The Trump Plan, or the so-called “deal of the Century”, is nothing but a sheer display of the arrogance of power, Palestine’s envoy in Qatar has said, while slamming the proposals announced by US President Donald Trump recently.
“It’s [the deal] basically trying to impose on the Palestinians the agenda of [Benjamin] Netanyahu, adopted by Trump and being called the ‘Trump initiative’. It’s rather the political agenda of the occupier and the government of Netanyahu, which is a rightwing, extremist, settler-government,” underlines HE Munir Ghannam, the Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Qatar, in an exclusive interview with Qatar Tribune.
The conversation draws a guffaw with the very first poser – was he happy with the proposals in the plan that’s been touted as the “deal of the Century”?
“That’s a nice joke,” he retorts, following a brief pause as the crescendo of the laughter begins to taper off and he proceeds to delineate the finer threads of the “Trump plan”, or the Middle East peace plan that the US president announced on 28th January 2020.
“First of all, there’s no offer,” stresses the envoy, setting the tone for the conversation.
“And by the way, the Israelis have already discussed with us all these ideas proposed in the so-called Trump plan a long time ago, as early as in 2011, and we had outright rejected the proposals, since they violate the basic rights of the Palestinian people and lack international legitimacy. Therefore, we were not surprised at all by any of these proposals announced in the Trump plan. In fact, let’s not call it a Trump initiative at all; it’s rather an Israeli plan adopted by the US administration,” he underscores.
“We don’t accept it now. We didn’t accept it in the past. We’ll never accept it in the future.”
Trump’s proposals reportedly included no Palestinian input and grants Israel much of what it has sought in decades of international diplomacy. To this, the envoy says: “They talk of human values. They talk of democracy. They talk about a free America and freedom, which is only for them! They do not care for us.”
‘Not defying the US’
The envoy, however, is quick to point out that they [Palestinians] are not defying or challenging the Americans. “We are only defending our rights.”
This, though, is the first time a proposal of the two-state solution has been made officially. The envoy disagrees: “This [two-state solution], which comes as per the demands of international consensus, is not new. It was proposed by George W. Bush. It’s an American plan that we had already accepted because it goes along with international legitimacy and the Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian issue.”
UN Resolution 242
Ghannam points out that Palestinians had accepted the United Nations Resolution 242 after 1988 despite knowing fully well their rights were limited to the areas as per the post-1967 war, mainly the West Bank including Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.
“We conceded some 80 per cent of our historical rights in order to achieve peace and end the state of enmity between us and Israel. However, as it turned out, the Israelis from the very beginning were planning to annex all of Palestine. They consider all of Palestine as their land based on the premise that they were promised this to be the land of the Jews some 3,000 years ago. So, they have continued to ‘Judaise’ all of Palestine including the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” he points out.
“Our historical right,” he emphasizes, “is all of Palestine as it was in 1947.”
Ghannam, however, is happy that not a single country except for Israel has accepted the Trump plan since it was announced. He is also enthused with so many voices in Europe as well as in the US Congress coming down heavily on the plan and seeing it essentially as a breeding ground for continued violence in the region.
Delving deeper into the historical roots of the imbroglio, the envoy traces it to the Balfour Declaration [a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population].
“So, the issue started more than a Century ago. Step by step, it has now come to a stage where they [Israel] want to impose their will on the Palestinian people and want them and the Arab people to accept the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They want to delete the history of Palestine. They want to demolish the identity of Palestinians. They want to delete the traditions of Palestinians.”
Analysts have said the details of Trump’s plan could also offer political benefits to Netanyahu, delighting rightwing voters with calls for the annexation of West Bank settlements, and possibly appeasing some on the left with nominal support for a Palestinian state. Ghannam agrees: “We understand that this is an electoral campaign for both Trump and Netanyahu.”
Peaceful means of Gandhi and Mandela
The envoy is also clear that the way forward is only through negotiations and peaceful means, and that violence cannot bring the desired results.
“We need to have international support like it was in South Africa. The South Africans couldn’t overcome apartheid by force. It’s only when they resorted to negotiations and peaceful means that the apartheid system collapsed. This is what we are now trying to adopt – the model of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.”
He explains further: “After the 1967 war, we decided to wage a guerrilla warfare against the Israeli occupation. In fact, we had started fighting against the Occupation since 1948. But after 1967, all Arab countries accepted United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 wherein they recognised Israel as per its borders before the war. We didn’t accept it because, for us, all of Palestine was ours.
“We continued to fight for 20 years after 1967, until 1987, when we decided it was time to join the peace process. In 1988, we declared the State of Palestine – as a declaration – to be implemented on the ground through peaceful means and negotiations between us and Israelis.
“After 20 years of fighting and using arms, we found we had not achieved our goals. So, we resorted to diplomacy. However, another 30 years of diplomacy, too, didn’t bring us any results because the Israelis were not serious. We even signed the agreement between us and Israelis.
“Yitzhak Rabin, the greatest leader in Israel’s modern history, was reasonable in his approach and believed it would be okay to come to terms with Palestinians and make peace with them. We accepted his proposals. However, within a short time after signing the Oslo Accords, he was assassinated by the Israelis. He paid with his life because he believed in peace with Palestinians and had signed the only document wherein the Israelis conceded that there is a ‘Palestinian people’. Before that document, the Israelis would say, ’Who are the Palestinians?’
“Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli who’s considered a hero by the rightists. Most Israelis don’t believe in peace. This is a Zionist movement.”
Finally, the talk veers to his younger days, his early struggles and sufferings, and his contributions to the Palestinian cause as a youngster.
“This is the story of every Palestinian, everywhere,” he explains.
“From the time the Israelis occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 until now, some 1.5 million young Palestinians have had to endure Israeli jails – some for several weeks and others for as long as 30 years. Almost the entire younger generation in Palestine has had the experience of Israeli jails,” he says on a concluding note.