The Palestinians have furiously rejected U.S. President Donald Trump‘s Mideast plan that would grant them limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.
But they have few realistic options to prevent its implementation as Israel plows ahead with plans to unilaterally annex territory.
The Western-backed Palestinian leadership will come under mounting pressure from ordinary Palestinians and its rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas to cut off security ties with Israel and the United States or even dismantle the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.
But such drastic moves would risk further undermining the international consensus around solving the conflict, which largely supports the Palestinians’ goal of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
President Mahmoud Abbas appears determined to shore up international support. He is travelling to Cairo this week for meetings at the Arab League, and the Palestinians’ U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said Abbas plans to head to an African Union gathering and the U.N. Security Council within the next two weeks. Mansour said the Palestinians are consulting with council members about an as-yet-unwritten resolution — a text critical of the Trump plan would likely face a U.S. veto.
Small protests have been held in the West Bank and Gaza, but most Palestinians appear to have largely shrugged off the plan. Few Palestinians place any stock in American peace plans after decades of failed initiatives, and little is expected to change on the ground as Israel extends sovereignty over settlements it has long treated as an integral part of its territory.
“Nothing will change,” said Mahmoud Abu Anwar, a vegetable vendor in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israelis “are building on our land and they will keep building, with or without an American plan. … But we will remain here, no matter what they do to us.”
Over the long term, however, if Israel implements the plan, it appears far more likely to entrench a one-state reality — something both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have long rejected — than to lead to a negotiated solution.
“I prefer a Palestinian state, but if they want to annex our land, we don’t mind being citizens in Israel,” said Naseem al-Jahaleen, who lives in a small Palestinian farming community in the Jordan Valley, which Israel would be allowed to annex under the plan.
He said it might even improve things, if Israel grants residents citizenship and allows them to build freely. Palestinian residents of the area currently live under Israeli military rule, which imposes restrictions on construction and movement that do not apply to residents of nearby Jewish settlements.
The long-awaited Trump plan, which was unveiled Tuesday, would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.
In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority, something critics say would rob statehood of any meaning.