Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and US president Donald Trump in Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. (Flash90) (Flash90)
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and US president Donald Trump

In light of the Palestinians’ intense opposition to the “Deal of the Century,” it is already clear that the plan will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Gatestone Institute

The US administration is now saying that it will announce its plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the April 9 election in Israel. The unseen plan has already been rejected by Palestinian leaders, who continue to denounce it as a “conspiracy aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause and rights.”

In light of the Palestinians’ vehement opposition to the “Deal of the Century,” it is already clear that the plan will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas will hardly accept a plan that he has repeatedly referred to as a US “conspiracy” and the “Slap of the Century.” In one of his recent speeches, Abbas said: “We will not accept the ‘Deal of the Century’ and we will not accept a situation where the US is the sole broker in the peace process.”

Abbas has turned US President Donald Trump and his senior advisers into enemies of the Palestinians. Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials have been boycotting the US administration since December 2017, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas and his associates have since been using harsh language to condemn Trump’s senior advisers, especially US Ambassador David Friedman, and special envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Abbas himself has called Friedman a “son of a dog.” Palestinian officials and media outlets regularly refer to Kushner, Friedman and Greenblatt as “Zionist extremists” and “settlers.”

Palestinian leaders have incited their people against the Trump and his advisers to the point where it would be almost impossible for them even to be seen meeting with any US official. In recent months, Abbas has been quoted as saying that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.” The comment also means that it would also be impossible to accept any peace plan presented by the current administration.

Abbas knows that the American plan will not give him everything he is asking for. He wants, among other things, a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, including east Jerusalem.

His rivals in Hamas and other Palestinian groups, on the other hand, want to see Israel replaced by an Islamic state, where some Jews may be permitted to live as a minority under Muslim rule.

In short, Hamas rejects Israel’s existence on what they claim to be totally Muslim-owned land.

Anyone who thinks that the Palestinians may change their mind about the “Deal of the Century” — either before or after the Israeli election — is living in an illusion. There is no reason why Abbas should not be taken seriously when he says he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.” One has to give him credit for at least being honest. He is all too aware that the moment he accepted the “Deal of the Century,” he would go down in history and in the eyes of Palestinians — as well as many Arabs — as having sold them out, and, of all people, to the “colonizers.”

All that is left for the Trump administration to do is to try and persuade the Arab states to abandon the Palestinians and to continue focusing on the regional threat from Iran. If the US completes its pullout from Syria, Iran will successfully complete its long-desired “land-bridge” to the Mediterranean through Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. This encirclement of the area will position Iran, via its proxies, to be the hegemon controlling the region, as it has clearly been trying to bring about. Russia, of course, is standing in the wings, thanks to the gift that then US President Barack Obama handed Putin in 2011 by pulling American troops out of Iraq.

Normalization: Mission Impossible?

The US could also agree to urging the Arab and Muslim world to continue normalizing its ties with Israel. This mission, though, could easily turn out to be “mission impossible.”

Arab foreign ministers who attended the recent US-sponsored conference in Poland on peace and security in the Middle East are now facing strong condemnations from many Arabs. The ministers are being denounced for appearing in public with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Warsaw summit. They are being accused by Arabs of promoting normalization with the “Zionist enemy.”

Earlier this week, Palestinian and Arab activists launched an online campaign, under the title, “Normalization is Treason,” to condemn the Arab officials who participated in the Warsaw summit.

Notably, Abbas’s Fatah faction and Hamas have joined one another in the campaign against the Arabs who reportedly support normalization with Israel and have begun using the exactly same language to voice their condemnation.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah (headed by Abbas), said that Arab normalization with Israel is a “stab in the back of the Palestinians.”

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also condemned attempts to promote normalization between the Arab states and Israel as a “stab in the back of the Palestinians.”

Hamas’s military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, has also endorsed the rhetoric of its political rivals, Aloul and Erekat. Abu Obaidah, a spokesman for Hamas, warned that normalization with Israel is a “stab in the back of the Palestinian resistance. Normalization is a betrayal of the blood of thousands of our martyrs.”

A ‘Stab in the Heart’

While Fatah and Hamas clearly agree that normalization with Israel is a stab in the back, one group of Palestinian Islamic scholars begs to differ. The scholars disagree with the phrase “stab in the back” not because they support peace and normalization with Israel. Instead, these scholars believe that normalization between Arabs and Israel is a “stab in the heart” — the front, not the back — of the Palestinians

Under the current circumstances, when Arabs are being widely shamed and condemned for sitting in the same room with an Israeli prime minister, it is hard to see how the Trump administration will be able to convince Arab states and leaders to normalize their relations with Israel. Some of these Arab leaders may be privately telling US administration officials things they like to hear about peace and coexistence with Israel. The very same leaders, however, are fully aware of the opposite sentiments, not only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but throughout the Arab world.

For decades now, not only Palestinian leaders but Arab ones as well, have been radicalizing their people against Israel. Using every available platform, including mosques, media outlets and United Nations organizations, these leaders, with the collaboration of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, have demonized Israel. They have poisoned the hearts and minds of their people with the hate that exists towards Israel all over the Arab world. To promote normalization with Israel, a leader must prepare his people for the possibility of peace with Israel.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders are doing the exact opposite — which is why some of them are currently being denounced as traitors and pawns in the hands of Israel and the US. It would be wise for President Trump’s advisers, if they wish to grasp what is really going on in the Arab world, to listen to the voices of the Arab street.

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