Rajoub said that all options are on the table, but stressed that the Palestinians must also work cooperatively with the international community.“All options are open and all scenarios are possible, but we have to work with everybody in order to have a process on the right track that will lead to our independence in our territories,” he said.Following the failure of US-led peace talks in 2011 and 2014, the Palestinians turned to international institutions to gain recognition and challenge the Israeli government’s policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since Trump has taken office, the Palestinians have pursued some measures in a few international organizations, but have largely refrained from major actions in international bodies such as the UN Security Council.Regarding the punitive measures the PA has taken against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Rajoub said the Fatah Central Committee recently formed a panel to review and reconsider many of them.“The committee we formed has reviewed and reconsidered many of the measures,” the Fatah leader said. “Now the central committee needs to make its assessment.” Rajoub would not say what specific measures are being reconsidered. The Fatah Central Committee is scheduled to meet next on Monday.In the past several months, the PA has cut a number of budgets for Gaza, including those for electricity, to pressure Hamas to cede control of the Strip. Hamas, meanwhile, has condemned the PA ’s budget cuts, accusing it of besieging Gaza alongside Israel.Hamas has controlled Gaza since forcibly ousting the PA in 2007 from the small territory.Moreover, Rajoub, who was in London most of last week, said he was not aware of the details of anti-settlement activist Issa Amro’s arrest, but argued that freedom of speech should be protected in the Palestinian territories.“The right of expression should be a basic principle,” Rajoub said, “But I still do not know the details of this case and I plan to check them.”The PA Preventive Security Service arrested Amro last Monday after he posted a comment on Facebook criticizing the PA.A Palestinian court extended Amro’s detention on Thursday for four days on suspicion of “insulting the authorities,” “stirring up sectarian tensions” and “disturbing public order.”International and local human rights organizations have condemned the PA for arresting Amro and called on it to release him immediately.
Meeting with PA strongman Jibril Rajoub in Jericho. Credit: Tovah Lazaroff