Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest Trump’s ‘transfer plan’

Palestinian citizens of Israel protest in Baqa al-Gharbiyye against Trump's proposal to redraw Israel's boundaries, which could strip citizenship from over 200,000 people.

Palestinian citizens of Israel protest Trump's 'Deal of the Century' in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, February 1, 2020. (Oren Ziv)
Palestinian citizens of Israel protest Trump's 'Deal of the Century' in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, February 1, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Over 2,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated Saturday in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye against U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” which could see the population transfer of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the “Triangle” region in central Israel to a future Palestinian state.

The protest, organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and the Baqa al-Gharbiyye municipality, came days after the release of Trump’s plan, which included a clause that proposes redrawing Israel’s borders so that cities, towns, and villages in the Triangle — home to over 200,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel — would no longer be part of Israel.

“Netanyahu will pass, Trump will pass, and we will remain here,” said MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List, himself a resident of Taybeh, a city that is also expected to be transferred to Palestine under Trump’s plan.

Tibi told the crowd that Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, whom Tibi referred to as “one of the most dangerous people,” deliberately included the clause in order to decrease the number of Palestinians who can vote in the Israeli elections. “I heard from right-wing Knesset members who told me directly: if only we could get rid of you so you could not vote,” Tibi said.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest Trump's 'transfer plan'
Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protest Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, February 1, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen, who hails from Umm al-Fahm, also located in the Triangle, said that everyone in his hometown is talking about the plan, but they are unclear whether to treat it seriously or as a joke. “On the one hand people treat it with a kind of irony. On the other hand, there is a real concern that it will have an effect on people’s consciousness, because this appears on an official American document.”

Despite the relatively small number of participants, the organizers were pleased with the attendance, given that the time to mobilize it was short and that no shuttles to the demonstration were available.

Jabareen estimated that the Trump Plan, and in particular the transfer clause, would increase voter turnout among Palestinian citizens. Fellow Joint List MK Sami Abu Shehadeh said the timing of the plan was no accident. “The goal was to support Netanyahu, but this time he will lose because of the Arab vote.”

The protest also revealed the divide within the Joint List regarding their relationship with the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz. While Joint List head Ayman Odeh recommended Gantz for prime minister in the September election, Gantz’s announcement last week that he would bring the Trump peace plan to a vote in the Knesset has changed everything.

MK Mansour Abbas, who represents the Islamic Ra’am party, said on Saturday that the Joint List would see what Gantz’s real positions are after the upcoming elections, to be held on March 2. Jabareen was less sanguine. “If Blue and White do not wake up and block the plan, it will decrease any chance of cooperation and recommendation.”

Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest Trump's 'transfer plan'
MK Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint List) delivers a speech during a protest by Israeli left-wing organizations against Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century,” central Tel Aviv, February 2, 2020. (Keren Manor/

Adel Amer, the secretary general of the Israeli Communist Party, was even more resolved. In September, said Amer, “I pushed with all my strength to recommend Gantz. Now I will oppose it.” Amer, a resident of Kafr Qassem, also a part of the Triangle, said that the plan is also being widely discussed — and ridiculed — in his city. “There’s a lot of joking and disparaging. Someone made a photo-montage of a checkpoint at the entry to Kafr Qassem. It makes me worry. We must not belittle this issue.”

Meanwhile, over a thousand Israelis and Palestinians marched in central Tel Aviv during a protest organized by a host of left-wing organizations, including Peace Now, Standing Together, and Breaking the Silence. The demonstration included speeches by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who called Trump’s plan to deny citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians an “insane, chilling, and disturbing idea” that cannot be ignored.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman told the crowd that she now knew what it felt like “before the Nakba in 1948, [that] something bad is about to happen.” Yet Touma-Suleiman remained optimistic, saying that while Trump has “power and money,” the Palestinians have justice on their side.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest Trump's 'transfer plan'
A Palestinian man rides his bike along the Separation Wall in the city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, in northern Israel, February 1, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Back in Baqa al-Gharbiyye, just before the protest began, Ahmad, a resident of the West Bank hamlet of Nizlat Issa, stood near the separation wall. The wall cuts off his village from the land that remained on the “Israeli” side of the wall, in Baqa al-Gharbiyye. The villagers are given special permits that allow them entry to their land only, barring them from traveling inside Israel.

“Will they destroy the wall and connect the triangle to the West Bank?” Ahmed asked. He did not join the demonstration in Baqa, and instead went to work on his land.