Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1379, (1 -7 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Not much to go on

In Davos, as in Addis Ababa, Palestinians have found little in the way of robust support, despite Trump’s incendiary Jerusalem decision, Dina Ezzat reports


Not much  to go on
Not much to go on

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) that opened its annual sessions in Davos Tuesday, 23 January, and at the African Summit that met for its twice-yearly convocation in Addis Ababa on Sunday 28 January, the fate of the Palestinian cause was on the agenda. However, little was forthcoming for the Palestinians, neither in Addis Ababa, where Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas addressed the congregation, nor in Davos where Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump met for talks on the issue.

“I would not say that we are gathering any new support, but I would say that we are sticking to our position and we are getting our point across – to some support and understanding,” said a Palestinian Authority (PA) official who spoke by phone.

According to this official, there is “nothing surprising about the current situation, but at least we could say that the Israeli positions, despite US support, are not getting wider sympathy, even at a time when Israel is, for example, making new headways in its relations with Africa.”

He added that the joint statements of Netanyahu and Trump in Davos were not well received, “and this is a positive thing”.

In Davos, Trump and Netanyahu met for talks that covered a wide range of issues including possible Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a possible proposal that the US is planning to put across sometime later this year.

In Davos, Trump said that Washington has “a great proposal to offer” for the Palestinians. However, he criticised the Palestinians for “not showing respect” to the US that is giving them generous aid and “money on the table”, and that Washington would cut off this aid if the Palestinians were to dismiss the proposal currently being drafted by the US.

Trump said that the Palestinians made a grave mistake when they declined to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence during his Middle East tour last week. He insisted that the Palestinians need to open up if they wish to see things moving forward.

“What the Americans, and some of our Arab friends and brothers, wish for us to do is to agree to a deal that we cannot take – not even with very generous development packages that are being promised from Washington and some Arab Gulf states. This was something that President Abbas made clear during his talks in Addis Ababa this week.”

According to this official, at the African Union Abbas repeatedly reminded his African interlocutors, including Arab-African leaders he met, that he cannot “under any circumstances” agree to a “disconnected and decapitated” Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. This position has been firmed by the decision Trump took late last year to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in contradiction to the basis of all peace negotiations since their onset at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1990.

In Davos, Netanyahu, following talks with Trump, said that Israel does not want the Palestinians to be its subjects, but would not allow the Palestinians to have power that could threaten Israel in any way. Netanyahu insisted that Jerusalem is not on the table for discussion, especially after the Trump decision.

The “two-state solution” met no serious support — certainly not in Davos, but also not so much in Addis Ababa.

Following talks with Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is still supportive of the two-state solution. However, King Abdullah of Jordan, one of the very few Arab leaders present in Davos this year, said that it is becoming clear that even when people talk about the “two-state solution” they are not talking about the same thing.

In Addis Ababa, Abbas appealed to African leaders to resist pressure to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem following the announced position of the US on the matter. Last week in Jerusalem, US Vice President Pence said that the US is planning to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “the united capital of Israel”, before the end of 2019.

In Addis Ababa, Abbas said the US cannot continue to be the broker of possible peace negotiations. He insisted that there is a need for an international umbrella for any peace talks. He called on Africa to be part of any future efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

In his statement before the African Union Summit, however, Abbas floated a new idea: “We want Jerusalem to be an open city for [followers] of all religions.”

This, the Palestinian official said, is “not exactly something new; it is about the concept of the city, rather than the possible administrative right of a Palestinian state. It is, however, a realisation of the limitations of the kind of support that we expect from the world at this moment in time.”

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