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January 31, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8533

Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump's Peace Plan, Or You'll Regret It Later

January 31, 2020
Saudi Arabia, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 8533

The official Saudi position on the Deal of the Century presented by U.S. President Donald Trump this week was one of qualified support for the initiative. A Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction to the release of the initiative stated, inter alia, that "the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump's administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people's legitimate rights."[1]

At the same time, the Saudi press reported that King Salman had spoken by phone with Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who has rejected the plan out of hand, to "stress to him the Kingdom's steadfast position vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people." The king reportedly added: "The Kingdom stands alongside the Palestinian people and supports its choices and what[ever] will actualize its hopes and aspirations."[2] 

Despite this qualified stance, there has been support for the Trump initiative in the Saudi government media and in tweets by journalists and intellectuals. Some called on the Palestinians not to miss this opportunity for an arrangement and to approach the plan with a positive mindset. The articles and tweets stated that history shows that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one before it, and that if they reject the Deal of the Century now, they will long for it in the distant future.

This report will review these articles and tweets:


The Trump administration's Middle East peace plan (source: whitehouse.gov, January 2020)

Saudi Shura Council Member: The Palestinians And Arabs Should Examine The Plan Carefully – And Not Hasten To Reject It

Saudi Shura Council member Ibrahim Al-Nahas, who lectures on political science at King Saud University, told the Saudi daily 'Okaz: "'Trump's Peace Plan,' or, as media call it, the 'Deal of the Century,' is an important stage in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in particular, and in the peace process in the Middle East in general." This, he said, "does not mean that it should be accepted without discussion of its goals and objectives; however, it should be kept in mind that all the Americans' proposed peace plans, including this one, have always been based on the current situation, not on international resolutions and legislation." He added that "all the Palestinian elements must examine the plan carefully, and especially while keeping in mind past experience [with previous proposals]. Arab elements too," he said, "must closely examine Trump's peace plan before releasing their decisions, which largely match the emotional aspect," because "history has proven [such decisions] wrong."

It is vital to stress, he stated, that the important steps which must be taken to restore the Palestinians' legitimate rights include ending "the situation of internal Palestinian division, prioritizing the supreme Palestinian interest, not linking the Palestinian decision-making to regional elements [such as Iran, Qatar, or Turkey], as some Palestinian factions and movements do, and ceasing the accusations of treason voiced by some of the Palestinians and Arabs against Arab countries that maintain advanced ties with the U.S...."[3]

Saudi Journalist To PA: Sign The Deal, Or You'll Regret It Later

Saudi journalist Ahmad 'Adnan wrote in his column in the Saudi daily 'Okaz: "The PA has made negative statements against the deal. I maintain that at this stage it needs a friend to be honest with it, telling it and advising it: Sign the deal and then curse it as much as you want, day and night. The Palestinians have in decades past specialized in missing golden opportunities because of [their] mistaken assessment of their capabilities and of the crisis. Let us present a few regrettable examples.

"At the 1939 London conference, and before that at the Cyprus conference, the Arabs rejected the Zionist proposal that the percentage of Jewish members of parliament in the future state in Palestine should be 33% so that the parliament in that Arab country would not pass laws against them.[4] The Arabs rejected the Partition Plan [UN Resolution] 181 in 1947. Tunisian president Bourguiba's statements about peace in Jericho in 1965 [garnered] Palestinian and Arab condemnation.[5] The Arabs ignored the Arab kingdom's initiative proposed by King Hussein bin Talal [of Jordan] in 1972.[6]

"The Arabs boycotted Egypt after the1978  Camp David Accords; [Syrian president] Hafez Al-Assad rejected the 'Rabin Deposit' [proposal for Israel-Syria normalization] (1994-96); Yasser Arafat thwarted the Camp David II summit in 2000; some Arabs (Qatar, Syria, and Hamas) conspired against the Arab peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut summit in accordance with a Saudi proposal.  

"With regard to the Palestinian refugees, I will mention president Bill Clinton's and [Israeli prime minister] Ehud Barak's proposal to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit to allow the refugees to return to an independent Palestinian state and the return of 50,000 refugees every year to the State of Israel as part of family reunification, and [paying] reparations to refugees who do not want to return. Clinton committed to a sum of $20 billion along with his efforts to obtain a similar sum from Europe, Japan, and the Gulf states.

"This historical review is important to anyone who says 'If we curse it why should we sign it?' seeing the glass as half empty. In [this] arrangement, as in every arrangement throughout history, there are negative and positive [sides]. The gains and losses are determined by the balance of power that is not in our favor. This deal is the hard core that will enable the Arabs at some future time to propose a new arrangement, after the balance of power shifts in their favor.

"There are bitter facts that the Palestinians must ponder. In actuality, the Palestinian cause is no longer the Arabs' main cause – not because the Arabs have given up on Palestine, but because this matter [i.e., the Palestinian plight] is mirrored in all Arab states, as we have seen in Syria, for example. The Palestinians will hear the merchants of the Palestinian cause creating a great uproar, and will discover too late that this uproar is aimed at exploiting them in order to take over and destroy the region. [For example, Turkish President] Mr. Erdogan is establishing the closest of ties with Israel, and Qatar is following in his path, while Iran, which promised to destroy Israel in seven minutes is, with its Iranized Arab militias, completely preoccupied in occupying and destroying the Arab world, and expelling [its people].

"Perhaps the merchants of the [Palestinian] cause will manage to torpedo the Deal of the Century, and, as we today bemoan the [missed opportunity of the] Arab peace initiative, we will tomorrow bemoan the Deal of the Century – while the Palestinians, unfortunately, descend towards the fate of the [American] Indians..."[7]

Columnist In Saudi Daily 'Okaz: The Palestinians Must Come Up With A Realistic Position; If They Reject The Deal, They Will Be Compelled To Relinquish Even More

Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote in his column in 'Okaz: "The history of the Palestinian cause has proven that reality is the greatest enemy of the Palestinians. The price of Palestinian and Arab rejection of every peace plan was [only] more concessions, beginning with the partition plan through the Clinton plan to the Trump plan.

"It should be noted that the Palestinian decision-making has always been subject to pressure and control by  Arab regimes that harmed the Palestinians as much as Israel did, if not more.

"Today, the Palestinians again find themselves facing a peace plan that gnaws away more of their rights and sets them against options even more bitter than those in the past. But rejecting [the plan] this time does not mean that the [next] will carry a lower price-tag. International reality is now presenting the Palestinian cause  with the worst possible scenario, since it is weak, isolated, and ignored. Therefore, the Palestinians' options today are more limited, and cannot tolerate unrealistic positions.

"The Palestinians must calmly examine the reality of their struggle with Israel and of their relations with the Arab [regimes], so as to draw up a position that will serve their interests, not the slogans of others. All the Arab regimes that have in the past traded in their cause, and that continue to do so, live within their own independent borders, far from any state of war with Israel. Their support for the Palestinians consists of nothing but hollow slogans and incitement, for which the Palestinians pay with their spirit, blood and money."[8]

Columnist In Saudi Daily Al-Yawm: The Palestinians Must Study Their History Of Missed Opportunities Before Coming Up With A Position

Writing in the Saudi Al-Yawm daily, columnist Muhammad Al-Osaimi argued that the Palestinians have missed many opportunities over the years, and that had they grasped them, they would have been better off today. Thus, he said, they should not be quick to reject the Deal of the Century out of hand:  

"Who knows how many opportunities [for peace] the Palestinians have had in the past 30 years? [Had these opportunities been realized,] they could have been today in a better situation as a people and as a country – whether these opportunities were international or regional, or even intra-Palestinian and eradicated by the disputes among the factions and streams. Now they face another opportunity that they are rejecting, and that they may  long for in another five or 10 years.

"It is certain that they know their affairs best, but this does not prevent me... from urging them to think carefully about what they are likely to lose, again, if they reject President Trump's Deal of the Century. They can at least study the history of the opportunities they have missed and base themselves on it when they decide [on their position] with respect to this opportunity."[9]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: "The Only Losers From Sabotaging The Peace Projects Are Always The Palestinians"

On January 28, 2020, on the eve of the official release of the Deal of the Century, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former Al-Arabiya TV general manager and former editor-in-chief of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote a column headlined "Palestinians Will Lose Out by Rejecting Peace Talks." The next day, the column was published in English. The following are excerpts:

"Talks and life have finally returned to the Palestinian issue – a good sign after a long slumber. However, reactions to the so-called 'deal of the century' express the familiar. The Israelis say: The plan is a great step, although we have not got the details. The Palestinians repeat their old stance: We reject the plan even though we do not know what it is, and it may only be an attempt to save Benjamin Netanyahu from the prison threat he is facing.

"A long time has passed since the last peace projects. Indeed, the world does not stop rotating; regimes have collapsed, rulers have left, such as Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein, and generations, ideas, and borders have changed. Moreover, Sudan has been split in half and Syria has been destroyed. The strategic value of the region's petroleum is declining as it has lost half of its value and strength. I fear that the old generation of leaders is not aware of the danger of the massive changes at all levels. One proof is that dealing with the Palestine conflict has not changed. The Israelis prefer to close the case; and, if they are forced to negotiate, they bet on the 'rejectionist' position of the Palestinian side, and on the fact that the decisions of some factions are dependent on regimes that have different interests, such as Iran and Syria.

"No matter how much criticism is leveled – some of which is actually right – the previous limited peace agreements partially served the Palestinian interest. Oslo has given the Palestinians an international legitimacy, and an administrative entity on the ground, after being an exiled organization in Tunisia. The agreement has enabled the return of more than 150,000 Palestinians to their country. On the other hand, Iran has proven to be Israel's best ally. Through some loyal Palestinian factions, Iran has managed to foil all past negotiation attempts through bombings, suspicions, spreading of chaos, and challenging the legitimacy of the late President Yasser Arafat. With his death, all serious negotiation attempts stopped.

"The only losers from sabotaging the peace projects are always the Palestinians, not the Iranians or the Israelis. As sure as every morning the sun rises, Israel expands and the Palestinian territories shrink...

"Does accepting Trump's invitation mean that the PA amounted to full submission? Of course not. What is expected is just to sit down, talk and show goodwill; as no one will impose a solution that the Palestinians do not want. This is what the Israelis do, even though they are less willing to negotiate over the status quo because it gives them land and rule. They deal positively with Trump, who may be re-elected president in November, and have enormous power that they may harness to their advantage, or at least use to minimize any harm they could suffer."[10]

Saudi Intellectuals Tweet: Rejecting The Deal Is A Mistake; The Day Will Come When The Palestinians Yearn For It

On Twitter too, calls for the Palestinians to accept the Deal of the Century were circulated. Intellectuals and journalists emphasized that today's reality dictates that Palestinians agree to it, and that this proposal will surely be better than any future proposal.

Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweeted: "The Palestinians are making a big mistake by not agreeing to the American peace plan. I mean, what's the alternative? The Palestinians have missed numerous opportunities because of slogans that led [them] astray and strategies of 'all-or-nothing.' The end result was nil: continued occupation, loss of Jerusalem, erosion of large parts of the West Bank, and an internal Palestinian struggle harsher than the conflict with Israel."

He subsequently tweeted: "Previous opportunities were better than this one, but the[ir] answer was always no. This was when the Palestinian issue was known to all and headed the global agenda. Today, the Palestinian issue has been cast into oblivion, and the Palestinians have no other alternative – unless the chaos of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the powerlessness of the PLO can be considered options."

Later, he tweeted: "Politics is the art of the possible, and what is possible today is the proposed American plan. Should [the deal] be rejected, the alternative will be the continued erosion of the West Bank territories. Then the Palestinians will say 'If only we had agreed' – just like with the previous plans.

"It's time for the Palestinians to change their behavior so that it serves the interests of their people..."[11]


One of Turki Al-Hamad's tweets

Saleh Al-Fahid, formerly a columnist for 'Okaz and the Al-Arabiya website, tweeted: "The Deal of the Century is the natural result of the balance between winner and loser. Israel, the winner, and the U.S., which backs it, are imposing their conditions on the Palestinian losers, who are backed by the Arabs. The Palestinians and the Arabs lost the war, and for 70 years have not managed to regain their rights by either peaceful or belligerent means. Now the victor imposes his conditions."

In another tweet, he wrote: "The Palestinians' rejection of the Deal of the Century reminds me of their rejection of the [1947] Partition Plan and of all peace plans proposed to them since then. Each time they were offered less, and they pointlessly yearned for the previous plan. I am worried that if they reject the Deal of the Century, the day will come when they yearn for it [as well]..."[12] 

Several tweets criticized the countries that attacked the initiative – among them Iran, Qatar and Turkey. For example, Ahmad Al-Farraj, columnist for the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily, tweeted: "Those who are most harshly attacking Trump's peace plan are Iran, which has not ignited even one match against Israel; Turkey, which maintains close relations with Israel that have peaked under Erdogan; and Qatar and Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera was established by [the Israeli politician Shimon] Peres; Qatar was the first to establish relations with Israel..."[13]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Lahim, another 'Okaz columnist, also tweeted criticism of the Palestinian organizations that oppose the deal, writing that the Palestinians are rejecting it because they benefit from perpetuating the conflict with Israel: "Imagine you had a hen that laid golden eggs. Would you relinquished her? Never. [You would] make an uproar so as to fill your pockets. This is the situation of the Palestinians who trade in the Palestinian cause and reject peace..."[14]

 

[1] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), January 29, 2020.

[2] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), January 29, 2020.

[3] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2020.

[4] A reference to the roundtable conference officially known as the St. James conference in London from February 7 to March 17, 1939, which was Britain's final attempt to bridge the Jewish-Arab conflict in Mandatory Palestine. The Jewish delegation, headed by Chaim Weizmann, included David Ben Gurion, Moshe Sharett, and 40 others representing the Jewish Agency and the National Committee, as well as an advisory body comprising prominent rabbis, dignitaries and British Jewish representatives. The Arab delegation was headed by Jamal Al-Husseini, Hajj Amin Husseini's representative. Also represented at the conference were Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, and Transjordan.

[5] In 1965, Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba proposed, in a speech in Jericho that was at that time under Jordanian rule, that Israel accept UN Resolutions 181 and 194, that is, that it give up a third of its territory, that Palestinian refugees return to their homes, that the Arab side in peace talks be represented primarily by Palestinian figures, that Israel be recognized by Arab states, and that the Arab states would then present demands for additional Israeli concessions. Michael Lasker, "Between Bourguism and Nasserism: Israel-Tunisia Relations and the Arab-Israel Conflict in the 1950s and 1960s," in Iyunim Bitkumat Israel 11, 2001, p. 47.

[6] In March 1972, King Hussein of Jordan proposed, in a radio broadcast, a political plan based on a federation of his kingdom and an autonomous Palestinian state on the West Bank. This proposal was rejected by the Palestinians and Arab countries, and Egypt even severed diplomatic relations with Jordan. Israel too rejected the plan, which disregarded Israeli plans for territorial compromise.

[7] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2020.

[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2020.

[9] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), January 30, 2020.

[10] Aawsat.com, January 29, 2020.

[11] Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, January 29, 2020.

[12] Twitter.com/salehalfahid, January 28, 2020.

[13] Twitter.com/amhfarraj, January 29, 2020.

[14] Twitter.com/allahim, January 29, 2020.

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