Those naive Palestinians, along with other equally naive Arabs, who had expectations that United States President Donald Trump, during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, would not upend decades of American diplomacy by shelving the two-state solution, suddenly had to disabuse themselves of those expectations. What the businessman-turned-president has called his “ultimate deal” for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was a deal that, it now appears, had existed only in his fertile imagination.
Netanyahu, premier of what is now almost universally recognised as an unabashedly apartheid state, loves tumult. Thus he was delighted to land in Washington right in the middle of the meltdown of Trump’s White House, when national security adviser Michael Flynn (who had previously been dismissed from his post by former president Barack Obama at the Defence Intelligence Agency for erratic management) was being forced to resign after less than a month on the job. “That was an absolutely crazy time to hold a meeting with the president of the United States”, a long-time US ambassador to Israel told Politico.
But the meeting did take place as planned, where Netanyahu, it turns out, got the better of the new US dealer-in-chief, in whom he foundthe hawkish president Barack Obama never was, but a leader whose ambiguities — cryptic to the extreme — served Israel well. “So I’m looking at the two-state or one-state [solution]”, said the American president, standing alongside Netanyahu at a press conference in the White House. “I was thinking for a while that the two-state looked like the easier of the two. I’ll be happy with the one they like best,” Trump added.
And the colonies on occupied Palestinian land? “As for the settlements [colonies]”, he said, turning to his guest with a kind of engaging smile, “I would like to see you hold back on settlements [colonies] a bit.” He barely mentioned the Palestinians, except to berate them for “incitement” in their schools and for not recognising Israel as a “Jewish state”.
As president of the US, the man is clearly way over his head, evidenced by his shocking ignorance of what a one-state solution entailed — a democratic, secular state where in time Israel will cease being a “Jewish” entity. But compounding that naive grasp of the realities on the ground, he then indicated that perhaps, after all, it should be left to the Palestinians and Israelis alone to sort out “the ultimate deal”.
I don’t know if you were able to sort through these convoluted observations, but I sure as heck wasn’t. Yet, judging by Netanyahu’s reaction, you could tell it all translated for Israel as carte blanche to pursue its goals in the Occupied Territories, stealing, bit by bit, stealthy moment by stealthy moment, bulldozer by bulldozer, colony by colony, whatever is left of the Palestinian people’s ancestral land, like a worm devouring an apple from the inside.
But wait. All is not lost.
Netanyahu may feel that he knows, and can, with impressive ease, manipulate, the US, but neither history — the ultimate arbiter of all disputes — nor the international community, will be kind to Israel. History has a way about it of out-flanking those who go against its immutable imperatives, and people around the world have a way about them of getting angry when they feel they are being fooled.
“I know what America is”, Netanyahu told a group of colonists in Ofra as far back as 2001, displaying a bit of that entres nous smugness — call it chutzpah — when he’s speaking Hebrew to his followers, “America is a thing that can be easily moved, moved in the right direction. Americans will not bother us. Let’s suppose that they will say something, so they say it. Eighty per cent of Americans support us. We have such support there.”
That 80 per cent of Americans supported Israel would have been an exaggerated figure, 30, even 40 years ago. But today? Forget about it.
In that regard, consider the major PR blow this entity suffered last week after it emerged that only five of 11 National Football League (NFL) players turned up for an all-expenses paid trip to Israel organised to improve Israel’s image after the Israeli tourism minister claimed the players making the trip would serve as “ambassadors of goodwill for Israel”.
Michael Bennet, the Seahawks defensive end, for example, withdrew from the trip in protest at being “used” in such a way. In a social media post last week, Bennet wrote: “I was not aware that my trip was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purpose of making me an ‘opinion former’ who would be an ‘ambassador of goodwill’. I will not be used in such a manner. When I go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel, but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives. I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and I cannot do that by going on this kind of [a] trip to Israel.”
Israelis know what they want — an apartheid state, and they are doing their best to solidify its foundation. And the Palestinians also know what they want — independence and freedom in their own sovereign state on that remnant of their ancient patrimony. But the Palestinians cannot achieve that by waiting for Godot. They should get the stones out. They have allies all over the world who see Israel much in the manner that the world saw apartheid South Africa in the 1980s — a pariah state, reviled by anyone who values social justice, human dignity and freedom. And they see them as the injured part in the dispute.
The day will come, folks, when Israel will never know what hit it.
Fawaz Turki is a journalist, lecturer and author based in Washington. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile.