Trump Abandons All Pretense of Being a ‘Fair Broker’ in the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Gideon Levy explains that the US is doing everything to disempower, humiliate and weaken Palestinian representation. Contrary to common belief, the US is not doing the State of Israel any favors
GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert, coming to you from Baltimore.
After Donald Trump was elected president, he immediately made it very clear that he will take the side of the state of Israel, the occupying power, over Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation. He appointed right-wing Zionist religious Jews as a team for handling U.S. participation in the peace process: David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Jared Kushner. And the policies that the U.S. adopted regarding Palestinians has been a series of attacks: moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defunding UNRWA, the UN agency for the care of Palestinian refugees, and defunding the Palestinian Authority. Last week, the U.S. defunded hospitals in East Jerusalem to the tune of $25 million. And this week it closed the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO, in Washington, D.C., and threatened the Palestinian Authority not to appeal to the International Criminal Court in the Hague against Israeli war crimes.
Here’s the announcement that John Bolton made on Monday.
JOHN BOLTON: Today, reflecting congressional concern with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the Department of State will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office here in Washington, D.C. And the Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC or any other organization to constrain Israel’s right to self defense.
GREG WILPERT: Palestinian senior diplomat Saeb Erekat responded to the closure of the PLO office.
SAEB EREKAT: But how can anyone in their own mind, with all these American decisions, Trump’s decisions, believe that these people can be honest brokers and arbitrators in any peace process? They are no longer partners in the peace process.
GREG WILPERT: Joining me now from Jerusalem to discuss the latest developments in the Trump administration’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Gideon Levy. Gideon is a prominent Israeli journalist and author of the weekly column Twilight Zone in the Israeli paper Haaretz. He recently published an article in Haaretz with the title “Shame on you, America.” Thank you for joining us today, Gideon.
GIDEON LEVY: My pleasure.
GREG WILPERT: The first sentence of your article is, “Now it’s out in the open. America has declared war on the Palestinians.” Why do you think the U.S. has declared war on the Palestinians, and what does Trump stand to gain from Palestinian suffering?
GIDEON LEVY: Trump has a reputation of standing always against the weak ones, standing always against the just ones, and standing always against those who really need and deserve American protection. And in this case he really went even farther than anyone expected. He not only put an end to this masquerade as the United States was a fair broker, because the United States was never an even-handed broker. The United States was always a pro-Israeli broker. But now it’s far beyond putting an end to this masquerade. Now it’s not only being an unfair broker, a one-sided one. Now it’s really declaring a brutal war on one side. And when I say brutal war, I mean brutal war. Because cutting funds to hospitals in East Jerusalem means, really, punishing cancer patients, punishing dying people. What is more cruel and brutal than this?
GREG WILPERT: So, but what about the argument that the U.S. isn’t morally obligated to fund UNRWA or hospitals in East Jerusalem? I mean, what would you say is the U.S. responsibility in this regard?
GREG WILPERT: You know, when a country supplies the occupier Israel billions of dollars a year, billions of dollars a year, the argument that he has no commitment towards the victim of this country is rather strange. I mean, America is strong enough to say anything and Donald Trump is strong enough to say anything. They can supply and finance whoever they want. They can punish whomever they want. But by the end of the day, this will affect the status of the United States in the world.
And you can see by now the United States is now isolating itself from all the liberal forces in the world. And there are some. The United States is really declaring war not only on Palestinians, but also some universal values, and mainly about human rights and freedom. That’s really the United States wants to be identified as those forces which fight against universal values. This is not America as it should be.
GREG WILPERT: And how is the reaction in Israel to Trump’s policies? Are Israelis rejoicing that the Palestinians are being disempowered by the U.S.?
GIDEON LEVY: For most of the Israelis it’s a zero sum game, and any catastrophe for the Palestinians is a reason for a party in Israel. Except of those who deal with the matter. Like even the army, the Israeli army, who understands what Donald Trump cannot understand, because it’s far beyond his capability, and saying for [inaudible] that by the end of the day what they are doing now means more bloodshed, and more wars. And the Israeli army is right now the only one who understands that, for example, UNRWA stops to function, someone has to feed those people before they go totally crazy and totally desperate.
So I would say that the popular reaction is obviously of great happiness about the great friend in the White House. But people who’ve seen a little bit understand the catastrophe.
GREG WILPERT: What kind of consequences do you think will be there for the U.S. for breaking with decades of foreign policy, abandoning the two-state solution and international law, and starting to openly support the Israeli occupation? After all, Palestinians are unlikely to start an intifada on the streets of New York. You already mentioned isolation. But what other consequences do you expect?
GIDEON LEVY: The United States is supporting the Israeli occupation from its first day. Don’t be wrong. Not only supporting, but also financing. It’s just now getting to a new stage, but the United States never really meant to put an end to the Israeli occupation. If the United States would have liked to put an end to the Israeli occupation, the Israeli occupation would have come to its end within months, so depending is Israel on the United States.
But that’s not the case. And in any case, what we will see now is getting back, maybe, to the years in which the United States, of the prior state in the world that the United States stood against all progressive and liberal forces. In the first stage nothing will happen. The Palestinians are so weak, so beaten, and so isolated. And they have no alternative, because nobody really stands with them. The Arab world betrayed them, and now America has betrayed them. The EU will pay some lip service, but nothing more than lip service. And they are quite weak and isolated. But you know, it would take some time in which this operation will be translated into all kind of desperate actions, which always will be bloodshed and violence.
GREG WILPERT: Unfortunately we’re going to leave it there for now. We’ll of course continue to follow the developments. I was speaking to Gideon Levy, journalist and columnist for the paper Haaretz. Thanks again, Gideon, for having joined us today.
GIDEON LEVY: Thank you for having me.
GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.