Public Debate Session: Facing the 'Deal of the Century'

The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development - REFORM conducted a public debate session entitled, "Palestine Diplomacy and the Options Available to Face the 'Deal of the Century' with the participation of leaders, deputies, representatives of the Legislative and National Councils, academics, political and media analysts, and members of the project’s advisory board.

The Project Coordinator at REFORM, Rawan Sharqawi, started off the session by welcoming the participants, introducing the project, and pointing out that this session was being held for the third time to analyze the political and internal factors, as well as the available options to face the 'Deal of the Century'.

During this activity, four main topics were discussed in four individual sessions; the first of which examined various mechanisms for Introducing the 'Deal of the Century'. Legislative Council member, Jihad Abu Zuneed, National Council member, Ashraf Taha, and the Head of Al-Quds Satellite Channel, Ala Al-Remawi participated in this session.

The second session reflected on the political context and internal factors of this deal and was attended by the General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA), Zahira Kamal, member of the Political Bureau of the People's Party, Fehmi Shaheen, and lecturer at Birzeit University, Dr. Ahmad Abu Deyah.

The Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Qais Abd Al-Karim “Abu Laila”, President of the Political Committee in the Legislative Council and Fateh’s Representative, Dr. Abdallah Abdallah participated effectively in the third session, which discussed the options available before the PLO to face “the Deal of the Century”.

During the last session, the Director General of the Department of Refugee Affairs, Dr. Ahmad Hanoun and the lecturer at Al-Quds University, Dr. Ahmad Hanoun both analyzed the possible future prospects for facing the deal.

Denouncing this deal is the key element for aborting Trump’s plan, while the internal split constitutes the main factor for its success

Participants agreed on considering the 'Deal of the Century' as a public conspiracy to omit the Palestinian cause by imposing a solution that ignores the final core issues such as Jerusalem, borders, and refugees, and focuses on maintaining civil peace and security of the occupying state only. This solution also disregards the two-state solution by refusing to recognize the independent State of Palestine and its capital, East Jerusalem on the 1967 borders.

Participants also praised the rejection of the Palestinian president, the government, Palestinian factions and the PLO’s associations of the deal amid Trump’s declaration of relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem. However, the majority stated that denouncing this deal is not sufficient to end the conspiracy against Palestinians , as protecting Palestinian rights requires practical initiatives and lobbying practices that provide better alternatives.

Participants also pointed out that complete rejection of the deal is the corner stone for its disruption, despite the attempts of the American administration to impose it through Arab governments.  However, they expressed their concern that the split may constitute a gap that would ease the application of this deal. Moreover, incorporating Gaza Strip in the deal through addressing the difficult humanitarian conditions there must not be validated, as it does not express the Palestinian peoples’ needs, and harms the national unity, which is one of its most important factors in obstructing Trump’s plans.

Participation of All Community Components

Most of the participants criticized the reluctance of all community components to participate, generally in activities that condemn the 'Deal of the Century', without analyzing its root causes. However, some of the participants related it to the public’s lack of confidence in Palestinian leadership, while others blamed the media for not providing the public, especially women and the youth with safe spaces to voice out their concerns.

Promoting the Role of Grassroots Organizations and Unions

The Legislative Council member, Abu Zuneid, accused the grassroot organizations and unions for weakening the public participation, while asserting her trust in the Palestinian leadership. Furthermore, Abu Zunid highlighted the absence of grassroot organizations and unions representing the majority of the society and its national interests in lobbying for obstructing the deal. On the other hand, Abu Zuneid asserted the important role of Palestinian factions and parties in rejecting this deal in light of the American administration’s efforts in restructuring the Middle East under the pretext of finding a humanitarian solution the Palestinian cause. Abu Zuneid concluded by saying that the greatest weapon for challenging the 'Deal of the Century' is achieving national unity and unifying the voice of all Palestinians towards rejecting this deal.  

Mobilizing the Internal Palestinian Powers   

Ashraf Taha stated that there are no accurate details about the so-called the 'Deal of the Century', but what is happening on the ground reveals a lot. In addition, it also calls for widening the gap between the West Bank and Gaza Strip through calling for improving the living conditions in Gaza. Therefore, the only way to stir the Palestinian power is to combat the internal split.

Promoting the Role of National Media

Head of Al-Quds Satellite Channel, Ala al-Remawi believes that establishing the deal is out of the Palestinian league, as the American administration aims at attaining the regional support for implementing the deal, regardless of the Palestinian interests, in accordance with the American vision to re-form a new Middle East as the basis of Arab normalization with the occupation without resolving the Palestinian issue. So, it is necessary to call for all national parties to condemn this deal.

Al-Remawi also stated that the absence of a Palestinian initiative contributes in one way or another to facilitate the passage of the deal regionally adding that the Palestinian media is not performing its role creating a public opinion that rejects the deal. Moreover, he called for neutralizing the media and strengthening its national role in addressing issues that Palestinian issue away from partisan and political rivalries.

Stressing the Political and Diplomatic Efforts

In the second session the General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA), Zahira Kamal, pointed out that the lack of details on this deal is mainly due to the fact that the deal has not yet been raised and that everything being said is mainly analyzed in accordance with the current American and Israeli practices regarding Jerusalem, refugees and borders. Kamal asserted that the deal will not be implemented amid Palestinians’ absolute refusal of the American and Israeli declarations.

Kamal added that not even one Arab government would dare to publicly declare their approval of the deal, and that there needs to be a joined Palestinian effort to refuse the normalization. In addition, she called for leading the political and diplomatic efforts towards condemning the deal on regional and international levels based on resolutions of the Security Council, General Assembly, and the International Law, which contributes to achieving greater recognition of the Palestinian State and its access to international associations and treaties.

Improving the Internal Conditions   

Member of the Political Bureau of the People's Party, Fehmi Shaheen, sees that improving the internal conditions is the cornerstone for facing and distorting the deal; adding that the 'Deal of the Century' is not a new issue; rather, a continuation of previous efforts in eliminating the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, Shaheen stressed that this conspiracy will never be implemented without an actual Palestinian approval. He added that refusing the deal is not enough; it is important to implement the decisions of the Palestinian Central and National Councils and to reconsider the vital representative role of the PLO and the National Authority.

Regional Context  

In the second session, Dr. Ahmad Abu-Dieh said that the roots of the “Deal of the Century” emerged from the 1990s during the second Gulf war and the Oslo Accords. Moreover, it was instigated again during the Arabic Spring taking advantage of the Arab split to create new power relations and non-existent enemies, which portrays Israel as an ally rather than an enemy.

Scenarios for Facing the Deal

During the third session, Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Qais Abd Al-Karim “Abu Laila” presented four scenarios to face the ‘Deal of the Century'.

The first scenario is to withdraw recognition of the United States as a sole partner and sponsor of the peace process, to rebuild relations with the US administration on the basis of this rule, to work on building an international wall that prevents and opposes this deal and find an international solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Abu Leila explained that the Palestinian leadership is working on the above but achieving less than what is required so far.

Abu Laila stressed the so-called 'Deal of the Century' is in fact the right-wing vision in Israel and Netanyahu's dream for eradicating the Palestinian rights and cause, whereas Trump team are keen to implement it literally. He also expressed his concern about the possibility of exploiting the divide under the pretext of addressing the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the American solutions are targeting the Sinai and Egyptian territories to establish a harbor, airport, power plants, water desalination, as well as industrial and commercial facilities and everything that improves the daily living conditions, which all indicate that the real political solution will be postponed. Therefore, Abu Laila called for the necessity of bridging the split gap immediately.

Abu Laila concluded by saying that what is required nationally is to take a real step towards rejecting the deal completely, pointing out that the US and Israeli threats no longer frighten us, especially as it has done everything that was looming.

Abu Laila also said that the 'Deal of the Century' is not a normal one; it is simply a project of the extreme right to undermine the rights and the Palestinian cause. In addition, Netanyahu seeks to implement this deal at once instead of the previous “step-by-step” policy in an attempt to exploit the variables towards imposing the deal by force unilaterally.

Abu Laila also sees that what we need is a compressive confrontation, which the Palestinian context cannot afford at the meantime. Therefore, we need to reconsider our national context and end the internal split to be able to face the deal.

Palestinian Legitimacy 

President of the Political Committee in the Legislative Council and Fateh’s Representative, Dr. Abdallah Abdallah, reflected on the historical context of the deal in the early sixties when the Palestinian secret resistance movement first started. In fact, the controversy in the Palestinian street at the time is no different from the debate now. It is not strange, therefore, that we are debating one another, but we should not lose hope, self-confidence in ourselves.

The 'Deal of the Century' is one of the entrances to international thinking that began after the dismantling of the Union. The Orientalists said that America should rephrase the Sykes picot agreement by dividing the Arabic area ethnically in the favor of Israel. Ben Gurion said that Israel’s power does not stem from its armies, but from Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. So, in order to implement the deal, Arab countries, who were once united by virtue of the Palestinian cause, should be divided.

Abdallah also sees that it is not easy on any Arab official to publicly abandon Jerusalem even if the Palestinian is the one protecting or dismantling it, asserting that the deal will not be implemented without the consent of the Palestinians.

Abdallah concluded that the deal is quite shaped by fanatical Zionists, settlers and supporters of the settlements, and they can only be on the Israeli side. He also stated that Trump has made a mistake in passing the deal starting with Jerusalem, and that facing the deal requires ending the division and banning any alternative to the Palestinian legitimacy.

The 'Deal of the Century' is a Tool to Undermine the Rights of Refugees

Ahmad Hanoun noted that the deal is trying to abide by the United States’ vision in dismantling the Rights of Return of Palestinian refugees. However, that should not necessarily lead us to give up for this vision.

He added that the American administration has shrunk basic UNRWA services to put pressure on the Palestinians, and is also pressing donor countries to cut off their funds towards refugees, which eases the eradication of the issue of Palestinian refugees.

He stressed the importance of public action and the need to rise to address the great challenges facing Palestinians. Mr. Hossam Abu al-Nasr stated that the Resolution 194 also includes the right of access of Palestinians to holy places and not just the right of return and this is a pillar that we must abide by when defending the rights of our people.

Development and Structuring of Participatory Thinking 

Dr. Aminah Badran called for shifting from office work to field work and strengthening the communities' role in promoting organized participatory thinking patterns and enhancing the role of factions in advocating for the rights of Palestinians to gain back the trust of the public. She also called for taking real action and straying away from propaganda, as well as promoting the role of media in serving the Palestinian cause.

Public Discussion

During the discussion. Participants blamed the leadership for the lack of public access to details regarding the deal and agreed that denouncing the deal alone is not sufficient for and might even ease its application in the region. Moreover, they criticized the marginalized role of youth and women role in decision making processes, as they constitute a vital part of the Palestinian society.

Al-Quds University lecturer, Inshirah Nabhan called for strengthening the role of the youth and engaging them at the decision making level, thus, enabling them of defending their rights.

Furthermore, Nabhan added that universities and student movements have been the spearhead of the liberation struggle for decades, which requires establishing communication channels that bring them together with other associations to form a public debate that restores the effective and indispensable role of youth.

This activity is part of The “Rooftop Debate – Drivers of Political Change” project aims to create a network of powerful social and political young leaders and equip them with supporting tools that enable them to create social change by directing them to find solutions to their problems and concerns, which promotes social cohesion, ensures pluralism and strengthens civil peace within society. The project also seeks to provide safe and interactive platforms that connect young activists with representatives of Government bodies and civil society organizations, in order to capacitate youth to voice out their concerns and engage in shaping public policies that are more responsive to their social and political needs.

This project is implemented in cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Foundation