Ongoing turmoil undermines Trump-era policies which benefited Netanyahu
Two-state solution now firmly back on the agenda of the international community
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with former US president Donald Trump in the White House in Washington after the after the unveiling of the US’s controversial Middle East peace plan in 2020. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
The ongoing violence engulfing the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and Palestinian communities within Israel has undermined the policies adopted by ex-US president Donald Trump to preserve Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s political primacy at a time of prolonged turmoil in Israel.
Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, shifted the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and supported Israeli settlement expansion and annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank, all issues meant to be resolved by negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
He defunded Unrwa, the UN agency that cares for five million Palestinian refugees and development programmes in Gaza and the West Bank, and closed the Palestinian mission in Washington.
His policies have emboldened Netanyahu to step up settlement activity in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem and to curb Muslim religious observances in al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, setting off protests in the holy city, the West Bank, and, for the first time in 20 years, in Israel itself and drawing rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza.
Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has, once again, become a global issue at a time when the Biden administration had tried distance the US from the troubles of the Middle East.
President Joe Biden’s agenda has been disrupted on the international plane where he has been criticised for refusing to call an early halt to Israel’s Gaza offensive and on the domestic plane where progressives in his Democratic Party have introduced a resolution in Congress aimed at blocking his sale of precision guided bombs worth $735 million (€600 million) to Israel.
Furthermore, Senator Bernie Sanders has challenged Biden’s pledge to maintain an annual $3.8 billion in US military aid to Israel.
Dismissed by Trump and rejected by Netanyahu and Israeli right-wingers, the two-state solution, involving the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, is back on the agenda of the international community.
At least $322 million will be needed if Gaza is to recover and millions more to prevent it from sliding deeper into poverty and desolation.
Palestinians living in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel have overcome divisions fostered by Israel and their own leaders and mounted a popular, leaderless campaign to regain their rights to self-determination and effective, unified governance which they thought they had won with the adoption of the defunct 1993 Oslo accord.
As most Palestinians in the streets these days were born after the accord was signed with grand fanfare on the White House lawn, they are no longer committed to Oslo and seek new paths to a deal that would end the occupation and allow for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Under pressure from their own subjects, Arab rulers who have normalised ties with Israel have had to step back and press for this objective.