Middle East Monitor / January 26, 2021
“An unprecedented place,” is how Israel Hayom described the Trump administration’s scheming with Israel against the Palestinian people, during an interview with outgoing US Ambassador David Friedman. Unprecedented, that is if we isolate the Trump era from decades of US and international foreign policy.
This distinction was reinforced by Friedman in his assessment of the recent years juxtaposed against that of the Obama administration and its last minute, symbolic gesture of voting in favour of UN Resolution 2334 regarding the illegality of Israeli settlements and expansion. According to Friedman, Trump’s aim was to achieve a resolution “on the basis of just a dispute between two people with competing claims to territory that should be resolved as disputes get resolved, not that one side is an illegal occupier and the other side is a perpetual victim.”
No mention of the fact that Israel is indeed an illegal occupier; that it was created upon ethnic cleansing and colonisation; and that the international community invented the “conflict” to promote a changed narrative that generates impunity for the occupation state. Throughout Trump’s term of office, the aim was to alter the narrative further and use the term “conflict” in a way that marginalises Palestinians to the point of disappearance from the political process that has stolen their land. Hence the normalisation agreements which allow Israel and the US to determine the new conflict narrative, even as the forced absence of Palestinian political demands makes it easier to perceive the illegalities of colonisation and the non-existence of alleged “competing claims to territory”. Had there been any symmetry in the parties to this dispute, the Palestinians would be given an equal platform and powerful interlocutors — perhaps even arms — to fight their case.
In December, the Times of Israel reported that, once in the White House, Joe Biden would not be prioritising Israeli-Palestinian initiatives. So far, indications suggest that Biden will pursue a fusion of Trump’s policies and two-state politics, in a boost for Israel and its plans to continue normalising relations with Arab states. The US Embassy will remain in Jerusalem; there is no intention, it seems, to annual Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s undivided capital and thus America’s acceptance of its illegal annexation by the settler-colonial state.
Which narrative will Biden now pursue? What will it mean when he opposes settlement expansion, as he is likely to do — albeit rhetorically — but supports the normalisation of relations with Israel despite such deals being an important part of its de facto annexation agenda?
If Biden does not overturn Trump’s concessions to Israel, the two-state compromise changes, and the international community needs to clarify the covert adjustments. The constant pressure on Palestinians to sacrifice their demands for the sake of “peace” and make concession after concession has only brought a steady deterioration of territory, bolstered by the Palestinian Authority’s internationally-funded and totally spineless politics.
How much visibility is Biden willing to allow the Palestinians in the international arena? Will it be influenced by the “conflict” rhetoric, or will they have the opportunity to demand an end to the colonial violations that the Abraham Accords have normalised? If the US proceeds with hailing the Arab normalisation of relations with Israel as a positive step forward, just as the UN did last year, then Biden will be prolonging and promoting Trump’s legacy in favour of the occupation state, leading to the complete obliteration of Palestinians at a political level.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America