When it comes to setting his administration’s policy on Palestine and the peace process, United States President Donald Trump seems intent on adding injury to insult with a pair of tweets that threaten to withdraw his nation’s funding for United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees. This move follows his decision in early December to break with long-standing diplomatic protocols, ignore decades of political thinking and singularly recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The tweets follow a late-night vote in the Knesset on Tuesday that endorsed Trump’s recognition, and so far, only Guatemala has followed suit with Washington’s abrupt and ill-advised change in policy. It’s a move that has been roundly condemned by both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. If Trump is intent on following through on the threat of his tweets, it would represent the maximum diversion yet by Washington from consistent and coordinated policies across nations that support Palestinians uprooted and spread across the neighbouring region since 1948.
Trump’s indication was that the withdrawal of funds would occur because there was no appreciation by Palestinians for his recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the sole capital of Israel. It’s hard to draw a modern-day allegory, but seems rather like chastising the US for not appreciating British red coats when they burnt down the White House during the war of 1812, or the French not cheering German paratroopers when they marched down the Champs Elysee in Paris in 1940.
In his previous life before the Oval Office, Trump may have enjoyed success in the boardroom, but international diplomacy and political science are not the stuff of balance sheets and share pricing. And there are issues where money means nothing and principles cannot be bought. From 1948 onwards, through wars and decades of illegal occupation, repression and now grievous ignorance and insult, Palestinians from 1948 areas and what now remains, have always resisted. UNRWA has always been there to support and assist and if US funds are withdrawn, there are other nations who are only too willing to assist the Palestinians’ cause and their Arab brothers.
For all intents and purposes, the US policy now on Palestine is an unmitigated disaster, muddled, confused and dangerously myopic. Washington is no friend of Palestine nor the Palestinian people. Thankfully, the rest of the world — except for Guatemala — sees it clearly.