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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/16/19

Trump enjoys bipartisan support for his plan to eradicate the Palestinian cause

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Instead, Palestinian expectations may have to be managed via another route through the key Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. Or, as Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri recently noted, the Bahrain conference "foreshadows the beginning of abandoning the [Palestine Liberation Organization] as the Palestinians' representative, thereby opening the door " for a new era of Arab patronage over the Palestinians to take hold."

Years of imperial overreach

Under Trump, what has changed most significantly in the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the urgency of Washington's efforts to set aside the Palestinian national struggle once and for all.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, US administrations with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter's had only a marginal interest in forcing a settlement on Israelis and Palestinians. Aside from lip service to peace, they were mostly content to leave the two sides to engage in an asymmetrical struggle that always favoured Israel. This was sold as "conflict management".

But after 15 years of US imperial overreach in the Middle East and faced with major foreign policy setbacks in Iraq and Syria, and Israel's related failures in Lebanon Washington desperately needs to consolidate its position against rivals and potential rivals in this oil-rich region.

Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe, are jostling in different ways for a more assertive role in the Middle East. As it tries to counter these influences, the US wishes to bring together its main allies in the region: Israel and the key Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia.

Although secret ties between the two sides have been growing for some time, unresolved tensions remain over Israel's demand that it be allowed to maintain regional superiority in military and intelligence matters. That has been obvious in current power battles playing out in Washington.

The Trump administration last month declared extraordinary measures to bypass Congress so that it could sell more than $8bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. In retaliation, Congressional leaders close to Israel vowed they would block the arms sales.

Splinter in region's windpipe

In the White House's view, little further progress can be made until the Palestinian splinter stuck deep in the Middle East's windpipe is removed.

Most Arab leaders care nothing for the Palestinian cause, and have come to bitterly resent the way the Palestinians' enduring struggle for statehood has complicated their own dealings in the region, especially with Iran and Israel.

They would enthusiastically embrace a full partnership with the US and Israel in the region, if only they could afford to be seen doing so.

But the Palestinians' struggle against Israel and its powerful symbolism in a region that has experienced so much malign Western interference continues to serve as a brake on Washington's efforts to forge tighter and more explicit alliances with the Arab states.

Serious case of hubris

As such, the Trump administration has concluded that "conflict management" is no longer in US interests. It needs to isolate and dispose of the Palestinian splinter. Once that encumbrance is out of the way, the White House believes it can get on with forging a coalition with Israel and most of the Arab states to reassert its dominance over the Middle East.

All of this will likely prove far harder to achieve than the Trump administration imagines, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intimated last week in private.

But it would be wrong nonetheless to assume that the strategy behind Trump's "deal of the century", however unrealistic, is not clear-sighted in both its aims and methods.

It would be similarly misguided to believe that the administration's policy is a maverick one. It is operating within the ideological constraints of the Washington foreign policy elite, even if Trump's "peace plan" lies at the outer margins of the establishment consensus.

The Trump administration enjoys bipartisan backing from Congress both for its Jerusalem embassy move and for economic measures that threaten to crush the PA, a government-in-waiting that has already made enormous compromises in agreeing to statehood on a tiny fraction of its people's historic homeland.

No doubt the Trump White House is suffering from a serious case of hubris in trying to eliminate the Palestinian cause for good. But that hubris, however dangerous, we should remember, is shared by much of the US political establishment.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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