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Palestinian protesters carry coffin for Trump's 'deal of the century'

Thousands protest in the West Bank ahead of US-backed Bahrain workshop on the Palestinian economy
Palestinian protesters carry a black coffin with the words "the deal of the century" and the "decisions of the Arab League" (MEE/Shatha Hammad)
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Ramallah, Occupied West Bank

Thousands of Palestinians protested on Monday in towns and cities in the occupied West Bank against the US-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity” meeting in the Bahraini capital of Manama which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have strongly condemned the meeting and urged Arab states not to send representatives to Manama.

Protesters in the cities of Ramallah, Tulkarm, Hebron, Nablus and Bethlehem linked the Manama meeting to US efforts to sell President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” peace plan to its Arab allies in the Gulf, despite Palestinian opposition to the process.

They carried posters saying "No to the ominous Bahrain workshop" and carried a black coffin that represents the "deal of the century" and the "decisions of the Arab League".

Ramallah protests
A Palestinian protester carrying a poster saying "No to the ominous Bahrain workshop" in Ramallah (MEE/Shatha Hammad)

Critics have lambasted the US president's initiative, saying it is heavily biased in favour of the Israelis. Many see it as already being implemented on the ground in favour of Israel through US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israel's annexation of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Still, several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco, have said they will attend the meeting, where the US is expected to pitch a raft of economic incentives aimed at enticing Palestinian leaders and regional powers to engage with the US and Israel.

But Palestinians fear the process could lead to an erosion of their political rights, especially the right of return to refugees and East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Protest in Ramallah

In the city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, about 2,000 Palestinians protested at the Israeli military checkpoint Beit El, where clashes followed with the Israeli army which fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas at the crowds.  

Wasil Abu Yousef, the head of the PLO’s Popular Organisation Department, participating in the protest told Middle East Eye that the mass marches in different Palestinian towns symbolised the unity of the Palestinian people.

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“The Palestinian people reject the deal of the century and reject the Manama workshop and all its outcomes. The Palestinian leadership refuses the Arab participation in the conference and considers it as normalisation with the Israeli occupation,” Abu Yousef said.

He added that the “Manama workshop will fail,” noting that the meeting would create a “division between the Arab states and the PA.”

Mustafa al-Barghouti, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative Movement, told MEE that the Manama meeting was “an isolated conference trying to promote a big lie in the name of economic development."

“Economic development in Palestine cannot be done without control over borders, resources, water, exports and freedom of movement,” which Israel has full control over in the West Bank, he said.

Barghouti said that one of the Manama meeting's aims is to settle the Palestinian refugees’ right of return at the expense of Arab states, “who would pay for it, and then terminate UNRWA, the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees and was established after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war for that purpose.

“The Palestinian people do not allow anyone to deprive them of the right to represent themselves, nor will anyone be allowed to speak on their behalf. Thus, we also reject the deal of the century, in which there is no Palestinian representation,” Barghouti said.

PA and Hamas reject Manama

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told a cabinet meeting on Monday: “This economic workshop in Bahrain is going to be nonsense.”

"What Israel and the US are trying to do now is simply to normalise relations with the Arabs at the expense of the Palestinians."

PA President Mahmoud Abbas also said that “Palestinians will not be slaves or servants" of Trump and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor.

"For America to turn the whole cause from a political issue into an economic one, we cannot accept this," Abbas said.

In Gaza, Hamas official Ismail Rudwan also rejected Kushner's proposals, in a rare moment of agreement with the PA.

"We reject the 'deal of the century', and all its dimensions, the economic, the political and the security dimensions," Rudwan told Reuters on Saturday.

"The issue of our Palestinian people is a nationalistic issue; it is the issue of a people who are seeking to be free from occupation. Palestine isn't for sale, and it is not an issue for bargaining. Palestine is sacred land and there is no option for the occupation except to leave," he said.

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