By Hossam Shaker
The US President’s announcement not only had an effect within the boundary of Jerusalem, which he handed over with arrogance and audacity to Benjamin Netanyahu. Donald Trump appeared on television screens around the world yesterday and also confirmed the death of the so-called Middle East peace process, launched in Madrid in 1991.
He mocked former presidents for failing to do what he is now “delivering”, and considers their strategies to have failed. Trump used the word “new” repeatedly in his speech, stressing that he will depart from the policies of previous administrations with regards to the Palestinian cause and Middle East. However, what exactly will he do?
Well, he suggested that he will leave the negotiations to the Palestinians and Israelis to deal with themselves, if they want to, and that he will not interfere to impose pressure for the so-called two-state solution. This means that he will not make any efforts to establish a Palestinian state; that the Palestinian people will have to reach an understanding on their own with a government which is occupying their country and imposing a military hegemony; and they shouldn’t expect any support from Washington.
The tenant of the White House once said that he would only support the two-state peace process if the Palestinian and Israeli sides adhere to it. What if they did not want to? There would be only one state occupying the other, which is the status quo.
This is Trump’s way of misleading the world. He is well-aware that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be celebrating the fall of the two-state solution with his extremist right-wing team, and that Jerusalem is the gift sent to him by Washington DC, packaged in a fancy box wrapped in the Israeli flag. The situation seems very bleak to the Palestinian people, who have been reminded recently of British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour giving Palestine to the Zionist movement exactly 100 years ago, as a “national home for the Jewish people”.
Yesterday’s events will remain as a pivotal event in the history of Palestine and the region. Trump has basically brought the era of negotiations to a close. Although the peace process actually died a long time ago, and everyone knew it, nobody would admit it openly until Trump came along and did just that.
Over the past 25 years, American and European leaders have sold an illusion to the deluded Palestinian people by assuring them that negotiations would lead to a Palestinian state and that Jerusalem would be left to the final status negotiations. Now Trump is imposing a final settlement by declaring that Jerusalem belongs to the Israeli occupation authorities and burying the two-state solution, in one fell swoop.
The Trump administration is aware of how dangerous the President’s actions are, regardless of whether they were motivated by a pre-planned strategic vision or by personal interests, or both. He urged the two parties to stay calm, which is exactly what a killer would say to their victim as they hold the knife to their throat.
The US leader delivered a blow to the Arab leaders who misled their nations for many years, convincing them that negotiations under American auspices were the only strategic option to achieve a “fair and comprehensive solution”. After being dealt this blow, Mahmoud Abbas addressed his people, with his head down. The pioneers of the Arab Peace Initiative did not dare address their people after the blows they were dealt by Trump, and many are likely to have colluded with him in exchange for US assistance to preserve their positions.
The lack of potential for a peace agreement simply means that there is no longer any use for the Palestinian Authority, which can only hope to improve the nature of its rule under occupation, without actual independence or sovereignty.
The PA, though, will have to play the role of a rigid security service for its Israeli masters who have control over most of the land, natural resources, border crossings and military personnel. The authority must repress its people, ban any resistance to the occupation, curb popular uprisings and deal with the seizure of Jerusalem and escalated settlement activity. There is no doubt that the search is underway for a Palestinian president who is willing to play this role as and when the exhausted Mahmoud Abbas steps down; he has failed to deliver on all his political promises to establish a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital through negotiations. Meanwhile, in the shadows, a game of repetitive blackmail of the PA continues, with hints at reductions in US funding. Ramallah must now surrender; it will suffer more, and more often, if it refuses to comply with Trump’s “new” concept.
However, there are voices growing louder within the Palestinian arena, calling for the table to be turned on all of the gamblers. The easiest way to do this is for PA officials to resign en masse and cause a sudden leadership vacuum, which can be achieved even without requiring the complete dissolution of the authority. Perhaps the world will then see and understand how reckless Trump has pushed the country to the brink, and the White House will have to bear the consequences of its critical action.