The fifth session, held on the second day of the 12th Al Jazeera Forum, 29 April 2018, was dedicated to the Palestinian issue in the context of the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as the “deal of the century”.
This session featured Ilan Pappe, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter; Mohsen Saleh, Director General of Al-Zaytouna Center for Studies in Beirut; Hani Al-Masri, Director General and Co-Founder of the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat); Sari Orabi, Writer and Researcher in Arab and Islamic affairs (via satellite); and Ibrahim Fraihat, Professor of International Conflict Resolution at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies and Georgetown University.
In his presentation, Saleh said that the idea of a two-state solution has collapsed completely, explaining that the Palestinian Authority has now become an entity that serves the occupying state more than it serves the interests of the Palestinian people. Hence, he said, there is no prospect of an independent Palestinian state. He maintained that the Palestinian and Arab climate has encouraged the “deal of the century” greatly, and revealed that the term is an old one and was unveiled by several officials. In addition, he maintained the “deal of the century” does not include any references to the issue of Jerusalem, the future of the Palestinian state or the return of refugees, "which is proof that we are faced with the liquidation, rather than settlement, of the Palestinian issue."
On his part, Fraihat affirmed that some people refer to the “deal of the century” as the new Balfour Declaration. However, "I think it is more than that, it is a new Camp David,” he said, “similar to the one that removed Egypt from the equation of the Arab-Palestinian struggle,” thus creating imbalances and thwarting attempts to provide feasible solutions.
“The deal of the century is an investment in the current state of affairs in the Arab region,” said Orabi, “especially after the failure of settlement, which was based on Israeli interests and due to power imbalances in the Arab world.”
On his part, Hani al-Masri said that the “deal of the century” entails the cancellation of the Jerusalem issue, the transfer of the US Embassy to a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the adoption of the Zionist narrative and the demand of Arabs’ acceptance of it, and recognition of the settlements and the occupation of 60% of the West Bank, alongside the adoption of the narrative of self-government with no mention of the Palestinian state. He affirmed that the Palestinian entity will remain in Gaza Strip, where "no substantial change has been made for a reconciliation that awaits a formal declaration of death."
Pappe alluded to the decision to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem, saying, “President Donald Trump did not deviate from the traditional US policy toward the Palestinian issue.” He explained that this policy towards Palestine is based on three principles: firstly, that the United States is the only mediator that can enforce peace [between Israel and the Palestinians]; secondly, that the United States is a biased and supportive mediator for Israel; and thirdly, that a two-state solution is subject to Israeli interpretation with total disregard of the Palestinians’ right of return or their right to Jerusalem as their capital in addition to Israel's control of vast areas of the Palestinian territories, whether directly or indirectly.