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Palestinians Rally Around Their Leaders

Most respondents in first opinion poll since Bahrain conference expect Israel to annex West Bank land

A majority of Palestinians don’t trust the Trump Administration or its Middle East peace project, according to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between June 27 and June 30.

The majority also expects Israel to annex parts of the West Bank.

Eighty percent of the respondents said they supported the boycott of the recent American-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity Workshop” in Bahrain, and viewed the participation of some Arab countries as an abandonment of the Palestinian cause. Moreover, three-quarters said they wanted the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reject what has been dubbed the “Deal of the Century.”

Saeb Erekat, who has been the lead Palestinian peace negotiator, told The Media Line that the results of the survey could have been predicted in advance.

“You don’t need an opinion poll to realize that Palestinians are a people just like any other,” he said. “We are seeking freedom, not a five-star Apartheid. All US attempts at normalizing the Israeli occupation have failed.”

As to participation in the Bahrain conference by some Arab countries, Erekat said: “[T]hey were not there representing us, but their own interests. They all reiterated their positions in favor of the exercise of our rights. Of course we wouldn’t have wanted them to go, but now is the time to take action, and the Arab world is a primordial component of our strategy.”

Ziad Abu Ziad, Fatah’s international media spokesperson, told The Media Line that the survey results showed a unified position at the level of government and people against the American deal and against the workshop in Bahrain that was its preface.

“Trump’s administration thought [it] could mislead the Palestinian people and have them believe that the Bahrain workshop was in their best interest,” he said.

He added that President Donald Trump’s team had failed as the Palestinians at the individual, academic and public levels refused to participate in its conference in Manama.

“The poll came as a response to the American administration, saying that Palestinian public opinion rejects the idea of its project,” he said.

Abu Ziad added that the Palestinian leadership and factions had warned the international community of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex part of the West Bank.

“The Israeli government confiscates Palestinian lands on a daily basis, which proves that it is moving forward with its plan,” he stated.

Abu Ziad continued by saying that the US and Israel were working to legitimize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in preparation for keeping it under Israeli control.

“I expect a strong reaction from the Palestinian people on this,” he said.

Meanwhile, PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh stated in Ramallah on Wednesday during a meeting with the European Union envoy for the Middle East peace process, Susana Terstal, that the countries of the EU, as well as other countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, should lead an international effort to begin thinking about the forthcoming stages of US plan, “which may never expose its political stature.”

Shtayyeh added: “We must not remain hostages waiting for the American plan, but rather move the political file forward and make an international decision to recognize the state of Palestine so as to prevent Israel from annexing parts of the West Bank.”

Palestinian leaders reject the American approach to peace, as it focuses on urging Arab donor countries to invest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before anyone addresses the thorny political issues that are at the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, namely borders, Jerusalem and refugees.

The June 25-26 conference in Bahrain, dubbed a “workshop,” was held to encourage investment in the Palestinian Territories as the economic aspect of the Deal of the Century. As part of that, Washington proposed that some $50 billion be earmarked for projects in the territories and as aid for nations in the region.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-based Arab News agency reported that Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was advocating a bigger political role for his country in the Arab world, saying that regional stability was in his country’s national interest.

“We can be an honest broker in the Middle East, as we have no colonial history or negative footprint in the region,” Kono said in an interview at the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Ammar Hijazi, a senior official at the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Media Line that the current American administration did not care about the interests or the future of the Palestinian people.

“It doesn’t care about ending the Israeli occupation and achieving peace and freedom for the Palestinians,” he said.

Hijazi added that the Palestinian people could easily discern the true ambitions of the Trump Administration regarding solutions.

“It started when the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital [in December 2017], and then legitimized the settlements. The Palestinians know that the American administration doesn’t care about their welfare,” he said.

As for Japan’s offer to act as a mediator, Hijazi said the Palestinian leadership welcomed any international effort although a multilateral mechanism was needed “that would involve more than one country.”