Palestinians expect little but bias from Trump peace plan


Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

After US President Donald Trump's announcement that he will finally launch his long-awaited Middle East peace plan next week, the response among many Palestinians Friday was a collective shrug.

Trump said the plan, which has been delayed multiple times, would finally be released by next Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz will meet him in Washington.

But the Palestinian leadership was not invited, amid a series of rows between president Mahmud Abbas and Trump over the US leader's pro-Israel stance.

In the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian government is based, many people entering a mosque for Friday prayers were not even aware of Trump's announcement the previous day.

Others said they did not expect anything positive from a president they see as totally biased.

"Trump represents no one but himself, and this is a crazy president," said Munther Abu Awad, clutching a blue prayer mat.

"What he announced is in favour of Israel."

Hossam Abdul Raheem, 57, said he expected the plan to be announced and then forgotten.

"This deal will fail completely," he predicted.

"Whatever they do will not affect us as we have nothing to lose."

During prayers, the mosque's sheikh condemned the Trump peace plan, which Palestinians sarcastically label the "deal of the century".

- 'Working in Israel's interests' -

Nasser Nassar, 57, works as a teacher by day and bus driver by night to pay the bills.

He had little positive to say about the peace push.

"Trump considers himself the president of the world and not only the United States, and the fact is he is working in Israel's interests."

But he blamed the Palestinian leadership as much as the Israelis for the conditions in the Palestinian territories, where around a quarter of the population lives in poverty.

"The leadership drove us to a place where we are chasing a living and we forgot all important causes."

Israel has occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Six Day War.

More than 600,000 Israelis now live there in settlements considered illegal under international law.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and Abbas cut ties with Trump after he recognised the city as Israel's capital.

The Republican president has taken a series of other steps that have thrilled right-winger Netanyahu but appalled Palestinians.

Israeli media reported what they said were leaks of parts of Trump's plan, including that it could grant full sovereignty to Israel over Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

In exchange the Palestinians would get some kind of a demilitarised statehood in the remaining territory.

Trump later tweeted that the reports were merely "speculative" and that the full details would be revealed later.

- 'How do you respond?' -

Both Israeli and Palestinian analysts were sceptical Friday as to whether the plan could be implemented.

Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst in the West Bank, said the details, if confirmed, would be impossible for any Palestinian leader to accept.

"Trump wants the Palestinians to join Likud (Netanyahu's party), that's basically the requirement.

"There is nothing to engage with. I think for the Palestinians and the world, the question becomes how do you respond?"

Trump has been hopeful of gaining support for the plan from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations to pressure Abbas.

But in Yediot Ahronot, Israel's biggest selling daily, commentator Nahum Barnea wrote that the alleged details made that unlikely.

"No Arab leader, even Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman... will be able to support the plan publicly."

He warned that Israeli security services would be concerned as to how "will the Palestinian street react."

Ofer Zalzberg, an Israeli analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, said while the plan was designed to support Netanyahu's right-wing agenda, it could cause tension with some of his allies.

Defence Minister Naftali Bennett's New Right party relies heavily on the support of religious-Zionists who are pro-settler and oppose concessions on the land they consider given to Jews by God. Many Likud ministers and lawmakers subscribe to the same theology.

"I have yet to see any religious Zionist politician on the right supporting this," Zalzberg said.