Engaging with the ‘Deal of the Century’
Engaging with the ‘Deal of the Century’
I read with great interest Samir Atallah’s oped in Asharq Al-Awsat on February 13 in which he referred to my remarks to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on January 31 about the so-called “deal of the century” and in which I called for holding immediate negotiations about the future of Palestine according to various conditions and references.
The esteemed columnist said that he simply did not understand what I meant and believed that what was proposed to the Arabs and Palestinians cannot possibly pave the way to negotiations. The proposals were instead a major obstacle and this is something we can have an objective discussion about.
I find that I owe Mr. Samir Atallah and others who share his views a longer explanation:
- We should consider what President Donald Trump described as a “deal” or “plan” nothing more than an American-Israeli offer that we are expected to accept, reject or amend.
- Accepting the deal in its current shape is impossible for the Palestinians, Arab public, Muslims or the majority of the world, including European Union members.
- The proposals of the deal go against international resolutions and this cannot be overlooked. The resolutions are those of the United Nations Security Council and the views of the International Criminal Court, unanimous UN General Assembly votes and European Union and international economic and political statements.
These resolutions cannot be dismissed, meaning Israeli settlements on occupied territories cannot be granted legitimacy and that part of a village or its entirety cannot be annexed. International resolutions cannot be ignored and we should invest in this. But where? Not at another General Assembly discussion (even though that would be fine), but at productive negotiations tables.
At the same time, it may be poor judgment to ignore or reject a joint American-Israeli proposal and dismiss it as inadmissible. We should, however, work on addressing it with other proposals, starting with the 2002 Arab peace initiative that was unveiled in Beirut.
As for the sponsors of the proposed negotiations, they should be tasked to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, China, France, Britain and the US), along with Germany and the International Quartet. In other words, I am calling for a mass sponsorship of the talks, as opposed to the current single country sponsorship, in the form of the United States.
- Arab countries must also play a role in the negotiations. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia must all be present alongside the Palestinians, similar to how the US and Britain always side with the Israelis.
- It is very easy for veteran politicians to draft their views and opinions according to their image, especially if they are relieved of the burden of rule or responsibility. The challenge lies in preserving national and moral commitments and attempting to invest in rare opportunities through proposing realistic and rational policies that can achieve nationalist goals.
In conclusion, I am calling on Arab politicians to take the bold decision to engage. They must hold negotiations based on several documents and with several sponsors. Of course, Israel must not move to annex any territories or build any settlements as long as the negotiations are ongoing.
I would like to stress that nothing has changed in my views and stances, but all of the circumstances have changed and the risks have doubled. Refusal is no longer enough. I am proposing political moves, such as Palestinian action to unite their ranks and end their division.
We have seen the Arab League’s rejection of the US proposal. We thank it, but its stance is ineffective. Friends and foes alike reacted with their usual phrase, “we understand”. This reflects huge and obvious pity, but it doesn’t really lead anywhere.
I say all of this out of my keenness on a people in crisis, my belief in their legitimate rights and the need to act while the issue is still sparking heated debate. The issue was heated by the “deal of the century” and rejection is not necessarily the most productive policy. Of course, this does not mean that only one side will have to make concessions or that normalization will come without a price. It means that serious and productive work is needed.