By Omar Barghouti
16 May 2017
As President Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on May 3, Palestinians held their breath, but not because we expected any progress towards just and comprehensive peace to emerge from the meeting. Quite the opposite.
First, Trump's bias towards Israel's far-right regime of occupation and apartheid does not bode well for bringing about respect for international law and human rights principles.
The US has been arming Israel's wars on Palestinians and Arabs, and generously funding and protecting Israel's system of oppression, well before Trump. Obama, after all, has committed a record $38bn in military aid to Israel over ten years, even as domestic health, education and employment programmes face severe cuts across the US.
But Trump takes this decades-old US complicity to the next level.
Take Israel's settlements built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian land as an example. Despite recent rhetoric to the contrary, Trump stands out in politically and financially supporting them, when almost the whole world considers them as flagrantly illegal under international law and as a fatal obstacle to "peace".
Trump also frequently refers to Israel's policies to justify his own, whether on ethnic profiling, the refugee and Muslim ban, or the racist wall with Mexico, which Benjamin Netanyahu openly champions.
Trump's Middle East team must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US "peacemaking". Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman explicitly support Israel's fanatical, settler-influenced government, with Kushner and Friedman deeply invested in financing extremist settlement groups.
One has to be clinically delusional or irreparably opportunistic to expect any good to come out of this administration in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equal rights for Palestinians.
Second, the Netanyahu government, widely termed the "most racist" in Israel's history, is not just putting its illegal settlement expansion on steroids. It is too busy with its gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities, including within present-day Israel, land grab in the occupied West Bank, especially in East Jerusalem, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights, and its tightening siege of Gaza to reassure even some of its ardent apologists of its intentions to end its system of injustice.
Drunk with power and impunity, Israeli government ministers have shed the veneer of supporting a "two-state solution" and cheered Trump's rise to power as a rare opportunity to bury the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Third, the current Palestinian leadership lacks a democratic mandate to negotiate on behalf of the people. Abbas' mandate elapsed in 2009, and he has ruled ever since mostly by decree. A hunger strike by more than a thousand Palestinian political prisoners demanding dignity and freedom is further nourishing popular resistance to the occupation, while also revealing the steep unpopularity of Abbas' leadership.
The 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) created a Palestinian Authority that was designed to act as a sub-contractor for the occupation, temporarily carrying out some of Israel's responsibilities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory until the dismantling of the occupation within five years. That occupation is turning 50 next month.
This endless, fraudulent "peace process" has made a just and comprehensive peace further away than ever by serving as a fig leaf for Israel's intensifying colonisation.
The PA leadership's fawning willingness to comply with Trump's dictates is decried by many Palestinians as an irresponsible - to put it mildly - attempt to be politically relevant at the expense of Palestinian rights.
Its strong commitment to the ongoing "security coordination" with the Israeli occupation is a case in point. Applauded by Trump as going "unbelievably well", this collaboration defies the Palestinian national consensus and violates a March 2015 decision by the PLO against it.
A truly accountable and representative Palestinian leadership would instead embark on a massive diplomatic and political battle to convince world parliaments and governments, and eventually the UN, to impose meaningful sanctions on Israel, as was done on apartheid South Africa, until it fully complies with the UN-stipulated rights of all Palestinians.
As Israel drops its already worn-out mask of democracy, its support base in the US, including among Jewish millennials, continues to erode. A December 2016 poll released by the Brookings Institution, for instance, reveals that 46 percent of all Americans and 60 percent of Democrats support imposing sanctions or taking tougher measures against Israel to stop its illegal settlements.
Growing at an impressive rate in the past few years, the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights has not only set an example of how to advocate for Palestinian rights. It has also found common cause with vulnerable communities facing escalating attacks by the Trump administration, enhancing mutual solidarity with movements defending the rights of indigenous communities, refugees, blacks, women, workers, immigrants, Muslims and LGBTQI communities.
Given the three factors above, most Palestinians place their hopes on the emerging, cross-movement global resistance to the rise of the xenophobic right and its relentless quest for a more savage world order benefiting the few at the expense of the many.
Palestinians and many communities across the world struggling for justice are realising that isolated, we all fail. United, we can prevail.
Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights defender and co-recipient of the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award. He writes here in his personal capacity.