'Trump wants the Palestinians to join Likud'

Palestinians dismiss ‘biased’ Trump peace plan, predict it will fail

Mosque-goers in Ramallah shrug off expected release of US president’s proposal in the coming days: ‘Whatever they do will not affect us as we have nothing to lose’

In this photo from July 17, 2018, Palestinian protestors hold portraits of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and US President Donald Trump during a rally in support of the Fatah party in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Illustrative: In this photo from July 17, 2018, Palestinian protestors hold portraits of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and US President Donald Trump during a rally in support of the Fatah party in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) — After US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will finally launch his long-awaited Middle East peace plan next week, the response among many Palestinians Friday was a collective shrug.

Trump said the long-delayed plan would finally be released by next Tuesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz will meet him in Washington. Gantz has not yet confirmed he will travel.

But the Palestinian leadership was not invited, amid a series of rows between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Trump over the US leader’s pro-Israel stance.

In the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is based, many people entering a mosque for Friday prayers were not even aware of Trump’s announcement the previous day.

Others said they did not expect anything positive from a US president they see as totally biased.

“Trump represents no one but himself, and this is a crazy president,” said Munther Abu Awad, clutching a blue prayer mat.

“What he announced is in favor of Israel.”

Palestinians walk past a mural painting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 24, 2020. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Hossam Abdul Raheem, 57, said he expected the plan to be announced and then forgotten.

“This deal will fail completely,” he predicted.

“Whatever they do will not affect us as we have nothing to lose.”

During prayers, the mosque’s sheikh condemned the Trump peace plan, which Palestinians sarcastically label the “deal of the century.”

‘Working in Israel’s interests’

Nasser Nassar, 57, works as a teacher by day and bus driver by night to pay the bills.

He had little positive to say about the peace push.

“Trump considers himself the president of the world and not only the United States, and the fact is he is working in Israel’s interests.”

Tourists walk past a graffiti by street artist Lushsux, depicting US President Donald Trump kissing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drawn on the Israeli security barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on October 29, 2017. (AFP Photo/Musa al Shaer)

But he blamed the Palestinian leadership as much as the Israelis for the conditions in the Palestinian territories, where around a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

“The leadership drove us to a place where we are chasing a living and we forgot all important causes.”

Israel has controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank since capturing them in the 1967 Six Day War.

Over 400,000 Israelis now live in West Bank settlements considered illegal by much of the international community. Israel disputes this, arguing that it captured the territory in a war from its previous Jordanian occupiers.

Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and Abbas cut ties with Trump after he recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)

The Republican president has taken a series of other steps that have thrilled right-winger Netanyahu but appalled Palestinians.

Israeli media reported what they said were leaks of parts of Trump’s plan, including that it could grant full sovereignty to Israel over Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

In exchange the Palestinians would get some kind of a demilitarized statehood in the remaining territory.

Trump later tweeted that the reports were merely “speculative” and that the full details would be revealed later.

‘How do you respond?’

Both Israeli and Palestinian analysts were skeptical Friday as to whether the plan could be implemented.

Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst in the West Bank, said the details, if confirmed, would be impossible for any Palestinian leader to accept.

“Trump wants the Palestinians to join Likud [Netanyahu’s party], that’s basically the requirement.

“There is nothing to engage with. I think for the Palestinians and the world, the question becomes how do you respond?”

Trump has been hopeful of gaining support for the plan from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to pressure Abbas.

In this May 20, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But in Yediot Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest selling daily, commentator Nahum Barnea wrote that the alleged details made that unlikely.

“No Arab leader, even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman… will be able to support the plan publicly.”

He warned that Israeli security services would be concerned as to how “will the Palestinian street react.”

Ofer Zalzberg, an Israeli analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said while the plan was designed to support Netanyahu’s right-wing agenda, it could cause tension with some of his allies.

New Right No. 2 Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference in the West Bank settlement of Efrat on July 22, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s New Right party relies heavily on the support of religious-Zionists who are pro-settler and oppose concessions on the land they consider given to Jews by God. Many Likud ministers and lawmakers subscribe to the same theology.

“I have yet to see any religious Zionist politician on the right supporting this,” Zalzberg said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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