The Media Line posed the same questions about US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan to adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah spokesperson Osama Qawasma; and to former deputy minister, member of parliament (Kneseet), and Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren. These are Mr. Qawasma’s answers:
TML: President Trump said the peace plan was intrinsically different from all the other, preceding plans. Is there a difference? Does it make it sellable? Does it make it good?
Qawasma: The deal is absolutely different from all of the other American plans, but in a negative way: It’s more of an American and Israeli imposition that includes the greatest benefit to Israel at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the two-state solution. At the same time, the alleged deal contradicts international law and norms. It’s not a peace deal, but rather a dictation. It gives Israel full right to Jerusalem and legitimizes the illegal colonial settlements, in addition to the annexation of the Jordan Valley and other Palestinian lands, forcing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people and leadership.
TML: Does the use of the term “vision,” as opposed to “deal of the century,” alter the concept of the plan? Does it make it more palatable?
Qawasma: The main issue here isn’t related to how the plan was promoted or named, it has to do with its concept that doesn’t include and recognize rights for Palestinians in Jerusalem which was occupied since 1967. I can clearly say that the American vision or the so-called “deal of the century” deprives Palestinians of their legitimate rights in their land and especially in their future capital, east Jerusalem. Rather the plan limitedly offered selected villages and areas around east Jerusalem, which is completely unacceptable for us. Not to mention that the deal didn’t touch on the right-of-return that concerns millions of Palestinian refugees in Diaspora.
TML: Even people who have not read the plan seem to have an opinion about it. Say you are the president of the Palestinian Authority and President Trump says you can change one term in the agreement however you like but you must accept the rest. Which issue is most important to you and could you accept the terms the president of the United States has put forth for the rest?
Qawasma: Well, the plan is completely rejected with all its terms. It’s not about changing one term to accept the rest, as it doesn’t pave the way to achieve peace, rather it provokes more violence in the region. President Trump’s strategy revolves only around supporting Netanyahu and his regime, which forms an occupation against the Palestinian people. We believe that peace can only be achieved by a real agreement that includes the rights of Palestinians and allows both people to live side by side as neighbors. Simply, we can never replace or exchange the rights, freedom and dignity of our people with economic projects and plans. We are committed to achieving peace based on international law and the two-state solution, which was supported by all previous American administrations that helped shape that solution in the first place.
TML: The plan speaks of the outskirts of east Jerusalem, which could be named Al Quds or anything else –as the capital of Palestine with a US Embassy designated there as well as doubling the land for a Palestinian state. The vision allows for security and police forces but not an army. Is this enough on the plate including $50 billion dollars waiting for investment for Palestinians to come to the table?
Qawasma: Again, as the Palestinian leadership, we are committed to achieving peace through a plan that is based on a two-state solution and international law, which recognizes the legitimate rights of our people as well as their freedom, dignity and right of self-determination. We will never sell the rights of our people for money or projects, regardless of the amount offered. The plan insults the Palestinian case and treats it as a humanitarian one, not as a political and human-rights issue that requires a political solution, not an economic one.
TML: How can President Trump expect the Palestinians to accept his proposals when there is no entity at the moment that speaks for all the Palestinians? Shouldn’t this proposal await reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas?
Qawasma: There’s a legitimate entity that speaks for all Palestinian people, which is called the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Palestinian division affects the Palestinian position. However, the Palestinian leadership has made large steps toward reconciliation. But regardless of that, both parties stated that they refuse the alleged deal. Meaning, the Palestinian division between Fatah and Hamas didn’t affect the big “no” to the deal. As a matter of fact, the deal created an opportunity for both parties to agree and talk.
TML: Do you agree with those, and there are many, who are questioning the timing the release of the vision as both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are embroiled in legal problems and elections?
Qawasma: To a certain extent, yes, as the deal comes at a time when not only are both leaders facing legal issues in their countries but upcoming elections in the US and Israel. It’s a big possibility that President Trump and Netanyahu had used the plan to increase their popularity among their radical supporters by giving the Israelis all of they wished for at the expense of the Palestinian people.