Why would any serious person think that President Trump has any interest in achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Because he says so? Because he throws around the word peace a lot? Because he said a few nice things about President Abbas?
Because that’s about it. In fact, his just-completed visit to the Middle East demonstrates that he is not committed to a peace deal but to business deals. Business deals of all kinds, involving the Saudis, the Emirates, the Egyptians, Jordanians, Israel and, probably, the Trump organization too.
But that has nothing to do with Israeli-Palestinian peace which requires ending the 50-year occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza along with the recognition by Israelis and Palestinians of the other side’s right to live in security, without fear of violence. (Given that Israel has pretty much all the power, along with the land, it is more than a little disingenuous to make equal demands of both!)
Trump mentioned nothing about the occupation during his visit to Israel and Palestine. He simply talked in general terms about peace, only growing more direct when he demanded that Sunni Arabs come together to confront ISIS. If he is aware that Palestinian homelessness is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and hence of America’s low standing in the Middle East and Muslim world in general, he gave no evidence of it.
In fact, the only issue about which all Muslims are united — whether Sunni or Shiite, whether Saudi or Iranian or Indonesian — is hatred for the continuing Israeli occupation. It is U.S. support for the occupation (manifested by the billions of dollars in military aid that we provide Israel each year) that makes Muslims reluctant to follow America’s lead on much of anything. Not all Muslims dislike us but those that do are motivated by the suffering of Palestine. (ISIS and other terrorists should not be included in that group. They are indifferent to Palestine although even they don’t hesitate to use Palestinian suffering as a recruitment tool).
The Israelis were thrilled by Trump’s visit because they understand that he will never demand an end to the occupation. Trump would not be inclined to pressure the Israelis anyway, but, given his current problems, the last people he needs to antagonize is the Israel lobby.
At this point the lobby (like the Netanyahu government) loves Trump because he is not Barack Obama who they hated from day one for reasons that have almost nothing to do with policy and everything to do with who they perceived Obama to be. But even Trump has to understand that Israel and the lobby would turn on him in a New York minute if he dared to actually deviate from Netanyahu’s line on anything. But he won’t because he is surrounded by Israel hawks like his son-in-law Jared Kushner and one of his top campaign funders, Sheldon Adelson. Moreover, Netanyahu and the Israelis are his idea of winners while the hapless Palestinians are, to him, just losers. He despises losers, another word for which is victims.
The bottom line is that the prospects for peace during Trump’s term are dead although not that much deader than they were under Obama who, contrary to what Israelis tell themselves when justifying their hatred for him, didn’t do much for the Palestinians either. Israel controlled 100 percent of historic Palestine when he came to office and it controls 100 percent now.
Nonetheless there is good news.
It is that while Republicans continue to march lockstep behind Israel, Netanyahu and the occupation, Democrats do not. In fact, according to a 2017 Pew poll, Democrats are divided equally when asked if they are more sympathetic to Israel or the Palestinians. (Republicans overwhelmingly support Israel’s hard line). Moreover, it is older people who are most sympathetic to Israel while younger people (and that applies to Jews as well as to non-Jews) would prefer the United States to play a more even-handed role.
This all means that Israeli hawks, and their enablers in the Israel lobby here, should enjoy the Trump years to the max. The future, unless it is a right-wing Republican future ― which looks increasingly unlikely ― is not going to belong to those who facilitate the occupation but to those who oppose it, people more in tune with Bernie Sanders than to either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
But, for now, ignore the speculation about any Trump plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace because there won’t be one. Palestinians are, as usual, on their own. The good news is that they — and the Israeli doves who hate the occupation as much as Palestinians do — won’t be on their own for much longer.