The Palestinian Authority and its political allies in the West Bank have launched a diplomatic and media campaign to rally worldwide support for their rejection of US President Donald Trump's upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the "Deal of the Century." Pictured: US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Image source: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
The Palestinians seem to be moving on two fronts to thwart US President Donald Trump's plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the "Deal of the Century."
The Palestinian Authority and its political allies in the West Bank have launched a diplomatic and media campaign to rally worldwide support for their rejection of Trump's upcoming plan. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian extremist groups, for their part, are already hinting that they will resort to violence in an effort to thwart the "Deal of the Century."
Last week, Hamas called on Bahrain not to allow the "Zionist enemy to defile its lands" by attending the economic conference.
Recently, the Palestinians intensified their attacks on the upcoming peace plan, particularly after the US administration announced that it will unveil the economic portions of the "Deal of the Century" at an economic workshop in Bahrain in late June. The Palestinians have voiced strong opposition to the workshop and said they will boycott it, despite its goal of improving the living conditions of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In a rare show of unity, President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction and its rivals in Hamas and Islamic Jihad are saying that the Palestinians will not only boycott the Bahrain conference, but that all the countries invited should also reject the invitation to attend the workshop.
The Palestinians are particularly focusing their effort on trying to persuade the Arab states to boycott the Bahrain workshop. They are terrified that the Arab countries will surrender to US pressure and attend the conference, thus, as they see it, abandoning their Palestinian brothers and leaving them isolated in the international arena.
In addition to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced that they will send delegates to the US-led economic workshop. Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar are also expected to participate in the conference, notwithstanding fierce Palestinian opposition.
Abbas last week visited Qatar and Jordan in a bid to persuade the two countries to join the Palestinian boycott of the Bahrain workshop. The most Abbas managed to get from Qatar and Jordan were the usual laconic statements of support for the Palestinian cause and rights. His hope that Qatar and Jordan would publicly endorse the Palestinian boycott has failed to materialize.
Even Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the country hosting the conference, have made similar statements expressing full political support for the Palestinians, while ignoring their call for boycotting the economic workshop. The Arabs have always excelled in paying lip-service to the Palestinians, at the same time offering them precious little in real support.
Echoing fears of being abandoned by their Arab brethren, Palestinian officials are now publicly appealing to the Arab states to boycott the Bahrain economic workshop. They have even gone as far as warning that participation in the workshop would be considered an act of treason against Palestinians and Arabs. Several Palestinian factions, including Fatah, have made it clear that any Arab who attends the economic conference will be denounced as a traitor.
The Palestinians, in other words, are directly threatening the Arab heads of state that they would be labelled traitors for "colluding" with US President Donald Trump's administration and Israel to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights. This unprecedented threat is an indication of the Palestinians' growing predicament and sense of isolation as the Arab states appear to be turning their back on them.
Moreover, the threat is a sign of mounting tensions between the Palestinian leadership and Arab heads of state, who are apparently fed up with Palestinian intransigence and refusal to adjust to the new reality in the Middle East, particularly Iran's continued meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
PLO leaders who met in the West Bank city of Ramallah this week called on the Arabs to heed the Palestinian call for boycotting the Bahrain workshop. "The PLO Executive Committee calls on all the Arab countries that agreed to attend the conference to reconsider their decision," the PLO leaders said in a statement. They also warned that no Arab country was authorized to speak or negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians at the conference of any other international forum.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also called on Arab states that have committed to attend the Bahrain conference to revisit their plans. "We call on the countries that have agreed to attend the Bahrain workshop to reevaluate their decision," he said.
Praising several Palestinian businessmen who announced that they turned down invitations from the US to attend the conference, Abbas's Fatah said it will not hesitate to "expose" anyone who dares to violate the Palestinian boycott or thinks of "conspiring" against the Palestinian cause. "Our patience won't last for long as we follow attempts by some suspicious people to open channels with the US administration," Fatah cautioned.
In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, representatives of the private sector said that mere participation in the Bahrain conference was a "betrayal of the blood of Palestinian martyrs, the suffering of the prisoners and the pain of the wounded. The Palestinian cause is not for sale."
In light of these threats, it is hard to see how any Palestinian businessman living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip would dare to take the dangerous step of participating in a US-led conference that is being denounced by Palestinian leaders as a "conspiracy" to eliminate the Palestinian cause and rights.
The Palestinian threats, however, are directed not only towards Palestinian businessmen, but also against entire Arab states and their leaders. For now, it seems that the Arabs are unfazed by these Palestinian threats.
Yet while Abbas and his officials have resorted to political pressure to persuade the Arabs to boycott the conference, other Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, seem to be preparing for a violent response to Trump's "Deal of the Century." In the past few days, the Gaza-based groups have issued several statements hinting that they would use all means, including terrorism, to foil the US peace plan.
Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhalah said last week that the Palestinian "resistance has enough power cards that would enable it to thwart the Deal of the Century." Although he did not provide details about the "power cards," al-Nakhalah was apparently referring to the possibility that his Iran-backed Islamic Jihad would resort to violence.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas say they are now cooperating with Hezbollah, Iran's proxy terrorist group in Lebanon, to foil the Bahrain conference and Trump's "Deal of the Century." Last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah expressed strong opposition to the "Deal of the Century," and drew praise from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even the Palestinian Authority.
This is the message that the Palestinians are sending to the Arab world: "Either boycott the US administration, or we will incite the Arabs and Muslims against you." What is perhaps most worrying for the Arab leaders are the threats coming from Iran's puppets -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. It now remains to be seen whether the Arab heads of state will be deterred by these threats or ignore them at the risk of becoming the Palestinians' terror targets.
Clearly, the very Palestinians who are boycotting a conference -- whose aim is to help them move beyond their leadership-imposed economic devastation -- will wind up the big losers in this spiteful scenario of hate. This time, however, it also seems that the Palestinians will not only deprive themselves of billions of dollars, but will also damage -- perhaps irrevocably -- their relations with influential Arab countries. By all accounts, the Palestinians appear to be heading toward another "nakba" (catastrophe).
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.