x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Where is the 'appreciation' and 'respect' in US statements on Palestinians?

The lopsided political vision of America, once the honest broker, has been revealed

The Dome of the Rock (R) and the Al Aqsa Mosque (L) at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP
The Dome of the Rock (R) and the Al Aqsa Mosque (L) at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP

A characteristic of the Trump presidency has been the transactional nature of its statecraft. Not for this administration the conventions of traditional diplomacy; rather, it appears disposed to deal-making and agreement-breaking without necessarily being in possession of a coherent plan. There have been some benefits to this approach: Donald Trump's tough stance on Iran have seen him describe the regime in Tehran as the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” and have led to him seeking to remove, by decertification, the comfort blanket of the nuclear deal. If the current unrest continues in Iran, Mr Trump may seek to kill the accord altogether.

But this method also has its downsides. The US president’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last month, prompted demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza and protests across the world. His aggressive move was an ill-fated attempt at coercion. A UN General Assembly vote rejected the US recognition of Jerusalem by a margin of 128-9, a rebuke that exposed the full extent of American isolation on the issue and delivered a damning verdict on the notion that the US could ever be an honest broker in the peace process between Palestinians and Israel.

One might expect that rejection to persuade the US administration to think again. Sadly not. As The National reported, Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said that Mr Trump had “sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice." Her comment referenced a tweet this week by the US president in which Mr Trump intimated that he was considering withdrawing millions of dollars of assistance because Palestinians did not show “appreciation or respect”. The president’s digital volley was accompanied by equally baffling words from Mr Trump's envoy to the United Nations, US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said: "We still very much want to have a peace process. Nothing changes with that. The Palestinians now have to show they want to come to the table."

Where is the pressure upon Israel, whose illegal occupation has persisted for more than 50 years? Where are the tough statements towards that occupying force? Where is the nuance or perspective? Israel has no interest in coming to the table or seeking a solution, especially not when it continues to enjoy rewards and benefits from the US. Mr Trump once promised an “ultimate deal” on Israel and Palestine. It sounded fanciful at the time. What he has so far delivered is a lopsided political vision devoid of subtlety or hope.