Trump pres­i­dency buoys Is­raeli leader and rat­tles Pales­tini­ans

US Pres­i­dent-elect seen as more pro-Is­rael

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas was one of the first Arab lead­ers to con­grat­u­late Don­ald Trump on his elec­tion win yes­ter­day, but an­a­lysts say a Trump pres­i­dency may be pro­foundly neg­a­tive for Pales­tinian as­pi­ra­tions while buoy­ing Is­rael’s con­fi­dence. Is­rael’s rightwing prime min­is­ter, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, ex­pressed con­fi­dence that he and Trump can work to­gether to bring US-Is­raeli re­la­tions to “new heights”.

In a state­ment, Ab­bas ap­peared to hold out some hope that Trump, with no clear for­eign pol­icy pro­gram, may turn a new leaf when it comes to the Mid­dle East. “Ab­bas con­grat­u­lates the US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on his elec­tion and hopes just peace can be achieved dur­ing his ten­ure,” said the state­ment on the of­fi­cial WAFA news agency. That may be wish­ful think­ing. Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump won sup­port in Is­rael with a prom­ise to move the US em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, all but en­shrin­ing the an­cient city as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

While that has been promised many times by pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in the past, Trump is the sort of leader who may well make it hap­pen, and he would likely have full back­ing from the Repub­li­can­dom­i­nated US Congress, too. If it does oc­cur, it would over­ride decades of in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy that holds that the sta­tus of Jerusalem is not fi­nal­ized un­til a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment is reached be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans, who want East Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of their state, to­gether with the West Bank and Gaza. Ne­tanyahu, who has had a rocky re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, is­sued a state­ment con­grat­u­lat­ing Trump and hailed him as a “true friend” of Is­rael.

“I am con­fi­dent that Pres­i­dent-elect Trump and I will con­tinue to strengthen the unique al­liance be­tween our two coun­tries and bring it to ever greater heights,” Ne­tanyahu said. He said he looked for­ward to work­ing with Trump “to ad­vance se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and peace in our re­gion”. US-backed peace talks be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans col­lapsed in 2014. Is­raeli Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, a right-wing party leader who backs Is­raeli set­tle­ment build­ing and op­poses a Pales­tinian state, made the im­pli­ca­tions of Trump’s win very clear in a rapidly re­leased state­ment. “The era of a Pales­tinian state is over,” Ben­nett said.

The na­tional as­pi­ra­tions of the Pales­tini­ans are al­ready in dif­fi­culty for at least two rea­sons: an­i­mos­ity and di­vi­sion be­tween Ab­bas’s Fatah party and the Is­lamist group Ha­mas, which has shattered po­lit­i­cal unity, and the ex­tent of Is­rael’s set­tle­ment build­ing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is slowly eat­ing away at the land left for a state of Pales­tine. Is­rael has oc­cu­pied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Mid­dle East war. There are now 350,000 Jewish set­tlers liv­ing in the West Bank and 250,000 in East Jerusalem. The Pales­tinian pop­u­la­tion of the West Bank is about 2.8 mil­lion, while around 300,000 live in East Jerusalem.

Un­der Pres­i­dent Trump, Is­raeli an­a­lysts ex­pect there to be less pres­sure from the United States to halt set­tle­ment build­ing, mean­ing the set­tler pop­u­la­tion will grow unchecked, push­ing the faint pos­si­bil­ity of a two-state so­lu­tion - the aim of diplo­macy for decades - fur­ther out of reach. “The Pales­tinian peo­ple hold no hope that the change of Amer­i­can pres­i­dent will mean a change in pol­icy to­wards the Pales­tinian cause,” said Ha­mas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “That pol­icy is con­stant and bi­ased in fa­vor of Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion.”

Ge­orge Jack­man, the chair­man of the Ra­mal­lah-based In­sti­tu­tion for Demo­cratic Stud­ies, says it is pos­si­ble that Trump will sur­prise as pres­i­dent since his pol­icy ideas, es­pe­cially in the Mid­dle East, are so un­clear. “We shouldn’t ex­pect that slo­gans an­nounced by Trump dur­ing his elec­toral cam­paign will re­main un­changed,” he said. “What dis­tin­guishes Trump is that no one knows what poli­cies he may em­brace be­cause there are no de­tailed plans.” That could be both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. But from the per­spec­tive of Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts, it’s neg­a­tive. — Reuters

RA­MAL­LAH: Arab League Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ahmed Aboul Gheit (cen­ter) and for­mer Arab League Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Amr Moussa (left) ar­rive to meet with Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah yes­ter­day. —AP

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