Anyone unfamiliar with the conflict might have thought, based on Donald Trump’s visit and his warm words about Israelis’ suffering, that the Palestinians were occupying and oppressing the Israelis. This wasn’t due to Trump’s usual inarticulateness, epitomized this time in the embarrassing “amazing” he scrawled in Yad Vashem’s visitors book. His worldview, background and divisiveness all prime him to treat Israel as the victim (actual and potential).
Thus the miracle (or disaster) didn’t occur; the U.S. president didn’t say the words “Palestinian state.” Perhaps in Israel a few cockeyed optimists expected him to say a bit more than schmaltz about peace and were disappointed. Many others, who feared that he would, breathed sighs of relief.
As for the Palestinians, sober after so many years of disappointments and unfulfilled promises, they expected no surprises from Trump. And as I’ve written before, for the Palestinian Authority’s leaders, even maintaining the status quo and the protocols of respect were enough for now.
Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, spared its readers the sentence Trump uttered in Bethlehem, which the Israeli media highlighted: “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded or rewarded.” The Ma’an news agency also skipped that sentence, which is obviously a slap in the face to the hunger-striking prisoners, their families and Palestinian society as a whole. Still, both Ma’an and Wafa mentioned Trump’s statements about fighting terror.
The prevailing Palestinian view, incidentally, is that the side that uses terror, and that funds and rewards it, is Israel. It seems the omission of that sentence was meant mainly to preserve the honor of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who once again spoke patiently about his loyalty to the two-state solution.
Did Trump ad-lib that sentence because of the terror attack in Manchester, or was it planned in advance? Did it hint at some stipulation he made during his private meeting with Abbas, which he didn’t make in Washington, regarding payments to the prisoners’ families (the Israeli diversion du jour)? Let’s wait and see.
In Riyadh, Trump fanned the flames of Saudi and Sunni hatred for Iran and Shi’ism. There, and of course in Jerusalem as well, he included Hamas among the “bad guys.”
The hostility between Fatah and Hamas is overt and profound. But if Trump (or those whispering in his ear about what to say) intends to fan this hostility as part of his “peace” effort, he won’t succeed. Despite all the disagreements and mutual incitement between the two rival Palestinian governments, and despite the well-founded feeling among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that they’ve been abandoned, ultimately, as efforts to support the hunger strike show, they are united by the knowledge that their common problem is Israel’s aggressive rule.
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