Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is right to reject American mediation. The United States has forfeited its role as a broker, let alone an honest broker in this 70-year-long conflict. President Trump’s Middle East “deal of the century” has turned out to be a mirage, an empty promise devoid of substance. Instead, he is going full steam ahead to bring the Palestinian people to their knees in the hope that they will be forced to accept any scraps off Israel’s table.
Unilaterally taking occupied East Jerusalem off that table as the capital of a future Palestinian state that was sealed with the controversial relocation of the American embassy was the White House’s major blow to a just peace.
The appointment of a rabidly pro-Israel Ambassador David Friedman and envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who both actively support Jewish colonisation of the West Bank, was an insult to every thinking person’s intelligence.
Throughout, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s darling, Nikki Haley, has been lashing out at the international body for what she calls its “double standards against Israel” and warning recipients of US aid that they had better support America’s interests in the UN or else lose their funding. “There won’t be any more free passes for those who bully Israel at the UN,” she said.
And just when one might imagine America’s blatant bias couldn’t possibly get any worse — it did. In June, the administration announced its exit from the UN Human Rights Council due to its “chronic bias against Israel”.
In January, the US cut its funding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees — the agency that cares for more than five million Palestinian refugees in terms of health care, education and welfare — by half. Now the tap has been turned off ostensibly because “the Palestinians continue to bash America”, says Haley. America has historically been the largest single donor to UNRWA, which is currently scrambling to meet its obligations. In fact, this action was taken as a prelude to America’s undermining of Palestinians’ status as refugees in order to negate their right of return. The Israeli paper, Hadashot News, reveals that US President Donald Trump is poised to declassify at least 4.5 million descendants of Palestinians forced out of their homeland in 1948 as refugees. Only those still alive who physically fled will be so designated and they number around a mere 20,000. The report further states that the administration plans to ask Israel to bar UNRWA’s presence on the West Bank.
It seems that Amman has come under pressure to revise the status of two million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan including 370,000 living in camps according to emails penned by Kushner obtained by Foreign Policy magazine.
“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” he wrote to his colleague Greenblatt, accusing the agency of perpetuating a status quo as well as being corrupt and inefficient.
There is only one conclusion to draw. The Trump White House has not one ounce of compassion for a people who have struggled against occupation, oppression, separation and daily humiliation since most were born. The rights of Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity enshrined in international law, the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions are being trampled upon one by one, as America’s allies impotently turn their faces.
The Palestinian National Authority has been playing by America’s rule book for far too long and gained nothing. Former US president Bill Clinton was sincere, but his term ended at an inopportune moment just when Taba talks were bearing fruit. Another former president George W. Bush paid lip service to a Palestinian state to gain support for the invasion of Iraq with his roadmap to nowhere. Former president Barack Obama condemned Israel’s colony expansion and pledged there would be a Palestinian state on his watch, but failed to show his teeth.
Trump doesn’t bother pretending. He has single-handedly overturned decades of US foreign policy by openly jumping into the Israeli camp gaining adulation from his evangelical base. But Abbas will not be bullied and even if Trump does his worst he can never erase the legitimate rights of the most stoic, determined and patient people on earth who will still be fighting for justice long after he’s moved on.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.