Palestinians: We Cannot Accept Anything from Trump
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.
Hardly a day passes without the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) affirming its strong opposition to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced Middle East peace plan, also referred to as the “deal of the century.” Palestinian leaders have convinced their people that Trump is the worst person on the face of the earth and that no one should be doing business with him.
The Palestinian Authority is not the only Palestinian party that continues to voice its opposition to the upcoming peace plan. No Palestinian group or individual has come out in favor the plan, although no one in the Middle East seems to have seen it or knows anything about its details. Trump has united the Palestinians in a way that no Palestinian or Arab has been able to do since the beginning of the Hamas-Fatah war 11 years ago.
The Palestinians are united in their opposition to the Trump administration and its policies, especially in the aftermath of the US president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as its decision to cut US funding to the Palestinian Authority for paying terrorists and to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Palestinians have already determined that the US peace plan is “biased” in favor of Israel, and that is why, they say, they cannot accept it.
The Palestinian Authority and its rivals in Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions appear to disagree on everything except their hostility to Trump and his administration. They all refer to the “deal of the century” as a “conspiracy aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and rights.”
The anti-Trump rhetoric that the various Palestinian parties employ is identical: Trump is not someone the Palestinians or any Arab or Muslim can trust. Trump, they argue, has surrounded himself with a team of “Zionists” who have allegedly endorsed the policies of the Israeli government.
This week, after reports surfaced that Trump was scheduled to meet with his top national security and foreign policy advisors to discuss the details and release of the US peace plan, the Palestinians stepped up their verbal attacks on the US administration. This time, the Palestinians accused the Trump administration of endorsing a “Zionist policy” in the Middle East. According to the reports, the White House “peace team,” led by senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working on the plan for two years — and Trump wants it published between December 2018 and February 2019.
These reports have made the Palestinians rather anxious. They say that do not want to deal with the Trump administration in any way. They say that they consider the Trump administration one of the most anti-Palestinian administrations in modern history.
Palestinian leaders have also radicalized their people against the Trump administration to a point where no Palestinian would ever dare to even be seen meeting in public with a representative of the Trump administration.
The situation is so bad that Palestinians who recently met with Greenblatt in Jerusalem asked that their names not be published. Here is all that Greenblatt was able to say on Twitter: “I appreciated a candid discussion yesterday on the path to peace with Palestinian friends. We’re committed to hearing from all partners who share this goal.”
In case anyone was wondering why the “Palestinian friends” were afraid to have their names published, it is worth noting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have been officially boycotting the Trump administration. In recent months, Palestinian activists belonging to Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction have been waging a campaign against Palestinians invited to meet with US officials in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Last September, for instance, the activists staged a protest outside a hotel in east Jerusalem where Palestinian businessmen were scheduled to meet with a US delegation. Some of the Palestinian businessmen turned back and left the hotel out of fear of being shamed and physically attacked by the activists.
Last July, Palestinians thwarted a planned visit to the city of Nablus in the West Bank by a US consular delegation. The planned engagement was part of an ongoing US commitment to improve cooperation and expand economic opportunities for Palestinians. The visit was cancelled out of concern for the safety of the US delegates, after Palestinian protesters threatened to foil the meeting and called for boycotting the visiting delegation.
Earlier this year, Palestinian protesters chased US diplomats out of Bethlehem.
These incidents are the direct result of the Palestinian Authority leadership’s recurring attacks on the Trump administration. Abbas and his senior officials and spokesmen in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, have turned the Trump administration into the number-one enemy of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian media is full of examples of how the PA leadership has delegitimized and demonized the US administration in the eyes of Palestinians.
This week, for example, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs again accused the Trump administration and its officials of being “blindly biased” in favor of Israel and its policies. The Palestinians also “never miss an opportunity” to point out that Trump’s “peace team” consists of Jews like Greenblatt, Kushner and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. In its statement, the ministry referred to Friedman as “the settler,” denounced the “peace team” as an “American Zionist team” and accused them of “misleading international public opinion and world leaders.”
In recent months, Abbas himself has vowed at least 15 times to thwart Trump’s upcoming plan. At one point, Abbas went as far as comparing the unseen plan to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which saw the British government commit to the creation of a state for Jews in historic Palestine. “If the Balfour Declaration passed, this deal will not pass,” Abbas said in reference to the prospective Trump plan.
In another speech demonstrating the degree of anti-US sentiments, Abbas called the Trump administration “liars” and boasted that the Palestinians were the first to stand against and combat the “deal of the century.” The Palestinians, he pledged, will “continue to fight against this plan until they foil it.”
Given that strong incitement against the Trump administration and its policies, as well as the continued boycott of White House officials, it is hard to see how Abbas or any other Palestinian would be able to accept anything that comes from the Americans.
This move is precisely parallel to the one they have taken with Israel. Abbas and his representatives in Ramallah have radicalized their people against the Israeli government to a point where meeting or doing business with any Israeli official is tantamount to treason. That is why Abbas does not and cannot return to the negotiating table with Israel and also why Abbas cannot change his position toward the Trump administration.
Rather than building state institutions and imposing reforms, democracy and accountability, the Palestinian Authority leadership is now focusing its energies on foiling the US peace plan. Apparently, this effort is more pressing than improving the living conditions of the Palestinians.
Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, summed up the current Palestinian strategy when he said this week that the Palestinians were moving on three levels to thwart Trump’s upcoming plan: rallying worldwide support for the Palestinian position against the plan, uniting all Palestinians, and opposing attempts to normalize relations between the Arab countries and Israel.
Were Palestinian leaders to impose a small portion of these efforts to bringing democracy, freedom and accountability to their people, the Palestinians would be further from the brink of disaster. But the two Palestinian governments — in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — are far from interested in doing something so positive for their own people. On the one hand, these regimes are still engaged in a struggle to the death over money and power; on the other, they agree on sabotaging a peace plan they know nothing about. A peace plan just might include something positive for the Palestinians — something else the Palestinian leaders know precious little about.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.