How Will Trump Impact Palestine-Israel Conflict?
11/22/2016 by Zaitouna Kusto
Nakba, or “the catastrophe,” is the term Palestinians use to describe the seizure of their lands for the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. With the election of Donald J. Trump, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are facing the possibility of a new Nakba for the 21st century.
It is, of course, essentially impossible to rise in mainstream US politics without being vehemently pro-Israel. Hillary Clinton, who spoke passionately at the pro-Israel AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference during her candidacy, would certainly be no friend to the indigenous Palestinians. The bullish rhetoric from both Democrats and Republicans during the primaries sounded like a competition of ‘who will be the best bestie with Israel?’ In fact, that is nearly a direct quote of Trump (minus the ‘bestie’ bit), who essentially boiled the Israel-Palestine conflict down to brokering a real estate deal. Ironically, as obtuse and shallow an understanding of probably the most complex geopolitical crisis in the modern era that is, much of the Israel-Palestine conflict is inherently rooted in real estate. However, given his terrible reputation as a real estate mogul, this may be the reason Tump is perhaps the most dangerous person to mediate the conflict.
The heart of this “real estate” perspective comes from the illegal settlements that are continually being built in the West Bank territory of Palestine. Despite the UN’s objections, there have been thousand of Israeli settlements built on top of demolished Palestinian homes, outside of designated borders. This pattern will continue, with a recent ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court that approves the construction of over 2,000 new homes in the West Bank beginning on December 25th. Naftali Bennett, a key member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, was quoted after Trump’s election saying, “The era of a Palestinian state is over. The combination of changes in the United States, in Europe and in the region provide Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything.”
What does this exactly mean? The easy answer would be to say that the idea of a two-state solution is dead. The more correct answer, however, would be to say that the concept of a two-state solution was a farce to begin with. Even with loose agreements between Israel, the US, and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization—the official government representative of the Palestinian people), clear borders have never been agreed upon. Even the massive wall Israel has been constructing to separate Israel and the West Bank seems to be largely symbolic, as Israeli settlements continue to pop up well beyond the borders of the wall they themselves built. Bennet’s statement confirms that the colonialist government of Israel never had any intention of allowing sovereignty for the Palestinian people.
The other piece of this literal jigsaw puzzle is Gaza. During the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton sparred with Bernie Sanders, fervently defending Israel’s “generosity” of giving the Gaza territory back to the Palestinians. This was one of those weird instances in this election that perhaps had many leftists scratching their heads as to whether Hillary was more hawkish on foreign policy than Trump.
Regardless of rhetoric, as it stands, Gaza is effectively an open-air prison. Palestinians in Gaza are on the brink of environmental disaster, with nearly 95% of tap water being undrinkable. Unemployment is rampant—the highest in the world, in fact—at a staggering 43.9%. A common talking point of pro-Israel politicians and pundits is to criticize residents of Gaza, particularly members of the Hamas political party, for not doing anything about the health and employment crises, and instead focusing on “acts of terrorism” in the way of firing crude rockets into Israel. This ignores the fact that the infrastructure of Gaza has been completely decimated over years of intensive bombing campaigns carried out by Israel (the most recent of which was in 2014, which destroyed more than 20,000 homes and killed over 2,000 Palestinians), which makes it somewhat difficult to build much of anything. But the crisis in Gaza goes well beyond bombing campaigns. Israel controls the water supply and deliberately cuts it off from Gaza residents. They also have armed naval vessels patrolling the shoreline, preventing fishermen from venturing out into deeper waters where fish are more plentiful.
Unable to leave Gaza, Palestinians who live there are cut off from their families and holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank. This separation of the two territories has also caused political problems, as the Palestinian National Assembly has not been able to meet since 2006. Gaza is almost entirely controlled by Hamas, whereas the West Bank is controlled by the PLO. The PLO is recognized by the UN to be the official governing body of the Palestinian people, despite having very little presence in Gaza. However, since the (intentional) lack of coherent elections and fractures in the Palestinian resistance, it is hard to say who exactly can and should represent the Palestinians in the international arena—and this plays perfectly into the hands of the US and Israel. The Palestinians continually are painted as a disorganized, disunited association of terror groups.
Trump’s talking points on Israel, like everything else, were vague at best. He talked about the issue so casually, it’s hard to believe he will even give it much attention. His cabinet appointments, however, tell it all. Every single potential appointment he has suggested is passionately pro-Israel. Some, like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, take it to the extreme of saying things like the Palestinians are an “invented people.” It’s truthfully not so much of being pro-Israel as it is being anti-Palestinian.
Trump has promised to move the capitol of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move to symbolize that the territory doesn’t belong to Palestine. He will not be the first President to promise this, but the material conditions may be in his favor this time around. Despite international condemnation and the growing popularity of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), the US signed a $38 billion dollar weapons deal with the Israeli government this year. The hope of fighting for freedom against such a well equipped force may be slipping away from resistance groups like Hamas or the Marxist PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). The Iranian backed resistance group Hezbollah (which is based out of Lebanon) is extremely well armed and trained—they even managed to fight off and defeat Israeli occupations in southern Lebanon on multiple occasions—but their priorities right now are in Syria, defending the Assad regime alongside Iran and Russia.
To complicate matters more, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently called for East Jerusalem to be the capitol of the Palestinian state—which is in complete confrontation with the plans of President-elect Donald Trump. And given China’s blossoming friendship with Russia, plus it’s already tenuous relationship with the US, it’s hard to imagine a situation that doesn’t end in more war. The Middle East is a powder keg right now. Syria has been bombed back to the 19th century. And the Palestinians are in deep, deep trouble. It isn’t alarmist to believe they are at the epicenter of what could perhaps be a 3rd World War.
Is there any hope? Not in the short term. Any way you cut it, it’s bad. The likelihood of a total annexation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel is more possible than ever. However, a strange silver lining in the long term may exist. If the two-state solution is in fact dead and Israel is to claim sole ownership of that tiny strip of land on the Levantine coast, it may cause a dramatic demographic shift in Israel that changes the political landscape of the country. Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal once explained that Israel’s play will come back to haunt them—that by annexing Palestine, they will eventually have to make the Palestinians full Israeli citizens. Of course, this won’t happen immediately. There will likely have to be massive civil unrest and international pressure, not unlike what it took to end apartheid in South Africa (which, not surprisingly, the US supported). If Palestinians can continue to hold on and stay in Israel, they will one day win the right to vote. This might lead to, as Rula Jebreal postulated, the election of an Israeli Prime Minister named Muhammad.
Zaitouna Kusto is a writer and activist currently living Brooklyn. She is excited to join CSuiteMusic as a political blogger, and plan focus on international and LGBTQ issues.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CSuiteMusic