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First Annual International Conference 2018 "Palestine Where To?" - Fifth Session

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Mr. Alain Gresh

Does Palestine matter? Is it important in the framework of the disintegration of the Middle East? Or is it a secondary question? Palestine is for the Arab public opinion still the main issue. Most Arabs disapprove of a number of peace treaties signed between some Arab countries and Israel. 90% of the Arabs think that Israel is the main threat to the security of Arab countries. 87% of the Arabs disapprove of the recognition of Israel by their own country.

The Americans are putting their full weight for the “Initiative of the Century” plan. Till now no Arab country has clearly supported the plan. It could be true that some Saudi Arabia leaders are willing to sign an agreement with Israel in the fight against Iran. But in the end of the day this kind of agreement is impossible to sign. Taking a position which will be against the fundamental rights of the Palestinians will be difficult for Arab countries. The public opinion is important for any leader even when he is a dictator.

The second question is the fight against Iran, Al Qaeda and ISIS. It is true that when you read the literature of Al Qaeda you see which kind of military actions they do. It is clear in some ways that they are fighting America, and that they are fighting globally. They are not fighting on the ground of Israel or Palestine. The fight against terrorism cannot be a military fight only, or a police fight only. Since the development of this terrorism is related to the situation in the Middle East.

It is important to note that the propaganda of ISIS and Al Qaeda is not only against the Palestinian Authority, but also against the Palestinian National Movement. For example, most of Al Qaeda propaganda is against Hamas.

The literature of ISIS is different. They do not use the term ‘Palestine’, they use ‘Al Quds’ and ‘Gaza’ generally when they criticizing Hamas, and they put the question of the fight in a religious framework. 88% of the Palestinians denounce ISIS, and 77% of the Palestinians support the Western and Arab war against ISIS. Which shows that Palestinians think that ISIS cannot defend their cause.

Palestine is at the core of the problem in this region. And the Arabs are divided with regard to all questions except for the question of Palestine. If we cannot solve the Palestinian problem there will be no stable Middle East.

The presentation was held by Mr. Alain Gresh at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Mr. Alain Gresh is the Publication director of the online newspaper Orient XXI.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

The first part of this talk is discussing the relationship between normalization and the so-called “deal of the century”. The second part is related to the possible options attempting to make the deal of the century happen, including normalization, and the response to that. The third part deals with the reasons of the increasing interest in normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel. And the fourth part is finally, what can be done if the deal of the century succeed? Normalization is not just one part of the deal of the century. The main objective for the deal is to create the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab countries, sacrificing the Palestinian cause and leaving it unsolved. 

The main three points addressed in the deal of the century are: firstly, normalization without solving the Palestinian cause. Secondly, economic peace instead of political resolution. During an interview with Jared Kushner, published in Al-Quds newspaper, he stated that regarding politics, the two parties are to agree, meaning that there are no international standards or referral, and there is no two states solution as per what was agreed by the international community. Thirdly, the elimination of the elements of the Palestinian cause, Jerusalem is being integrated and Judaized, and there is no Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

The second essential point is the cancelation of the refugees’ rights. Kushner has suggested during his meetings with Arab politicians to dissolve UNRWA and settle them with citizenship rights in change of the right to return. The third point is replaced by two matters, a prison in Gaza named the polity of Gaza and ghettos in West Bank at 38% of its lands, each isolated by checkpoints, the wall, and the Israeli domination.

To pass the deal of the century, the US needs Palestinians on the negotiating table. The different possible directions towards passing this deal are mainly three. Significant pressure on the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, because they need a Palestinian negotiator on the negotiating table. During these negotiations it won’t be possible to start the process without a Palestinian negotiator, thus, it won’t be able to start normalizing the relations. The second direction that Kushner suggested is exploiting the situation of Gaza to control it, and to make use of the Palestinian division in order to separate Gaza from West Bank, in the name of containing the humanitarian crisis. The third direction is to manipulate Palestinian people by mentioning major economic temptations to make the Palestinians believe that if they gave up their rights, they might achieve economic gains.

The response to that needs to be a definite rejection of the deal. And to refuse to take part at the negotiating table. Secondly, to maintain and escalate the popular resistance. And thirdly, to continue boycott and sanctions. And the most important step to face the deal of the century is to end the Palestinian division. We cannot stand in the face of this deal without ending this harmful division.

Normalization is now needed to impose economic dominancy on the region, after it achieved military dominancy, to support Israel through the regional competition that is going on between three regional powers: Iran, Turkey and Israel. Additionally, normalization aims at promoting the Israeli-Sunni alliance against the Shi’a stream. Obviously, the essence of such idea is to prevent an Arab unity, and to stop any intra-Arab cooperation.

The Trump’s administration’s policy has served Israel and Netanyahu’s government, in addition to two other groups. The first one is the evangelicals in the US, whom Netanyahu and the Likud have allied with, replacing the traditional alliance with the democratic party. The second group are the sponsors of Trump’s elections campaign, such as Sheldon Edelson.

Normalization with Israel cannot happen as long as Palestinians refuse it. What will happen if the deal of the century succeeds? This will result in a one state solution instead of two states, and this will be an apartheid state. However, Palestinians will not accept apartheid, and will not accept the Judaized state. Therefore, the division must end, because Gaza is two thirds of the demographic weight.

The presentation was held by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI).

Prof. Ibrahem Abrach

The national project that appeared in the mid-sixties was not purely national, it was rather an entanglement of several projects and aspects. At its essence it was a Palestinian national project, but also had Arabic patriotic aspects. The Arab league through its activities was behind the establishment of the PLO.

Hence, there was Arab, Islamic, international aspects for the Palestinian cause. The division that had happened and later the reconciliation, apart from these regional, international, and Arab dimensions, I believe that we need to redefine or problematize the concepts of division and reconciliation. A reconciliation is built on division.

The speech regarding the two parties of the division, i.e. Fateh and Hamas, promotes that the division is a Palestinian issue resulted by disputes between Fateh and Hamas, and that is not true. The division is an Israeli and regional equation/plan in essence, the Palestinian disputes has been exploited to make this plan pass. Consequently, the division is beyond the Palestinian capacity.

Division and reconciliation are two terms that started to rise after the Hamas control over Gaza strip. Before that, the discussion was regarding Palestinian dispute or Palestinian national unity. But the terms of division and reconciliation are attached to the Hamas control over Gaza strip.

Hamas control over Gaza strip is not a Palestinian matter, rather a matter of regional conditions. We need to remember that prior to Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza strip in 2005, Washington had suggested their so-called “Greater Middle East Project” in 2004, which aimed at attracting power to the moderate Political-Islam groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. The US administration at the time had started intensive communications with several Arab countries, and was actually able to convince these states to start partnership with these groups through elections.

The presentation was held by Professor Ibrahem Abrach at the 2018 Annual Conference “Where to go from here? Palestine between the Local, Regional and the Global”, June 22-25. Prof. Ibrahem Abrach teaches political science at Al Azhar University.