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For Palestinians, America was Never an Honest Broker

posted on: Sep 14, 2018

The Trump administration’s policies don’t represent a radical shift. The White House has simply abandoned the facade of neutrality and rubber-stamped the Israeli government’s agenda.

For Palestinians, America was Never an Honest Broker

SOURCE: FOREIGN POLICY

BY: DALIA HATUQA

For decades, Palestinian leaders have engaged in a rigged peace process, seeking to force the international community’s blueprint for a Palestinian state onto the population of the West Bank and Gaza. The United States, meanwhile, has sought to maintain the fiction that it is an honest broker and neutral mediator.

The Trump administration has finally dropped that mask, revealing Washington’s true colors. As offensive as the pro-Israel mantras emanating from the White House may be for Palestinians, it is a clarifying moment.

As offensive as the pro-Israel mantras emanating from the White House may be for Palestinians, it is a clarifying moment.

Since 1967, the Palestinians have tried everything to free themselves from Israel’s brutal occupation. They tried armed resistance, which got them exiled from Arab states, paving the way for the Oslo Accords; they tried unarmed resistance, which got them media coverage but also jail time; they tried neoliberal economics, which got them aid money and nice cafes in Ramallah; and they tried diplomacy, joining international organizations and United Nations bodies as a state, which got them threats from Israel and the United States.

Washington has long brokered peace negotiations under the flawed premise of two equal sides vying for the same piece of land. When President Donald Trump came to power, many Palestinian officials viewed him with guarded eagerness, holding out hope that his unpredictable shoot-from-the-hip style could translate into a win for them. They could not have been more wrong.

When rumors began emerging that Trump actually did plan on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in support of Israel claiming the city as its “undivided capital,” there were murmurs that he would also open a U.S. Embassy somewhere in East Jerusalem. But there was no twin embassy opened. Instead, there was a triumphalist ceremony headlined by Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, four Republican senators, and, oddly, Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary. Just 60 miles away, in the Gaza Strip, protests erupted over the move, where 58 unarmed demonstrators were killed and over 2,000 others were injured by the Israeli army.

Then, on Aug. 31, the Trump administration went after the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees. The United States has long been a lifeline for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), but the administration cut all aid to it, calling it “irredeemably flawed” and “unsustainable.”

The final straw was the closure of the PLO representative office in Washington earlier this week on the grounds that Palestinian leaders had failed to advance final status negotiations with Israel while seeking the prosecution of Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In fact, the Trump administration has been working hard to settle the final status issues—borders, Jerusalem, and the refugees—in Israel’s favor. The only hurdle they have faced is finding a way to bully the Palestinians into acceptance.

The White House has made clear that it is willing to weaponize aid, and U.S. officials have not concealed the fact that they are seeking leverage over the Palestinians in order to force them to submit to Trump’s long-promised “deal of the century” peace plan.

U.S. officials have not concealed the fact that they are seeking leverage over the Palestinians in order to force them to submit to Trump’s long-promised “deal of the century” peace plan.

Palestinian officials are aghast. But ask the average Palestinian what they think and it might surprise you: Yes, the closure of the PLO office is a slap in the face. But this is not an aberration in U.S. policy—it is the logical conclusion of years of a pro-Israel orientation.

Without that historical basis, it wouldn’t have been so easy to defund UNRWA, move the embassy to Jerusalem, and close the PLO representative office. After all, the existence of the policies Trump has scrapped depended on waivers that were signed by previous administrations. All Trump had to do was refrain from signing them.

Israel has already carved out its borders through the 1948 and 1967 wars. Since then, it has built a wall, an intricate web of settlements, settler-only roads, and closed military zones in the West Bank that define every aspect of Palestinians’ lives.