Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Low expectations in Palestine after Trump wins US elections


By The Palestine Monitor - November 22, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [US Election] [Peace Process] [Settlement Expansion]

“I’m not surprised that Donald Trump was elected because it’s the logical consequence of the growing fear of Islam in the United States especially, or even with the growing fear of everybody who is not White in the United States, and in the world,” prominent Palestinian activist Manal Tamimi said from her home in Nabi Saleh, where she followed the American election campaign online.

If there was fear in the United States over the past few months, there is now a lot of that same feeling in the occupied Palestinian territories.
 
“We don’t know what Donald Trump will do about the Palestinians,” said Lema Nazeeh, a lawyer from Ramallah. “We already feel threatened because we are brown, Muslim, from the Middle East, and above all, because we are Palestinian”, she added after staying up all night to watch the unfolding election results.
 
“How will Donald Trump serve the peace process? We don’t know what he has in mind in terms of foreign policy. It makes me a bit worried because we need support in 2017, there will be a lot of events related to the internationalization of the Palestinian cause, at the United Nations Security Council, or joining Interpol”.
 
“Will this new president save the two-state solution, or will he accept the Israeli one-state project?” asked Lema. “Considering what he said about moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, maybe it means he actually believes that Jerusalem is only the capital of Israel,” said the young lawyer referring to one of Trump’s statements during the election campaign.
 
Trump is not the first Republican candidate to make this promise, which was however never implemented. If implemented, it would make the United States the first western state to acknowledge the city as Israel’s capital, effectively recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
 



CBN interview about Trump's relations with Israel

 
 
A number of other statements from Donald Trump’s campaign have been worrying Palestinians. Asked about settlement construction in an interview with the Daily Mail in May, Trump answered that Israel has to “keep moving forward”.
 
A 16-point policy statement about his views on how the United States should act in the Middle East was released just before the election. It supported efforts against BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) initiatives, insisting that "the false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected". That same policy paper also rejected a two-state solution, which it described as “impossible”.
 
It was Donald Trump’s advisers who made some of the most concerning statements. Jason Greenblatt, co-chairman of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, told Israel’s Army Radio that settlement activity “is not an obstacle for peace.”
 
David Friedman, who served on the same Committee, told Haaretz in June that if elected, Donald Trump would support Israel’s partial annexation of the West Bank adding that “nobody really knows how many Palestinians live there.” Regarding his promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Friedman also told the Jerusalem Post right after Trump's victory that “it was a campaign promise and there is every intention to keep it.”
 
Apprehension was also tangible on the front pages of Palestinian dailies, both during the campaign and after results were announced. Al Quds newspaper, for instance, ran with the headline: “Right wing Jewish circles in the US who reject the two state solution rejoice over Trump’s election”.
 
Indeed, from education minister Naftali Bennett – who recently pushed for a bill to legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land, yet to be approved by the Knesset - to Likud’s Gideon Saar, much of the current Israeli leadership welcomed Trump’s victory. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said he was looking forward to working with the new president’s administration and that he had “no doubt” the new American administration would be a great friend of his country.
 
“Governing is very different from campaigning and making statements,” Dr Mahdi Abdul Hadi, chairman of the Jerusalem-based think tank Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), told the Palestine Monitor. “It’s a time of great uncertainty, but Palestinians will have to wait and see.”
 
Suhair Nashashibi, a graduate student in International Studies at Bir Zeit University, also highlighted it doesn't make sense to rush to conclusions.
 
“Donald Trump is supposed to be pro-Israel but the foreign policy is also made by the Congress and even other institutions, so it takes more than a statement to make things change on the ground,” she said. She noted that if Donald Trump wants to actually move his embassy to Jerusalem, he would have to go “a very long way and by the time he gets approval maybe he will be out of office” said the student, smiling.
 
“For the past 50 years, we tried to solve the conflict through politics but maybe it’s time to change approach and maybe a business man will have a different take on how to move forward,” concluded Nashashibi.
 
Ziad Jaser, an American-Palestinian who also studies International Studies at Bir Zeit University cast his vote for Hillary Clinton. A long-time Democrats supporter, he decided to vote for Clinton despite knowing she would not be championing the Palestinian cause. He now hopes that Barack Obama will attempt a last move towards Palestinians before he leaves office in January.
 
There are a few rays of hope. Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas said he hoped a just peace would be achieved during Donald Trump’s term in office.
 
Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour reminded that an embassy move would represent a violation of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 regarding the status of Jerusalem, and constitute “belligerency” towards Palestinians. If the American embassy was actually to move to Jerusalem, Mansour said he would unleash all possible diplomatic weapons at the United Nations to make the life of the United States delegation “miserable”.
 
PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat released an op-ed in Haaretz, where he wrote that “no matter who the U.S. president is, Israel is running out of excuses. Although the U.S. has not acted to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, the two-state solution remains an unbreakable U.S. position.”
 
Even Donald Trump himself sent signs of appeasement. Israeli Defense minister Avigdor Lieberman said his team has been receiving official messages from Trump’s team and that “they’re expecting us to act modestly.” He added: "there are people in his close circle that we know well, they're telling us 'wait. Don't set facts on the ground.'”
 
But far removed from the political drama, there’s someone in Ramallah who’s been trying to lower the temperature of the debate.

On the day Donald Trump was elected, Nasser Abdulhadi, the charismatic owner of well-known pastry restaurant Zeit ou Za’atar, hung a picture of Donald Trump on his shop’s window, on the city’s main street. In place of the president’s famous hairdo, he put a yellow cheese manaeesh. Abdulhadi claims he sold 300 of them in a single day. Even though he believes the new President-elect will “destroy the world as we know it,” he said, people always need a good laugh.

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