TOO EARLY TO JUDGE
"It is too early to judge what effect Donald Trump's victory may have on the Palestinian cause," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
This is because he hails from outside the system, his positions are unknown, he cannot be judged by what he and his aides have said during the election campaign, and, moreover, he is a capricious, ignorant, racist populist figure.
Nonetheless, I will try here to engage in a preliminary reading that may be subject to change after the first hundred days of Trump's presidency. During that period, his team, aides, secretaries, and real program will become apparent. After all, the view from the White House is different from the scene as seen from the opposition’s bench.
There is no doubt that Trump's victory has caused a major earthquake for the leadership of the so-called 'Free World' and the most powerful state in the world. For this reason, its repercussions will reach the four corners of globe.
I am writing these words from the U.S., where I have witnessed first-hand the shock and gloom on the faces of many Americans, even among some who voted for Trump. The latter voted for him in protest against the ruling elite from both parties and the electoral system in what was intended as a message that a change was needed. But they did not expect the hour of change to have been so nigh, and that it would head backwards and not forwards as it is meant to. In fact, had Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders been Trump's rival instead of Hillary Clinton, many observers and experts have argued that he would have had a very good chance of winning because he bears the dream of change that Americans need.
How could a man like Trump even have had a chance of success in spite of the racism, harassment of women, and threats against Muslims, blacks, minorities, homosexuals, and immigrants? How could he have a chance when he threatened to build walls, scrap Obamacare, arrest Hillary Clinton, not recognize the results of the elections if he does not win, alter trade agreements with other countries, and scrap or simply ignore the Iranian nuclear agreement, as well as ban Muslims from entering the U.S., encourage bearing guns across the entire U.S., and call for the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem?
Could such a person win unless U.S. democracy, which is among the loftiest in the world, has had a crack and been a mere formality? This democracy is that of the rich, of persistent exploitation, of placing the country's vast wealth in the hands of a few individuals who do not constitute any more than 1% of the population while the great majority are poor or threatened with poverty, struggling day and night to preserve their living standards.
If one were to survey Trump's positions during the election campaign, one would find that it changed from his early statements that the Palestinians should secure their rights and that Israel should pay the cost of the aid it receives from the U.S. Then there was a major U-turn, reaching the point of a promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and not to allow the establishment of a 'terrorist' Palestinian state.
He also said that the solution should be reached via bilateral negotiations with no diktats from anyone-- which means that Israel would be in total control of them. And he added that Israel is the only democratic state in the entire Middle East surrounded by hostility, hatred, and incitement against everything good in it. Moreover, during the elections campaign, he very proudly announced that his daughter was married to a Jewish man, that she was pregnant, and that she would give birth to a Jewish child. Furthermore, he has said that settlement construction is a legitimate right of Israel.
Because of his ignorance and lack of experience, Trump may be a victim of the team surrounding him. But the question is this: Will he prove to be a good student who implements the policies set for him, as Ronald Reagan did? This would be the worst thing that could happen, because his team is more extreme than the most extremist Israelis. Or will he rebel against his team?
The latter possibility scares Israeli circles. For Trump is a man whose positions are difficult to predict. Moreover, he did not rely on the support of the Zionist lobby, which is why it largely preferred to vote for Clinton, who strongly supports Israel, and because she would have pursued clear policies. And this lobby's fears may have increased after Trump’s post-elections statements that differed from what he had said during the elections, maintaining that he was ready to work towards a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
For their part, Palestinian reactions have mostly expressed concern regarding Trump's victory, fearing his likely bias in Israel's favor. At the very least, that would give it a free hand to behave as it wishes, without fear of any American or international reaction. And that further opens the door to annexing the West Bank or the Area-C territories.
A U.S. veto would be ready to be used against any international attempt to denounce Israel in response to such a move, which allows for only a small window of opportunity between now and the time Trump takes office officially on January 20th for Barack Obama to leave a legacy that history would register in his name by encouraging a UN Security Council resolution that lays down the peace process' basic principles, aims and terms of reference, all based on the need to establish a Palestinian state.
The fear remains that if Obama were to take such a step, the resolution he would push for would include recognition of Israel as a 'Jewish state,' rejecting the Palestinian refugees' right of return, as well as very strong guarantees for Israeli security and adopting the principle of 'land-swap' that would allow Israel to annex the settlements-- or most of them. In return, the planned resolution would include demands that Israel should withdraw to (or within) the 1967 borders and permit the establishment of a Palestinian state.
But even if Obama were to take such a step, we should not wager on it. There must be Arab and Palestinian action, as well as action by the supporters of the cause around the world, so as to ensure that the proposed resolution will abide by international law and by international legitimacy's resolutions. These uphold the basic minimum of Palestinian rights, beneath which we should not fall. Moreover, we should be wary of accepting the proposed resolution in full without rejecting parts of it if it includes the abovementioned clauses.
Yet Israel would be annoyed by such a resolution because it seeks to establish 'Greater Israel,' while this initiative – assuming it materializes – would represent an attempt to keep the two-state option on the table. This is the option that successive Israeli governments have sought to destroy. Moreover, the president-elect would not be able to ignore the resolution or disregard it totally.
Finally, there are some Palestinians who are trying to exaggerate the implications of Trump's victory, going so far as to claim that the Palestinian cause may be lost. They seem to forget that what has preserved it for so long despite the dangers, conspiracies, wars, and massacres, is the fact that it is a just and morally superior cause. Moreover, it is a cause with Arab, Islamic, and Christian, as well as human and liberation, dimensions. And most importantly, it is a cause behind which a vigorous and determined nation rallies: A nation that is determined to defend it.
As long as this nation remains alive, it will be able to defend its cause, especially if it gets the leadership it deserves, one that possesses a comprehensive vision for national salvation and works towards uniting the Palestinian people's active forces and employing them so as to consolidate the nation's steadfastness and keep the cause alive, thereby paving the path towards victory. If that happens, the cause will not be lost and will impose itself on Trump and, before and after him, on Israel.
On the other hand, there are those who exaggerate in the opposite direction by underestimating the effects of the presidential coup in the U.S. They say that the U.S. is a country ruled by institutions and that decisions there are not under the total control of the president – which is broadly true– and that other presidents have resided in the White House who were-- in effect-- tools of the 'deep state.'
They add that the U.S.’s strategy is one and the same and does not change, and that the only thing that changes is how it is implemented. But those who say this do not realize the scale of the change that Trump has and can still bring about, especially with a Republican majority in Congress and the Senate. Therefore, the forces of real change must unite to stop him before he leads the U.S. and the entire world towards a catastrophe.
Then there are those among the Palestinians, especially their leadership, who are threatening that if Trump were to implement what he has promised in his election campaign, they would propose a new draft resolution every day in the international institutions – as if the international community, despite its importance, is the sole or main field for the struggle. These Palestinians forget that the focus of the struggle is Palestine's land, mountains, valleys, cities, villages, and camps, and everywhere the Palestinian people are located.
"And this requires the formulation of a strategy of national liberation that can unite the Palestinians and ensure they achieve their aims whether Trump is in power or not," concludes Masri.