Al Kassarat, West Bank: The Palestinians have furiously rejected President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan that would grant them limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.
But they have few realistic options to prevent its implementation as Israel plows ahead with plans to unilaterally annex territory.
The Western-backed Palestinian leadership will come under mounting pressure from ordinary Palestinians and its rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas to cut off security ties with Israel and the United States or even dismantle the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.
But such drastic moves would risk further undermining the international consensus around solving the conflict, which largely supports the Palestinians’ goal of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 War.
President Mahmoud Abbas appears determined to shore up international support. He is traveling to Cairo this week for meetings at the Arab League, and the Palestinians’ U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said Abbas plans to head to an African Union gathering and the U.N. Security Council within the next two weeks.
Mansour said the Palestinians are consulting with council members about an as-yet-unwritten resolution — a text critical of the Trump plan would likely face a U.S. veto.
Small protests have been held in the West Bank and Gaza, but most Palestinians appear to have largely shrugged off the plan.
Few Palestinians place any stock in American peace plans after decades of failed initiatives, and little is expected to change on the ground as Israel extends sovereignty over settlements it has long treated as an integral part of its territory.
Here is how some Palestinians have reacted:
Nothing will change. The Israelis are building on our land and they will keep building, with or without an American plan...But we will remain here, no matter what they do to us.
Over the long term, however, if Israel implements the plan, it appears far more likely to entrench a one-state reality — something both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have long rejected — than to lead to a negotiated solution.
I prefer a Palestinian state, but if they want to annex our land, we don't mind being citizens in Israel.
Palestinian residents of the area currently live under Israeli military rule, which imposes restrictions on construction and movement that do not apply to residents of nearby Jewish colonies.
The long-awaited Trump plan, which was unveiled Tuesday, would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank colonies — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.
In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority, something critics say would rob statehood of any meaning.
The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand.
The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.
Abbas responded to the deal with “1,000 no’s.”
He has always rejected violence, and few expect a new uprising in response to the plan.
Not taking action is not really an option for them anymore. The tables were turned by the announcement of the U.S. peace plan. I expect the Palestinian authority to respond to any annexation move by severing security contacts with Israel and the US.
That would be popular among many Palestinians — who increasingly view the Palestinian Authority as an enforcer of the Israeli occupation.
But Abbas himself has long relied on the coordination with Israel to suppress Hamas and other rivals, and any move to cut ties could be seen internationally as an erosion of the Palestinian commitment to fighting terrorism.
However, if European or Arab countries were to embrace the plan, they could exert pressure on the Palestinians to do the same, leaving an increasingly weakened Abbas isolated on the world stage.
As a result, the Palestinian leadership is likely to remain bound to the idea of a negotiated two-state solution, even as the Trump plan pushes it even farther out of reach.
The latest plan, like previous ones, will ensure that the “charade” of the two-state solution will continue. It gives Jerusalem, but not actually Jerusalem it gives territorial contiguity but not actually territorial contiguity it gives Gaza but not actually Gaza. It gives enough of a veneer of statehood that it looks like statehood hasn’t been completely removed from the table, when in reality of course it has, because it’s been emptied of all notions of sovereignty.