Equally shocking to the actual details of Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, announced on January 28, is that some intelligent commentators on Palestine and Israel are genuinely surprised by it. The truth is Trump’s ‘deal’ is but a continuation of a dismal trajectory of unhindered US bias towards Israel that preceded Trump himself by decades.
As expected, Trump has handed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu everything that he and Israel have ever wanted. The Middle East Plan does not demand the uprooting of a single illegal Jewish colony and recognises [occupied] Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided’ capital. It speaks of a conditioned and disfigured Palestinian state that can only be achieved based on impossible constraints, rejects the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and doesn’t mention the word ‘occupation’ at all.
But what is exactly shocking about all of this? For decades, and especially since the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, Washington offered Israel unconditional, political, military and financial support at the expense of occupied and oppressed Palestinians.
The American ruling classes have aligned their interests, their perception of the Middle East and their country’s role in that region with that of Israel, thanks to years of media and official indoctrination.
The United States’ self-proclaimed title of ‘honest peace broker’ — which it has bestowed upon itself during the early phase of the ‘peace process’ in the 1990s — never fooled Palestinians, who understood that it is American funds and arms that have sustained the Israeli occupation all these years.
The ‘plan’ would be shocking, indeed, if the Trump administration had truly parted ways with its predecessors; in reality, it has not. If there has been any shift in US foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel under Trump, it is in style and language only. Trump has merely exposed the ugliness of his country’s conduct in the Middle East.
The ‘Deal of the Century’ has confirmed what many of us have argued for years: a just and peaceful future in Palestine and Israel cannot be achieved with Washington at the helm.
Just look at the latest US Congressional Bill, which passed with much enthusiasm by Democrats and Republicans on January 9, guaranteeing Israel yet more billions of dollars in US military and economic aid.
The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, was meant as an assurance to Tel Aviv that the United Sttaes is committed to Israel’s security and military superiority in the Middle East.
The maxim ‘What’s good for Israel is good for America’ continues to reign supreme among Washington’s political elites, despite the fact that such irrational thinking has wrought disasters on the Middle East region, and is finally forcing a hasty and humiliating American retreat.
If Israel defaults on its loans, it is the legal responsibility of the US government to offset the interests on the borrowed money.
The latest aid package to Israel will officially put into law a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’that was reached between Netanyahu’s right-wing government and Barack Obama’s administration in 2016. Obama had then offered Israel the largest military aid package in US history.
Senator Rubio explained the passing of the recent bill in terms of the ‘unprecedented threats’ that are supposedly faced by Israel.
Along with the ‘Deal of the Century’, the bill confirms that the blind US’ support of Israel is not motivated by a centralised American strategy, one that aims at serving US interests. Instead, the unconditional — and, often, self-defeating — American funding of the Israeli war machine is largely linked to domestic US politics and, indeed, the unparalleled power wielded by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.
According to the Public Policy Research Institute of the United States Congress, Congressional Research Centre (CRS), as of 2020, Israel has received the total sum of $142 billion (Dh521 billion) of American funds.
The vast majority of this funding — more than $101 billion — went directly to the Israeli military budget, while more than $34 billion and $7 billion were given to Israel in terms of economic aid and missile defence funding, respectively.
Ties based on mutual benefit
Inexplicably, Israel receives roughly “one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though [it] comprises just .001 per cent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes,” wrote Professor Stephen Zunes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
This massive budget includes much more than the $3.3 billion of annual funding, but other amounts and perks rarely make headlines. Anywhere between $500 million to $800 million are given to Israel every year as part of a missile defence package; approximately, an additional $1 billion benefits Israel in the form of tax-deductible donations, while $500 billion are invested in Israeli bonds.
Then there are the loan guarantees, where the US government assumes the responsibility for billions of dollars that Israel can access as a borrower from international creditors. If Israel defaults on its loans, it is the legal responsibility of the US government to offset the interests on the borrowed money.
US relations with Israel are not governed by the kind of political wisdom that is predicated on mutual benefit. But they are not entirely irrational either, as the American ruling classes have aligned their interests, their perception of the Middle East and their country’s role in that region with that of Israel, thanks to years of media and official indoctrination.
— Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net