Analysis

Trump’s Mideast Plan, Despite Its Dangers, Is an Opportunity for Palestinians

Internal unity, a more effective national struggle and renewed vigor in the international arena are all in the Palestinian leadership’s reach — if it rises up to the occasion

"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine," Bil'in, West Bank, with the Israeli settlement of Mod'in Ilit in the background, January 31, 2020
Nasser Nasser,AP

Despite the outpouring of condemnation, the very existence of the Trump administration’s peace plan could reveal itself to be an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership.

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It should be made clear from the start that the plan contains no new tidings for the Palestinians, and that it cannot form the basis of a future agreement – on the contrary. Nevertheless, it gives the Palestinian leadership an opportunity to return to the center of the international stage, after almost a decade of slowly fading as the world shifted its focus to what began as the Arab Spring and continued in wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and the increasing confrontation with Iran.

During this time, the Palestinian issue was boiled down to Israeli military operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, failing talks between Fatah and Hamas, and, sporadically, the declining health of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his possible successors. There was a shift in the past week, which could lead to significant changes, particularly in the domestic arena — if the Palestinian leadership is wise enough to take advantage of it.

First, the peace plan paved the way for a phone call between Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after two months of communication breakdown. In the next few days, a Palestinian Liberation Organization delegation is slated to visit the Strip and could move forward the wagon of reconciliation, which has been stuck in the mud for years. Fear over the implementation of the Trump plan can serve the parties if they truly have the good will to move ahead. This would instill hope in the public, which has grown indifferent and unsure of their leadership because of the continuous split and its adjacent power struggles.

Second, the plan can promote Palestinian academic and intellectual dialogue with the political leadership to formulate a new strategy in the face of the challenges posed by the American plan, and perhaps rule on whether the two-state solution can still be implemented. Such a debate could give rise to ideas and a strategy forward for the Palestinian struggle, bringing about the non-violent civil insurrection that has been floated in Palestinian circles.

Third, the plan can be used as a platform for intensive action in the international arena, utilizing the momentum to encourage support for the Palestinian position. This came to the fore last week when members of the European diplomatic corps came to Ramallah for talks and voiced their objections to the plan.

Palestinian protesters wave the national flag and a portrait of president Mahmud Abbas during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 28, 2020
AFP

The Arab community in Israel can also benefit from the presentation of Trump’s plan. Over the past two years, the Arab public has had to contend with the nation-state law, with unbridled incitement and, recently, with the unification of Labor and Meretz, which has weakened the Arab position politically. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which is made up of elected representatives at the local and national level, has been given an opportunity to sharpen its message on the peace plan. It presents an opportunity to expand its influence in the political arena, as it did in 2015 when it used to its advantage Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman’s proposal to raise the electoral threshold, and formed the Joint List. This could increase Arab representation in the Knesset.