US ‘manoeuvring’ by doubting Israel’s seriousness

White House wants to ‘end’ Palestinian issue irrespective of whether it’s acceptable or not to Palestinians, say analysts

Dubai: US President Donald Trump’s “concerns” about Israeli colonies in the occupied territories and his doubts about Tel Aviv’s seriousness to achieve peace with the Palestinians do not reflect a change in America’s policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians, Arab analysts said.

The Trump administration’s policies are aligned with those of Israel. The US will, at one point, dictate to Palestinians, regardless of their views, analysts said.

“There is no change in Trump’s policy,” said Ali Jarbawi, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told Gulf News.

“Had there been a change, it wouldn’t be in rhetoric, but in action,” said Jarbawi, who is also a former minister of planning and administrative development, and also a former minister of higher education in the Palestinian National Authority.

“There is no action at all that indicates a change in the (US) policy,” he said.

“The position of the current US administration has not and will not change,” said Tarek Fahmy, head of the Israel unit at the Cairo-based National Centre for Middle East Studies and a political science professor at the American University of Cairo.

“Trump is continuing with his policies,” he told Gulf News.

Trump, in an interview published on Sunday, said he believed both Israelis and Palestinians are not ready to make peace.

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace,” Trump said in an interview with the Israeli freesheet Israel Hayom.

“And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”

Trump also expressed his concerns over the Israeli colony activities.

“The settlements [colonies] are something that very much complicates and always has complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements [colonies].

I don’t know frankly if we are going to even have talks. We will see what happens, but I think it is very foolish for the Palestinians and I also think it would be very foolish for the Israelis if they don’t make a deal,” Trump said.

“It’s our only opportunity and it will never happen after this.”

However, political scientists in the region expect the current US administration, which is described as the most pro-Israel in history, to try to impose a ‘solution’ on the Palestinians.

“Under this administration, there is no prospect of solving the Palestinian issue in a fair manner,” said Jarbawi. “The only thing that we can look for, from now on, is whether Trump will announce what he calls his ‘deal of the century’ or not. If he does not, that means the Israelis are not accepting what he is planning to give the Palestinians, which would be the minimum [in any case].”

Shortly after he entered the White House, Trump said he would announce “the deal of the century” on Palestine. Instead, in December, he took the decision to unilaterally recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said Washington will move the American embassy there.

The US move was condemned by the vast majority of the international community, and the Palestinians said there will be no talks with the US administration until it reverses its decision.

Press reports quoted Trump in the last few days as praising his move as the highlight of his first year in office.

“I think [occupied] Jerusalem was a very big point and I think it was a very important point,” he said.

“(Occupied East) Jerusalem is no longer on the table,” following the US decision late last year, said Fahmy.

It was one of the three “dangerous” issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict on which Washington was taking a pro-Israel stance, analysts said.

The other two issues are Palestinian refugees and their right to return, and Israeli colonies on Palestinian land. While the US administration has said it will withhold more than half of a tranche of funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), it is not taking any measures against the Israeli colonies, which are illegal under international law, and also seen as illegal by all the previous US administrations.

Washington is manoeuvring, said analysts. It says it accepts the two-state solution if the two parties concerned support it. Until they get down to talks, the White House is expected to announce giving Palestinians “self-rule” on the land they are on, they said.

Another possible scenario is related to a unilateral American vision, under which “the US will put forward a vision, and if the Palestinians don’t accept it, and it is implemented by the Israeli side, [Washington will] “legalise” the Israeli measures and turn it into a reality on the ground,” said Fahmy.

Meanwhile, Washington rejects the Palestinian demand of widening the peace brokers to include some Arab countries, other European powers and the UN. Israel also refuses the participation of any sponsor other than the US in its talks with the Palestinians.

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