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February 10, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8548

Egyptian, Emirati And Kuwaiti Journalists And Intellectuals: 'Deal Of The Century' Results From The Palestinians' Mishandling Of Their Cause; They Must Consider It Objectively, Avoid Missing Another Opportunity

February 10, 2020
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 8548

 

The Palestinian leadership has firmly rejected the Middle East peace plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on January 28, 2020, which has been dubbed "The Deal of the Century." A week after the plan's announcement, the Arab League foreign ministers convened for an emergency meeting, following which they issued a statement supporting the Palestinian position: they too unanimously rejected the deal while underlining the centrality of the Palestinian cause. This was despite the fact that the ambassadors of Oman, Bahrain and the UAE had been present at the announcement of the deal, and despite the supportive statements made by several Arab leaders immediately after its announcement.[1]

Alongside articles condemning Trump's peace plan and echoing the sentiments of the foreign ministers' statement, other articles in the Arab press criticized the official Palestinian position of rejecting the plan out of hand. They urged the Palestinian leadership to find a way to benefit from the plan rather than miss another opportunity to resolve the conflict. The articles also pointedly criticized the conduct of the Palestinian factions over the years, and their concentration on internal conflicts at the expense of the Palestinians' national interests, which, they said, caused a decline in the support for this cause in the Arab world.       


President Trump at the announcement of the American plan (Source: aljazeera.com, January 28, 2020)

The following are excerpts from some of these articles: 

Emirati Analyst: The Deal Of The Century Is A Result Of The Palestinian Schism And The Palestinian Leadership's Loss Of Way

Emirati analyst Salam Al-Kutbi, who writes on the Saudi Elaph website, accused the Palestinian leadership of mishandling the Palestinian cause and thereby preparing the ground for the Deal of the Century. He added that the Palestinian must propose alternative solutions to the conflict and recruit Arab support for them, instead of sinking in internal quarrels and turning to countries like Iran and Turkey for help:

"Most of the elements of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace deal that concern the Palestinians did not come as a surprise for most people... It was [all] clear and expected, and the problem is not the [deal] itself but how the Arabs and Palestinians should address the issue to begin with. There is no ignoring the fact that the persistence and deepening of the Palestinian schism, and even worse, the Palestinian leaders' and organizations' loss of way, has led [us] to this juncture.

"The Palestinian leaders should not pin their hopes on [the option of] evading responsibility for regaining the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and shifting this burden to the Arab regimes, governments and peoples.  Everyone knows the magnitude of the of the growing challenges faced by the Arab regimes in the region, and the vast strategic challenges facing the major Arab countries that have always had, and continue to have, the greatest influence on the handling of the Palestinian issue... Nobody expects the Palestinians to settle their issue all by themselves, without strong and direct Arab support, but they must at least ensure a suitable climate for this support and prepare the necessary alternatives and proposals for a just and comprehensive solution to the [Palestinian] issue. In addition, there is need to formulate a comprehensive strategy for addressing the vital and expected developments, instead of responding to the deal, which is one of the most important junctures for the Palestinian cause and its history, with verbal wars, pointless arguments and repetitive slogans and media discourse...  

"The Palestinian elite, and especially those who call themselves the leaders of the resistance and of its organizations, movements and factions, must admit [their failures]: their inability to [effectively] handle the Palestinian cause and its changes; their preoccupation with personal score-settling that has nothing to do with the Palestinian people; their eagerness to rush into the arms of regimes that are hostile to everything Arab; and their exploitation of the [Palestinian] cause, which is [also] used by the leaders of those regimes for propaganda purposes...  

"The Sultan Erdogan will not jeopardize his own interests for the sake of the Palestinians, and will not give up his ambition to find gas in the Mediterranean to support the Palestinian cause, as is believed by those who live in dreamland and by their disciples in the Palestinian movements and organizations. The same is true of the Iranian mullahs...

"Clearly, the Deal of the Century will not be just a trial balloon and will not be felled by declarations and slogans, as some claim. It is an essential and unique development, which merits attention and close monitoring, to minimize its [negative] effects and consequences. This requires serious, calculated and responsible political action, so as to address this historic juncture in the path of the Palestinian cause and handle this crisis cleverly and wisely, without boasting and without empty slogans that [only] trade in the Palestinian cause."[2]   

Head Of Emirati Think Tank: Rejecting The Deal Of The Century Will Only Worsen The Palestinians' Situation

Dr. Salem Hamid, head of the Dubai-based Al-Mezmaah Studies and Research Center and a columnist for the UAE daily Al-Ittihad, urged the Palestinian not to reject the Deal of the Century out of hand but to use it as an opportunity to advance their cause, since delaying the solution will only prolong their suffering. He wrote: "It should not be denied or ignored that there are principles which are acknowledged in UN resolutions and which explicitly recognize the Palestinians' right to determine their fate, establish their state, and put an end to the suffering of the refugees in the diaspora by recognizing the right of return. This is in addition to what was set out in the previous international initiatives and activities that endorsed the two-state solution... On the other hand, it behooves us to act wisely and take advantage of any channel that can place the Palestinian issue back on the table and raise options for settling it, so that it does not remain unresolvable – for postponing the solution will [only] do the Palestinians more harm and increase their prolonged suffering. Moreover, opportunities for a settlement become increasingly infrequent over time, so that what can be attained today will not be as attainable in the future...

"Since Trump's new plan has reopened the Palestinian issue... and renewed the international interest in it, we should take advantage of the fact that it is back in the spotlight in order to renew the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis..."[3]

Egyptian Writer: We Are Now Paying The Price For Multiple Missed Opportunities, Negligence And Mismanagement Of The Conflict

Egyptian media figure 'Imad Al-Din Adib, who writes for the Al-Watan daily, called on the Arabs not to suffice with condemning Israel but to examine themselves and realize that the present situation results mostly from the Palestinian mishandling of the conflict. He wrote: "Before we condemn the Israeli for his rejection of peace and his hideous settlement-building occupation, and before we ask what gives the U.S. administration the right to decide the fate of a people and a region, we must have the courage to confront ourselves and examine our own responsibility for what happened. Why do we find ourselves in the weakest position anyone can possibly have in a negotiation, a position of complete inability to react?! What enabled the Israeli to [behave in such a] boasting, discriminatory and arrogant [manner]? Some may say that it is the [Israeli's]  power, or the absolute support he receives from the Jews across the world and from the U.S. All this may be true, but the more important factor is not Israel's strength and skillful maneuvering, but our weakness. We are best at mishandling the struggle, whether by military [means] or by peaceful ones.

"Sadly, the history of the Palestinian cause is  a history of missed opportunities and mismanagement of the conflict, both on the battlefield and at the negotiation table. Again and again we rejected the other side's terms for a settlement, based on the logic of 'all or nothing.'

"We believe in historical Palestine from the River to the Sea. [We believe] that every inch of Jerusalem must return [to Palestinian control], that each and every refugee must return [to his home], and that the compensation for what happened must be paid to the last dollar or shekel. Until [all] this happens, we will keep saying no. Every time we refuse, we get another suggestion, less generous than the previous one...

"The intra-Palestinian schism, which has surpassed the struggle against the real enemy [Israel]; the [fact that] each [Palestinian ] faction receives aid from some regional element; the financial and political corruption and the preference of personal interests over the supreme [national] interests – all these have led us, in the current regional and international situation, to the Deal of the Century...

"We are now paying the historic price, which has built up since 1948, for our mismanagement of the crisis and the conflict, in war and in peace, on the battlefield and at the negotiation table, in politics and economy, in the information [war] and the political marketing of the Palestinian cause. We are facing the moment of truth, [when we have to admit] the deliberate neglect, the historic negligence and the poor management of our historic cause. Now that the patient has shown symptoms of weakness, he has been given two options, each worse than the other: either refuse treatment and die, or accept a treatment [i.e., the Deal of the Century] that can be characterized as whole-body surgery and then die because this surgery cannot be survived."[4]   

Former Egyptian MP: The Palestinians Are Paying Dearly For The Failure Of Their Leaders

Former Egyptian MP Dr. 'Amru Al-Shubaki, a columnist for the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily, wrote that the support for the Palestinian cause is waning due to the misconduct of Fatah and Hamas: "Throughout its long history, the Palestinian issue has loomed large in the consciousness of the Arab peoples... Many still remember the wide-spread popular reaction to the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000... However, the popular activity on behalf of the [Palestinian] cause, and the solidarity with it, have declined significantly in the Arab and international arena, [and are now] confined to condemnations. The Arab regimes kept silent about Trump's plan, even if they did issue some feeble statements, as lip service...

"Even if the Arab regimes bear some responsibility for this shift, the Fatah and Hamas movements clearly bear a greater responsibility for this decline in the popular support for the Palestinian cause. This is because all the battles waged by Hamas in Gaza have not yielded as single political benefit for the Palestinian cause. They did not pressure Israel into upholding the legitimate international resolutions. [Instead,] they turned Palestinian martyrdom into an end in itself, rather than a means by which to defeat Israel and establish an independent state.

"The battles waged by Hamas in the internal Palestinian arena and its 'struggle' against Fatah, alongside its ill-considered military escapades in confronting Israel, look like attempts to control Gaza rather than a struggle [to promote] the Palestinian cause. The defeat of the path of moderation represented by President Mahmoud 'Abbas, and [the defeat of] the path of resistance represented by Hamas, have cost the Palestinian cause very dearly  in popular [support]. Everything that can be said about the Israeli occupation's responsibility for this situation is true, but does not detract from the failure of the Palestinian leaders and from their responsibility for the harm sustained by the Palestinian cause, whose cost will be borne by the esteemed Palestinian people."[5]

Senior Egyptian Writer: We Must Try To Benefit From The Deal By Treating It As A Starting Point For Negotiations

Also in Al-Masri Al-Yawm, 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, the daily's board editor and the head of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, advised the Palestinians to treat the deal as a starting point for negotiations. He wrote: "...The Arab rage over the 'deal' is understandable, for even in the U.S. itself and in Israel there are those who think it will delay [the attainment of] peace, and that this bargaining over the cause of the [Palestinian] people will result in war, violence and extremism...

"It is unfortunate that Israel has managed to create many facts on the ground [by] establishing a society, a state, a culture and a rich economy based on advanced technology. On top of all that it has recently become an oil state with natural gas fields... As for the Arabs, the only fact on the ground is that the Palestinians still exist and number some six million, 1.7 million of whom [live] inside what was once known as the Green Line [i.e., Israeli Arabs].

"How do we treat Trump's American peace deal or [peace] plan, which is so far removed from what the sides agreed upon decades ago? We can do what was done in the past, namely reject [the plan], threaten [to launch a new] intifada and even a violent 'revolution,' but we must assess the benefit of this. In any case, that is what the Israelis and the international community expect to happen. Alternatively, we can think how to leverage the only Arab reality, namely our presence on the ground, in order to replace the deal with a better one. In other words, we must not behave the way the Israelis – or, more accurately, the Israeli and American right – expect us to.

"The American deal must be regarded either as the end of the world or as a new beginning [and an opportunity to] reshape the existing reality... To put it briefly, [the deal], and all its components, are just a starting point for negotiations [towards] real peace for both the Arabs and Israel."[6]

If The Palestinian Schism Persists, The Deal Of The Century May One Day Seem Like A Lost Dream

'Ali Al-Riz, deputy editor of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, wrote that the Deal of the Century was a result of the intra-Palestinian schism and the marginal place of the Palestinian issue on the Arab agenda. He wrote: "There is no escaping the need to explain why we have reached [the point where] a deal of this sort [was even proposed]. The context is as follows:

"First, the Palestinians do not have one [unified] national authority to represent them, negotiate on their behalf, make decisions, maneuver, accept [proposals] or oppose them, and adopt firmer or softer positions as necessary.  No state in the world can handle a large cause like the Palestinian one by means of an impotent authority that devotes 90 percent of its attention to limiting the influence of Hamas, which has become part of the  border-spanning [Shi'ite] resistance crescent.[7]

"Nobody can [possibly] believe that what happened in the past between the PA and Hamas escaped the notice of the patrons of the [peace] settlement, for it is not an internal [Palestinian] affair... but involves consequences, dangers and various future considerations pertaining to the security of the two sides that are fighting over this land...  

"Iran became involved in the issue of the [peace] settlement based on its own considerations and interests, after the PLO and later the PA recognized Israel...

"The suicide bombings carried out by Hamas, its rocket [attacks] and the Iranian arms ship that was captured off the Gaza coast were responsible for the Gaza siege, more than Israel was...

"Palestine is no longer the Arabs' chief cause, no matter how [prominently] it features in songs, speeches and high-flown slogans... For the fever currently raging in the Arab world, from the [Indian] Ocean to the Gulf, has nothing to do with Palestine...

"It is the destruction of the PA, and the loss of the centrality of the Palestinian cause, that led to the Deal of the Century. If the Palestinians fail to return to their [cause of liberating] Palestine, and if the [Palestinian] factions continue to be tools in the hands of others, the day may come when they talk of this deal as a dream that has been lost."[8]  

 

 

[1] In addition, three days after the deal's announcement, UAE Foreign Minister 'Abdallah bin Zayed tweeted a link to a New York Times opinion piece titled "Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose" (Nytimes.com, January 30, 2020). For the position of Saudi writers on the Deal of the Century, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8533, Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump's Peace Plan, Or You'll Regret It Later, January 31, 2020. 

[2] Elaph.com, February 3, 2020.

[3] Al-Ittihad (UAE), February 2, 2020.

[4] Al-Watan (Egypt), February 1, 2020.

[5] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 5, 2020.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 5, 2020.

[7] "Shi'ite crescent" is a term coined in 2004 by Jordan's King 'Abdallah II, who warned against the creation of a territorial continuum spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Washingtonpost.com, December 8, 2004.

[8] Al-Rai (Kuwait), February 3, 2020.

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