Trump’s First Steps on Israel/Palestine

Again, the Republican candidate in the U.S. presidential elections lost the popular vote but won the election.  Such is a function of the mechanics of the U.S. flavor of democracy where not every vote matters; only votes in key states matter.  Nevertheless, billionaire Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

Trump’s ascent into the U.S. presidency will be the material for political analysts and historians, not to mention Hollywood, for many years to come.  That noted, history has already clearly established that the difference between a candidate’s campaign and their posture once in office are like night and day.  This applies to Trump just like it would apply to any other candidate.  He should prepare himself to be the tool of a state apparatus which is much more about the U.S. than it will be about Trump the person, despite the best efforts of his public relations spin masters.

Campaigns are fairy tales driven by the individual candidate, whereas holding the office of the U.S. president offers a 24-hour Ph.D., especially for a non-politician, about how countries, especially the world’s super power, are complicated institutions that require cold, hard calculations built on strategic state interests.  In the U.S., the president, the House of Representatives, and the Senate are merely three actors in a pool of variables that define the state’s interests.

One of these important variables are the lobbies that affect the process.  The pro-Israeli lobby is one of the powerhouse lobbies that intrudes in U.S. politics and is driven, illegally, by the interests of a foreign country.  For Trump to reach out to king masters in U.S. politics is to be expected given his non-existent political experience and shallow policy capacity.  Yet less than 48 hours after announcing his victory, Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to New York for a meeting.

The Israeli prime minister is laughing all the way to the next West Bank hilltop, thinking he is better positioned than ever to impose his right-wing (some Israelis call it fascist) agenda on America.  He is correct to think so given the Israeli settler community mobilized to support Trump’s campaign, so all indications would point to Trump embracing illegal settlement building with open arms.

As part of Donald Trump’s mandatory Ph.D. on how states operate, I’d like to provide some free advice.  This is advice from a fellow American citizen from Youngstown, Ohio, a place he visited on the campaign trail multiple times.  I also happen to be Palestinian and have lived and worked under Israeli military occupation for nearly 25 years.  Thus, I note:

Dear President-elect Trump,

Congratulations. Now that the empty rhetoric of the campaign trail is behind you, I urge you to make the Israel/Palestine file a priority.  Actually, this is not an optional request.  Your predecessors have caused so much damage to the reality on the ground that the situation has reached a boiling point, but not like past boiling points, where wide scale violence breaks out. Instead, the boiling point I speak of is a political one.

As the Obama Administration repeated several times, in one way or another, Israel is headed toward a state of apartheid or a bi-national one-state reality, both which will have been imposed by Israel’s military might, and both which Israel, as we know it, cannot accept.  Such an Israeli-imposed reality would be in direct contravention to a two-state solution, which is the long-standing U.S. policy, not to mention embedded in scores of UN resolutions.

Lucky for you, other presidents have tried everything else so your options are limited, and have a high probability for success.

First, without delay, you should recognize the State of Palestine, just as over 138 countries have already done.  The U.S made a similar recognition of Israel 11 minutes after it was founded in 1948; don’t you think the Palestinians are due the same, even if belated a half century?  You have options here, direct recognition, or reversing the “no” vote on the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29, 2012 which upgraded Palestine to a non-member observer state status, or let a request for full UN membership for Palestine pass in the UN Security Council by voting in favor, or by just not vetoing.

Next, the U.S. must finally start to hold Israel accountable as the military occupier it is.  A good start would be to revoke the $38 billion military aid package, and link that money to future Israeli concrete action to dismantle its military occupation.  That $38 billion would go a long way for your much-toted infrastructure upgrade project to help “Make America Great Again.”

At this late hour in the conflict, anything less would mean that the U.S. was never serious about the two-state solution.  Palestinians may even rejoice to be able to return to a one-state reality, even if at the beginning it would only be in theory.  Israel would be unable to swallow the one-state solution they are imposing on themselves, and that fallout will cost the U.S. dearly if it truly cares about Israel’s existence.

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on November 10, 2016 on ePalestine, a website featuring commentary by Sam Bahour.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Bahour.

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