Donald Trump: Palestine’s Unlikely Ally – OpEd


The trend toward Palestinian independence has been on a downward spiral ever since the collapse of the peace process and the rise of the Israeli right-wing. 

The Palestinians are vanishing from the world’s focus. They are on their way toward total abandonment and a rejection of their rights as Israel steadily expands to absorb more lands for settlements and achieve greater acceptance among many countries that once refused to recognize them.

During the 2016 US presidential elections, Palestine was barely mentioned. The issue was pushed down by both Republicans and Democrats.

The Democrats went so far as to remove the word “occupation” from the scant references to Palestine in the party’s platform accompanying Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

It was a signal to Israel’s right-wing government that it could move away from answering for its continued brutality against the Palestinians.

The abandonment of the issue of justice for Palestine was almost complete. But that quickly changed when Donald Trump won the election and put Palestine back on the map.

Of course, Trump was not raising the issue of Palestine in a positive way. He immediately announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He declared the occupied Golan Heights to be Israeli territory, opened the door to Israel’s intention to annex the Jordan Valley and recently declared through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Israel’s racist settlements are not illegal, thereby removing the US from that contentious debate.

Yet these actions of acquiescing to Israel’s political demands have created a new energy that has given life back to the issue of justice for Palestine.

I think that had Trump not arrived at the White House in January 2017 to pursue his reckless pro-Israel gift-giving strategy, the Palestinian cause may have been pushed far enough down into the abyss that it might have consequentially vanished.

Trump’s policies are rejuvenating the activism in support of Palestinian rights.

This refocus on Palestine comes at a very opportune time, as the king of the right-wing agenda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for the first time in his career is now in crisis. The beleaguered Netanyahu has stumbled twice in re-election bids in April and in September and a third is on the horizon.

Netanyahu, the face of Israel’s right-wing establishment for many decades, has been indicted on corruption charges. For the first time since he entered office in June 1996 as the anti-two-state solution firebrand, Netanyahu’s political future is in doubt.

The resurrection of the Palestinian issue has not been due to the efforts of Palestinians, who remain in their usual political disarray, torn by extremists whose violence and voices of fanaticism have bullied down moderates and undermined the peace process.

Hamas has risen while the Palestinian Authority stumbles, wandering through cliched rhetoric and the weak role of being critics from the far sidelines while their people continue to suffer.

That is why the Trump administration’s preposterous declarations and conduct, which in reality have little meaning over the International rule of law or fundamental precepts of human rights, have become not an instrument of Palestine’s destruction but its revival.

I think I can say with certainty that Trump has done more to bring people together to rally around Palestine than the Palestinians have been able to. Maybe taking the future of Palestine out of the hands of the Palestinian diaspora is a good thing.

While we have seen the Palestinian diaspora weaken and falter, Palestinian citizens of Israel have recognized their potential power and can still play a role in altering the corrupt government politics, and maybe evolve into the empowered voice of Palestinians everywhere.

As a Palestinian, I have learned that shouting, anger and even violence have done nothing to help the Palestine cause.

Imagine if the Palestinians had attended Trumps’ “Peace for Prosperity” Conference in Bahrain instead of boycotting it the way they did, turning their backs on a sympathetic audience. They would be in a powerful negotiating position today.

It is possible that the strategic opportunity accidentally created by the Trump administration’s unlawful policies can give Palestinians in Israel like Knesset members Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi the platform from which they can effectuate what could be positive change for both sides.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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