For Prof Sabella, the plan presented yesterday sanctions the annexation of Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley, placing the “Palestinian state under Israeli control.” Netanyahu and Gantz support it and agree to implement it. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas reject it. A day of protest has been announced. International reactions vary.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – US President Donald Trump's peace plan for the Middle East, described on several occasions as the “deal of the century" by the White House, is "a plan of the Israeli right" and reduces "Palestine to an entity under the control of Israel itself," said Bernard Sabella, speaking to AsiaNews.
For Prof Sabella, who is Fatah representative for Jerusalem and executive secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, the deal “validates the annexation of the settlements and the Jordan valley. With this plan, it becomes clear that, for the US administration, the Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves.”
The plan, which was unveiled yesterday in Washington during a joint press conference between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was swiftly rejected by Palestinian leaders, including Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu's main challenger in Israel’s upcoming election on 2 March, centrist leader Benny Gantz, said that he was in favour of the plan and ready to implement it in case of victory.
In essence, under the plan drafted by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (hashtag #dealofthecentury), Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control as Israel’s undivided capital.
The Palestinians would have 70 per cent of the West Bank with Israel annexing existing Jewish settlements. They would be able to set up their capital in a Jerusalem suburb but will have to give up the right of return and control over the city’s holy places.
As described by Trump, the 80-page plan (actually 181[*]) will be negotiated by the parties over the next four years.
It includes the demilitarisation of Gaza and a US$ 50 billion international investment plan to improve infrastructure, education, welfare and health.
A tunnel between Gaza and the West Bank would physically connect the two Palestinian regions divided by the Jewish state.
Reactions to the deal were quick and varied.
Expectedly, Netanyahu described it as “a big step towards peace".
President Mahmoud Abbas said that "Jerusalem is not for sale, our rights are not for sale and are not for bargain”.
For Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger”. Protests are in act planned this Friday in Gaza.
Iran too slammed the plan, calling it shameful, doomed to failure, “the treason of the century, whilst Lebanon’s pro-Shia Hezbollah said it was an attempt to eliminate the rights of the Palestinian people.
A spokesperson for the UN Secretary General António Guterres noted that a peace plan must respect United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements. Little or none of this can be found in Trump's plan.
Some signs of openness are visible in the Arab world (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), but for Turkey, the plan is “dead in the water”.
The Arab League will hold an emergency meeting this Saturday to discuss the matter, whilst Russia stressed the need for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians for a mutually acceptable agreement.
In reality, more than a peace plan for the Middle East between two peoples, Trump’s deal is an agreement between two men, Netanyahu and Trump, who are seeking to ensure their political future as they face upcoming elections.
It is more like a political manifesto written for the Israeli right, US evangelicals and US right-wing extremists with no chance or producing negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
For Prof Sabella, it “is a copy of the Israeli right’s plan to annex all the settlements, reduce the Palestinians to a statelet under the control of Israel which will collect taxes, supervise imports, control borders. Even the bridge to Jordan would be under Israeli control.”
“It is clear that this proposal has the approval of the two main candidates vying to govern the country, Netanyahu and Gantz, who represent the country’s more or less radical and extremist right-wing”. Even the economic component of the plan would “be unacceptable to the Palestinians.”
“No one can deny justice and rights to the Palestinians,” Sabella insisted, “nor their attachment to the land. Trump sought to do Netanyahu a favour, but I don't think the two will receive the next Nobel Peace Prize.”
In fact, the plan “is a harbinger of further clashes, of greater violence . . . There are no prospects for the Palestinians, only for the Israeli right. It is not a global, thought=out plan. It does not touch the heart of Palestinians.”
[*] The actual document has 181, which raises doubts as to whether President Trump actually read it.