Witnessing Donald Trump’s election victory last week reminded me of the days 16 years ago, when the world first learned of then President Bush’s election victory. Back then, many pundits believed that Bush’s presidency would mark a change away from the failed politics of president Bill Clinton and a peace process that was strong on process and weak on peace. Palestinian leaders oddly “welcomed” Bush’s election, likely thinking that Bush would walk in the footsteps of his father George H.W. Bush and likely put the brakes on Israel’s continued colony expansion and that we would no longer be saddled by the pro-Israel White House cadre aptly labelled “Israel’s lawyers.”
And now, with a Trump presidency we see much of the same: a Palestinian leader “welcoming” a Trump presidency and pundits telling us that Trump may not be as bad for Palestinians as we know to be true.
Yet, history demonstrated that such “welcoming” only brought demise: within the first Bush term, it was clear that he would give Israel a green light to carry out its war crimes. Whether supporting the invasion of the West Bank, the repeated bombing of the Gaza Strip, the continued colony expansion and later the letter to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon accommodating Israel’s illegal colonies, Bush’s policies would have devastating consequences to Palestinians. By his second term, Palestinians soon turned their sights to believing that a second-term president would suddenly do right by Palestinians. Of course, that was hardly the case.
With President Barack Obama’s election, we once again witnessed the same useless optimism: a Palestinian leadership that believed that Obama would undo the new disastrous policy toward Palestine, oblivious to the fact that Obama would never stand up to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and the pro-Israel lobby. And, with his re-election, this same useless optimism emerged: a belief that Obama would, in his final hours finally do something he failed to do in his 8 years of office. Of course, with a Palestinian leadership that is unwilling to demonstrate that it is capable to doing anything other than grab power, terrified of the prospects of succession, halting elections and crushing any dissent, it is highly unlikely that Obama can or will do anything in his final two months of power.
And so we must face a Trump presidency. And once again, we are told that Trump will be different on Palestine. Owing to the fact that he is not saddled by Republican party politics, he will be able to behave boldly, finally putting an end to Israel’s 50 year denial of Palestinian freedom. Others have tried to persuade me that a Trump presidency will finally put an end to the asinine notion of a “two-state solution” — something that would have never brought justice to Palestinians – and instead make the one-state reality even closer.
But neither of these false hopes have any bearing in reality: to begin, Trump has already surrounded himself with Zionist ideologues who have defied international law and logic by stating that Israel’s colonies are not illegal; he has indicated that he will move the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem, in contravention of US and world policy; and has praised Israel’s racism as a model for appropriate behaviour world-wide.
While he is not saddled by the Republican party’s pro-Israel stance, he is infused with Zionism and racist ideology that will never defy Israel. This is not a man who will stand up to Israel — he will embolden it.
Israel’s racism has reached new heights over the past few years. Members of Knesset openly speak about ethnically cleansing Palestinians or of mass murder of Palestinians. Now, with a Trump presidency these beliefs will not only become commonplace but real.
This is not going to lead to the “one-state” solution that Palestinians speak of — but of an unfurling of further racism that Palestinians have yet to witness. This is not to state that a Clinton presidency would have been any less harmful: she too is an ardent Zionist who believes in the false charade of bilateral negotiations while allowing Israel to continue stealing Palestinian land.
Palestinian leaders should not be “welcoming” a Trump presidency but be preparing for the onslaught that is about to come. Hiding behind false hopes of “change” or placing faith in the final hours of an Obama presidency will not bring any relief to the millions who have lived under Israel’s oppressive military rule, its tightening siege and blockade and its open racism. Instead of focusing its energy on effectively challenging Israel’s military rule — united — this Palestinian leadership seeks merely to tighten its grip and quash dissent. And for that, a Trump presidency is perfect.
— Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.