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Palestinian women at Shatila refugee camp in Beirut vent their anger at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, on Jan. 29, 2020.

Adrienne Surprenant/Item/The Globe and Mail

For decades, the one thing Palestinians felt they had in their corner as they battled for international recognition was the support of a unified Arab world. Many Palestinians now fear that’s disappeared, alongside their dreams of having a state of their own.

Palestinians vented their anger on Wednesday at U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which aims to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict almost completely on Israel’s terms. Still, Mr. Trump’s allegiances came as no surprise, and some of the bitterness was reserved for the leaders of Arab states that Palestinians see as quietly going along with the designs of the U.S. President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump’s Mideast peace plan draws praise from Netanyahu, ire from Palestinians

In Lebanon’s Shatila refugee camp – crowded with four generations of Palestinian refugees who have never visited the land they call home – there was a sense that Saudi Arabia and its allies had deserted the Palestinian cause.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

In Lebanon’s Shatila refugee camp – crowded with four generations of Palestinian refugees who have never visited the land they call home – there was a sense that Saudi Arabia and its allies had deserted the Palestinian cause.

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Khaled Abu Nour, a 55-year-old who has lived in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon all his life. He singled Saudi Arabia out for special scorn: 'Without their backing, Trump would never have been able to do what he did.'

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

“The Arab nations gave Trump the backing to be able to do what he did,” said Khaled Abu Nour, a 55-year-old who has lived in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon all his life. He singled Saudi Arabia out for special scorn: “Without their backing, Trump would never have been able to do what he did."

Several hundred Palestinians marched through the narrow streets of Shatila – where an estimated 20,000 people live in just one square kilometre – yelling insults about Mr. Trump and singing that his plan would fail. There were chants about the need for another uprising or intifada. American and Israeli flags were burned at similar rallies in the Gaza Strip, and several Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank.

But there appears to be little Palestinians can do as Israel prepares to annex more land that Palestinians hoped would be part of their future state.

U.S. backs Israel on settlements

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed a plan that would create a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank but would allow Israel to annex nearly all of its settlements in the occupied territory. The plan also includes a tunnel that would connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and infrastructure in the Negev, the desert region south of Gaza.

1949 Armistice Lines, known as the Green Line, separated the Israeli from the Jordanian-held territories

AreaS ‘A’ and ‘b’

Area A: Controlled by Palestinian Authority, Area B: Under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli/PA security control

Area ‘c’

Controlled by Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley, announced before the September, 2019, election

Israeli settlements backed by the U.S.

River Jordan

West Bank

Nablus

East Jerusalem

Palestinians see it as the capital of their future state

No Man’s Land

Ramallah

Jericho

Jerusalem

Bethlehem

Dead

Sea

Hebron

Occupied Golan Heights

U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty

Mediterranean

Sea

SYRIA

UN buffer zone

WEST

BANK

GAZA

STRIP

1

ISRAEL

2

3

JORDAN

EGYPT

Proposed Palestinian infrastructure

West Bank-Gaza tunnel

1

2

High-tech manufacturing industrial area

Residential and agricultural area

3

Note: Part of the western boundary of the proposed annexation is defined by the Allon Road. The remaining exact boundaries are unknown.

SOURCE: REUTERS; U.S. GOVERNMENT

U.S. backs Israel on settlements

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed a plan that would create a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank but would allow Israel to annex nearly all of its settlements in the occupied territory. The plan also includes a tunnel that would connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and infrastructure in the Negev, the desert region south of Gaza.

1949 Armistice Lines, known as the Green Line, separated the Israeli from the Jordanian-held territories

AreaS ‘A’ and ‘b’

Area A: Controlled by Palestinian Authority, Area B: Under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli/PA security control

Area ‘c’

Controlled by Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley, announced before the September, 2019, election

Israeli settlements backed by the U.S.

River Jordan

West Bank

Nablus

East Jerusalem

Palestinians see it as the capital of their future state

No Man’s Land

Ramallah

Jericho

Jerusalem

Bethlehem

Dead

Sea

Hebron

Occupied Golan Heights

U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty

Mediterranean

Sea

SYRIA

UN buffer zone

WEST

BANK

GAZA

STRIP

1

ISRAEL

2

3

JORDAN

EGYPT

Proposed Palestinian infrastructure

West Bank-Gaza tunnel

1

2

High-tech manufacturing industrial area

Residential and agricultural area

3

Note: Part of the western boundary of the proposed annexation is defined by the Allon Road. The remaining exact boundaries are unknown.

SOURCE: REUTERS; U.S. GOVERNMENT

U.S. backs Israel on settlements

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday proposed a plan that would create a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank but would allow Israel to annex nearly all of its settlements in the occupied territory. The plan also includes a tunnel that would connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and infrastructure in the Negev, the desert region south of Gaza.

1949 Armistice Lines, known as the Green Line, separated the Israeli from the Jordanian-held territories

Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley, announced before the September, 2019, election

Israeli settlements

backed by the U.S.

AreaS ‘A’ and ‘b’

Area A: Controlled by Palestinian Authority, Area B: Under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli/PA security control

River Jordan

West Bank

Nablus

Area ‘c’

Controlled

by Israel

Ramallah

No Man’s Land

Jericho

East Jerusalem

Palestinians see it as the capital of their future state

Jerusalem

Bethlehem

Dead

Sea

Hebron

Note: Part of the western boundary of the proposed annexation is defined by the Allon Road. The remaining exact boundaries are unknown.

Occupied Golan Heights

U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty

Mediterranean

Sea

SYRIA

Proposed Palestinian infrastructure

WEST BANK

UN buffer zone

1

West Bank-Gaza tunnel

GAZA STRIP

High-tech manufacturing industrial area

2

1

Residential and agricultural area

3

2

ISRAEL

3

JORDAN

EGYPT

SOURCE: REUTERS; U.S. GOVERNMENT

Few Palestinians had harboured any hope that Mr. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner would produce a peace offer they would consider fair. What disappointed them was watching support for the Palestinian cause – once something that unified the entire Arab world, from Iraq to Morocco – crumble on Tuesday as worries about Iran mount.

Wafa Sukkar, a 63-year-old mother of eight, grandmother of 44 and great-grandmother of 25, in her home at the Shatila refugee camp.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

“They sold us out – the Saudis, before anybody,” said Wafa Sukkar, a 63-year-old resident of Shatila who is the matron of a sprawling family of eight children, 44 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. “I hope it comes back to bite them.”

The ambassadors of Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates were present in the White House on Tuesday as Mr. Trump rolled out his plan with a beaming Mr. Netanyahu at his side. Dubbed “Peace to Prosperity,” the blueprint closely resembles the platform of Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.

The plan clears the way for Israel to retain nearly all of Jerusalem as its capital – dismissing Palestinian claims to the eastern half of the city – and allows Israel to annex much of the territory that it captured in a 1967 war. The proposal also closes the door on the five million Palestinian refugees who live scattered around the Middle East in camps such as Shatila ever being allowed to return to the homes that their families fled after the 1948 creation of Israel.

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A young man chants anti-Trump slogans during a protest in reaction to Trump's declarations.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

Mr. Trump’s vision does provide for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but only if stringent criteria – including the disarmament of the militant Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip – are met within a four-year time frame. Israel would maintain security control over the entire area even after the theoretical new state is born.

While Saudi Arabia did not attend the White House event, it quickly expressed its support for Mr. Trump’s efforts. “The Kingdom appreciates the efforts of President Trump’s Administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and Israeli sides; and encourages the start of direct peace negotiation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides under the auspices of the United States,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on its Twitter account.

The words were measured, but nonetheless represented a massive shift in the kingdom’s long-held position toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s vision does provide for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but only if stringent criteria are met within a four-year time frame.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

Saudi Arabia has never recognized the state of Israel, and played a key role in the 1973 oil crisis, which saw Riyadh and its allies stop the sale of oil to countries – including Canada and the U.S. – that it saw as backing the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia’s own peace proposal – released in 2002 and sponsored by the late King Abdullah – calls for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, and to allow for the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, in exchange for recognition by the entire Arab world.

Since King Abdullah’s death in 2015 – and the ascension of King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – Saudi Arabia has become less concerned with the Israel-Palestinian issue. Instead, the House of Saud finds itself in quiet alliance with Israel and the U.S. as all three countries look for ways to counter the rising regional influence of Iran.

It was Iran that took the strongest pro-Palestinian stance on Wednesday, with the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, lambasting Mr. Trump’s proposal as “satanic” and vowing that it would never be implemented. “We Muslims need to wake up: The U.S. never was – and can never be – anything resembling an honest broker,” Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

It was Iran that took the strongest pro-Palestinian stance on Wednesday.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

But in Sunni Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, Iran – which sponsors Shia Muslim militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen that are loyal to Tehran, rather than the local governments – is now seen as a greater threat than Israel.

“There is a U.S.-Saudi alliance to contain Iran … Israel is part of this axis in an undeclared way,” said Imad Salamey, an associate professor of international affairs at Lebanese American University. A key turning point for the region, Prof. Salamey said, has been Syria’s civil war, where pro-Iranian militias have helped President Bashar al-Assad’s regime prevail in a brutal conflict against predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels.

At least 500,000 people have been killed, and millions more driven from their homes, in the nine-year-old conflict. “The Palestinian issue has lost a lot of steam because of what happened in Syria,” Prof. Salamey said. “Israel never did to the Palestinians what Syria did to its Sunni citizens.”

Hamad Hasaneen, a 46-year-old motorcycle repairman whose shop in Shatila is plastered with photos of his brother Hassan, who died fighting Israel in southern Lebanon two decades ago.

Adrienne Surprenant/Item/The Globe and Mail

In Shatila camp, the dream of living in a Palestinian state – which briefly seemed realistic under the Oslo and Camp David peace processes overseen by former U.S. president Bill Clinton – now seems as distant as ever. The deal that nearly happened at Camp David in 2000, but which crumbled over disagreements on issues such as Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return, now looks like a far better fate than what Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu are proposing.

“Since the day we were born, everything has gotten worse for Palestinians,” said Hamad Hasaneen, a 46-year-old motorcycle repairman whose shop in Shatila is plastered with photos of his brother Hassan, who died fighting Israel in southern Lebanon two decades ago, as well as posters of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. “The American presidents always support Israel … and each time they come up with something that’s less possible for us to accept.”

Children at the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp take part in the protest in reaction to Trump's declarations, on Jan. 29, 2020.

Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif/adriennesurprenant.com / collect

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this map incorrectly said Area B is controlled by Palestinian Authority. This version has been corrected.
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