Anger in Palestine over Trump plan, but protests see low turnout

Day after Donald Trump announced his Middle East plan, protest calls by Palestinian groups go mostly unheeded.

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – A day after US President Donald Trump announced his Middle East plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calls for mobilisation by various Palestinian factions have gone mostly unheeded.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed popular mobilisations against the deal, as groups including the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas, which has governed the occupied Gaza Strip since 2007, called for mass protests.

But while Palestinians were angered by Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, with some referring to it as “a new Balfour Declaration“, many brushed off the US-Israeli announcement as “nothing new”.

“The announcement brought us a lot of anger and disappointment,” said Maan Musatafa, a 39-year-old taxi driver in the occupied West Bank.

“But the reality is, we have been living under this deal and under de facto Israeli occupation for decades. So, the announcement wasn’t new or shocking,” he told Al Jazeera.

Seif Abdo, a 27-year-old student from East Jerusalem, agreed: “Nothing is new. Nothing has changed. It’s already our reality.”

“Trump has already recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the US embassy there, and implemented Israeli law in the Jordan Valley and Golan Heights,” he added.

Trump’s plan calls for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict and for a four-year freeze in new Israeli settlement construction, during which details of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated.

It suggests Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel, while promising the Palestinians a state of their own and a new capital in eastern Jerusalem. This proposal had been rejected by Palestinians in the past.

For many Palestinians, the four-year window meant the plan had no immediate effect, one of the reasons why the protests on Wednesday saw a low turnout.

“Going to the streets won’t change much. We aren’t taking this deal seriously especially that it won’t take effect immediately,” said Sami Fawzi, a 55-year-old business owner in Ramallah.

“We still have four years. Who knows what will happen?”

Despite his apparent sense of apathy, Fawzi vowed that Palestinians will fight against the plan. “Palestine is not for sale. Especially when it comes to Jerusalem. That’s a red line.”

Sporadic protests

Despite a low turnout across Palestinian cities amid heavy Israeli security presence, sporadic protests erupted across the occupied West Bank.

Raising Palestinian flags, dozens of people gathered in the city of Tubas in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley.

A large contingent of Israeli security forces, deployed in the area since Tuesday, responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd, witnesses told Al Jazeera

Israeli forces also closed off roads leading to the Jordan Valley and stopped buses carrying demonstrators from across the West Bank headed towards the area, said witnesses.

In Bethlehem a small group of Palestinians gathered in the streets in the early afternoon to denounce the plan, with some burning the flag of the United States and photos of Trump.

Another small protest was held by school students in the Palestinian city of Tulkarem.

At least 41 people were wounded in small-scale clashes after the Israeli forces used rubber bullets and tear gas in the Jordan Valley, the Al-Orub refugee camp and Tulkarem, said the Red Cross in a statement.

Palestinian students protest against the U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan as tires burn, in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinian students protest against Trump’s Middle East plan in occupied Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa [Reuters]

‘No trust in Palestinian leadership’

Palestinian academic Khalil al-Tafakji told Al Jazeera the low turnout on the streets was due to a lack of trust between the Palestinian people and their leadership.

“There is no trust between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership,” said Tafakji. “They feel that even if they protest, their leadership might sell them out and agree to the deal in a few weeks.”

According to Yara Hawari, senior fellow at the Palestinian policy network, Al-Shabaka, the lack of mobilisation was due to the US-Israeli announcement being “merely an articulation of a policy that has already been ongoing”.

She said political mobilisation has often proved to be costly for Palestinians, with a fear of Israeli repercussions being another cause behind the low turnout.

“We have seen in Gaza what happens when masses of Palestinians demand their rights in line with international law. They are met with brutal violence,” said Hawari.

Political mobilisation

Still, the Palestinian Authority has vowed to act, calling for an emergency Arab League summit which the PA said will be held in Cairo on Saturday, while another meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is scheduled on Monday.

The PA also said it will be meeting the Hamas leadership in Gaza next week to discuss a joint plan for opposing the deal.

“The deal has no touch with reality or with international law. We have called on the Arab League and the European Union to support us,” said Nabil Shaath, senior adviser to the Palestinian president.

“We are hoping for popular action on the street but it will take time. It’s a long-term battle. And people won’t mobilise until we (politicians) do our part,” said Shaath.

Source: Al Jazeera