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4 January 2018

US blackmail continued

By: Daoud Kuttab
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The problem with the current resident of the White House is that he seems to have forgotten the very ideas that he has espoused in his book “The Art of the Deal”. Even though politics is the art of the possible and politics unlike business deals with the lives and futures of people not just money and interest, Donald Trump clearly has no serious foreign policy.
 
His policy appears to be knee jerked decisions made often to please certain constituents or funders but certainly does not rise to the level of being given the description of a well thought policy. In foreign policy, words matter. And decisions often have a life of their own that can go much further than originally expected.
 
The international community and especially political adversaries look carefully for any sign, hint and certainly any statement that can be seen as a green, amber or red light to whatever ideas and plans they have been awaiting to unleash.
 
Donald Trump wanted the world to think that his decision on Jerusalem was simply a sovereign US decision about recognising a reality. The White House and the US mission at the UN went out of their way to say that there is no change in policy and that the decision does not pre-judge the final status talks of the holy city. Tell that to the Israeli members of Knesset or to the central committee of the ruling right-wing Likud Party.
 
Israeli legislatures and right-wing activists quickly understood the Jerusalem decision as a blaring greenlight to continue and escalate their efforts to strengthen Israeli occupation and control, and to put even more obstacles to any possible negotiated solution for Jerusalem and the final status of the occupied territories.
 
The very same Trump and his sidekick who repeatedly said that the Jerusalem decision is not meant to affect final status talks, has now tweeted that in fact “Jerusalem is off the table”, and therefore that peace talks are now expected to sail through that the contentious issue of Jerusalem is no longer part of the talks. What? So the Israelis were correct in their speedy understanding of the greenlight blaring from Washington.
 
But Trump’s appetite to cause political wreckage appears to have no end. The US now is tampering with funding to a UN agency that has been entrusted since 1948 to take care of humanitarian needs of Palestinians. The goal is to force Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. Translated — that Palestinians surrender and accept US and Israeli dictates.
 
Political leaders even novice ones learn from their mistakes and build an accumulation of knowledge over time. Almost one year in office and President Trump clearly has not learned anything. One would expect that after the failure of his threats to financially punish all countries which voted against the UN in the General Assembly that he would think twice about using blackmail again. Cutting off aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) will not bring Mahmoud Abbas and any other Palestinian leader to their knees. Instead, it will embolden Palestinians even more and will once again show that the US bluffs and blackmail efforts simply do not work.
 
What is dangerous, however, is not that blackmail will work or not, but that tampering with so many issues at the same time, Jerusalem, and refugees, the US action will produce the very same results that it claims it wants to avoid.
 
The majority of Palestinian refugees today live in the besieged Gaza Strip. It will not cause refugees to demonstrate against Mahmoud Abbas and demand of him to quickly rush to Washington to accept whatever dictates that Trump, Kushner and Greenblatt have to offer.
 
Even the Israeli military officials understand the dangers in putting any further pressure on innocent Palestinian refugees. The Israelis who make a modest contribution to UNRWA have in their power to totally stop the work of this UN agency, but have chosen not to stop its effort because they understand the important soothing role that this agency has as it addresses daily humanitarian needs of a population that has been forced out of their homes and who are waiting a political solution.
 
What is clear today is that there is no serious ultimate solution, there is no strategy or policy for a Middle East solution and there is no process or mechanism that can help bring about a solution. What exists is simply a US/Israel dictate whose features we have yet to see. But if the early signs are to go by, it certainly does not have a chance of day to work.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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