The well-publicised anticipation of US President Donald Trump’s meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas was followed swiftly by mainstream media reports that the normalisation of relations between Arab countries and Israel is imperative prior to embarking on another round of “peace” negotiations. Israel will undoubtedly favour this and laud it as much as Education Minister Naftali Bennett seems to have appreciated the fact that Trump failed to voice support for a Palestinian state.
“The President spoke about peace six times,” Bennett was reported as saying by the New York Times, “and in all, he avoided supporting a Palestinian state, which would undoubtedly be an obstacle to achieving that goal.” Peace without Palestinians is what Bennett envisages, but this is quite normal for someone who has in the past spoken in favour of “disappearing” the indigenous population.
It seems as though Trump has not veered from this narrative. The difference between the current presidency and the previous in terms of diplomatic negotiations is the ambiguity which characterises Trump’s statements. News that a new peace initiative would be launched this month was also missing any tangible information apart from an unnamed White House official declaring that the primary aim is to “bring relationships that are warm and strong privately and bring them more public and also set forth a common set of principles that everyone wants to abide by.”
PA diplomatic advisor Kajdi Al-Khalidi reportedly denied accepting the normalisation of relations between the Arab states and Israel prior to the implementation of the two-state paradigm. Yet a White House briefing about the meeting between Trump and Abbas also acknowledged the primary aim of considering “how Arab states might support these negotiations.”
Another betrayal of Palestinians by Arab countries will only add to the countless wasted opportunities in which a different choice might have been made, had it not been for the widespread Arab complicity which has allowed Israeli colonialism to flourish. The reaping of selfish benefits at the expense of Palestinians has long been deemed acceptable by Arab leaders. Embarking upon Trump’s concept of normalising relations will only consolidate what is so far a reality occasionally interrupted by meaningless rhetoric uttered at politically-opportune moments.
For Israel, Trump’s visit and subsequent announcement signifies further gain. Whether this translates into yet another unfeasible time frame or an opportunity to influence the region into undermining and downgrading Palestine’s importance, the results will play directly into the hands of those with colonial ambitions. Since public opinion has shifted and possesses the ability to influence politics to a certain extent, Israel stands to benefit more from Trump’s ambiguity in the long term, due to the opportunities presented to colonise more land and displace more people while the debate regarding negotiations continues. There is no urge to finalise a time frame as this would run contrary to the ultimate ambition of establishing “Greater Israel” from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan and beyond.
Whatever speculation might arise out of Trump’s non-committal rhetoric, which has been ridiculed on countless occasions, Palestinians are not slated for any gains. Other than a continuation of the previous depletion of the land available for an independent State of Palestine, with increasing repercussions courtesy of the collaboration between Israel, the US and the PA, there can be little expectation that any “normalisation” will influence the outcome in favour of the Palestinians. Indeed, normalisation simply plans to marginalise Palestine and its people. Bennett’s peace without Palestinians could well be the new norm.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.