Voices from the Arab press: The Enemy's Deal

The Palestinian issue has finally been brought back to life. Reactions to the “Deal of the Century” were unsurprising

A Saudi plays the oud in a shop at the Hilla market, inRiyadh, Saudi Arabia (photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
A Saudi plays the oud in a shop at the Hilla market, inRiyadh, Saudi Arabia
(photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
Al-Ayyam, Ramallah, February 2
The White House finally unveiled the details of its “Deal of the Century” in a ceremonial announcement that represented everything bad about the plan: a biased, one-sided view of the conflict that does justice to the oppressor while ignoring the oppressed.
[US President Donald] Trump’s White House is fully coordinated with the Israeli Right led by [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu. The plan laid out by the Americans is a plan that fully promotes Israeli occupation without giving the Palestinians a single thing.
Trump is an inexperienced politician who believes he can approach the conflict in the same way that he approaches a real estate deal. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that conflicts cannot be resolved when one of the sides is barred from the negotiation table. Since entering the White House, Trump’s policies have been consistently hostile toward Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. Trump is more of a Zionist than most Israelis, including the far-right settlers.
The bottom line is that this deal is nothing more than an American decoy meant to trick the Palestinian leadership. If they accept it, the Palestinians lose their right for self-determination. If they turn it down, they will be accused of derailing the peace process.
Therefore, the only conceivable Palestinian response is to say the following: Thank you, but your offer reveals a complete American bias toward the Israelis. This offer is simply unacceptable. No deal penned by White House advisers and presented at the White House can replace direct negotiations between the two parties to this conflict.
Furthermore, the only international body that can force its intervention on the issue is the United Nations, not the United States.
In this context, it is important to note that the international community is not as united around this deal as the Israelis and Americans are. The European Union reaffirmed its commitment to a viable two-state solution through direct talks. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the initiative. The United Nations already responded by reaffirming its recognition of the State of Palestine. Regionally, both Turkey and Iran rejected the American initiative right off the bat.
This means that the offer was dead before it was even born, no matter how much Trump or Netanyahu hoped it would succeed. Instead of setting up traps and pointing fingers at the Palestinians, the American leadership would be wise to take a step back from the conflict and come to the painful, albeit necessary, understanding that the real obstacle to peace has been Israel. The Americans often accuse the Palestinians of obstinacy, but the truth is that Israel, ever since the days of [slain prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin, has not been a true partner for peace.
– Rajab Abu Siriya
Asharq al-Awsat, London, February 2
The Palestinian issue has finally been brought back to life. Reactions to the “Deal of the Century” were unsurprising: The Israelis celebrated it as a great achievement, even though details are still unknown. Meanwhile, the Palestinians repeated their old stance and rejected the plan, even though they do not know what it contains.
A generation has passed since the last time the two sides negotiated an agreement. During this time, the world kept spinning: Regimes collapsed, presidents came and went and national borders changed. The strategic value of the region’s oil began declining.
I fear that the old generation of leaders is simply not aware of the danger posed by these massive changes. The Palestinian issue cannot be dealt with in the same old-fashioned way it has been dealt with in the past. The Israelis prefer to ignore the Palestinian issue, and if they are forced to negotiate, they hedge their bets on Palestinian obstinance.
Therefore, no matter how much criticism one has against this peace plan, history has taught us that each and every peace initiative has served the interests of the Palestinian people. Oslo gave the Palestinians international legitimacy and an administrative entity on the ground. It enabled more than 150,000 Palestinians to return to their country.
Similarly, the losers from a failed peace project have always been none other than the Palestinians. With every passing day, the territory controlled by Israel grows, while the land owned by the Palestinians shrinks.
The argument that the Palestinians must reject the deal because [US] President [Donald] Trump favors Israel is nonsensical. Every single US administration throughout history has favored Israel, yet this never prevented the Palestinian Authority from dealing with the situation and defending its own interests in Washington. Most of Trump’s power is merely symbolic. His words do not carry any legal impact. Moving the [US] Embassy to Jerusalem does not mean that now, under international law, Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory. Similarly, recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israel does not mean that United Nations maps no longer consider it occupied Syrian territory.
The most dangerous thing that can happen right now for the Palestinians is to retreat with the hope that a miracle might happen. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is perhaps the only person who can lead the Palestinian people in talks with Israel while fighting for their rights. Does accepting Trump’s invitation mean that the PA is required to hand over a blank check? Of course not. Rather, it is expected to sit down and engage in dialogue. No one can impose upon the Palestinians a solution that they refuse to accept.
This is how the Israelis approach negotiations. Although they are even less willing to make concessions than the Palestinians, they maintain a positive attitude toward proposed initiatives and try to leverage them for their own good. It’s time for the Palestinians to do the same.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, February 1
I have previously written about the dirty media war waged against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been unfolding for several years now. This is an orchestrated campaign launched by the American Left together with organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and the countries that support it.
It comes not out of hatred for Riyadh but out contempt for [US] President [Donald] Trump, who restored the historical alliance between the two nations, after his predecessor, Barack Obama, nearly destroyed it.
I often wonder whether the Saudis have responded to this war appropriately. The painful answer is no. Most of the time, the Saudi government turns a blind eye. It devotes most of its energy to combating this campaign through its own advertising and public relations efforts in Washington. But the reality is that we cannot defeat our opponents unless we deploy the very same tools they use.
The first problem is our backward thinking. The media offices in our embassies around the world are still operating in a traditional and bureaucratic manner. This cannot provide us with the agility we need to respond to false accusations against our nation.
The second problem is a lack of competency. Above all else, what we are most desperate for are qualified and competent individuals who can monitor the worldwide media and devise long-term strategies to confront them.
Without these two things, we will continue to find ourselves subjected to a global smear campaign against our country. The time has come for us to stop preaching to the choir and start focusing our efforts on the circles of power from which Saudi Arabia can most effectively benefit.
– Ahmed Al-Farraj
Al-Anba, Kuwait, February 1
During his visit to Kuwait in August 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked the former Kuwaiti foreign minister and His Highness, the current prime minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid, to sign a “nonaggression agreement” between the two countries. Kuwait respectfully rejected the Iranian request.
Shortly thereafter, Iran wielded its influence over Baghdad and pushed it to submit to the UN Security Council a formal complaint over a supposed disagreement with Kuwait over the two nations’ maritime borders. Furthermore, the Iranians proceeded to violate Kuwait’s airspace by launching reconnaissance drones over Kuwaiti territory.
Last week, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps escalated its threats by falsely accusing Kuwait of hosting the US troops who oversaw the military operation that targeted Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
This is yet another attempt to terrorize Kuwait into signing the aforementioned nonaggression agreement.
It elicits the question: Why are the Iranians so interested in getting Kuwait to sign a nonaggression agreement, especially at a time when our military capabilities pose no threat to Iran?
The answer is twofold. First, to deepen the rifts among Gulf states. Second, to embarrass America diplomatically and put pressure on the Trump administration to publicly admit that the US used a Kuwaiti base in its attack against Iran.
What the Iranians fail to understand is that Kuwait is a major American partner. Kuwait hosts the largest American base in the Middle East, the third-largest American base in the world. This strategic alliance is unshakable. Kuwait will not forsake its alliance with America for the sake of neutralizing Iranian threats.
Rest assured that the Revolutionary Guards’ statements about Kuwait’s involvement in the American attack on Soleimani is nothing more than a media campaign meant to pressure Kuwait into making concessions to Tehran.
So long as the people of Kuwait remain united, no external pressure, Iranian or otherwise, will be able to weaken us.
– Abdullah Khaled al-Ghanem
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.