It is not just in the Kremlin or Damascus that Donald Trump’s election has been welcomed. Across Israel’s rightwing political establishment, the incoming Trump administration is seen as an opportunity to scrap, once and for all, any talk of Palestinian independence.
According to Haaretz, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett confidently declared after the election that “the era of the Palestinian state is over.” Other members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet called on Trump to fulfill his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was quick to react as well, quietly removing any reference to a Palestinian state from its website.
These groups and individuals have always been actively opposed to the concept of a Palestinian state and have worked to undermine it for years. As such, these public disavowals of the Oslo process represent more evidence of their beliefs rather than a substantive change in policy. Nevertheless, the growing willingness to openly oppose the peace paradigm of previous decades speaks to how much the Israeli and pro-Israel right has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.
Before Trump, Israeli leaders had to go through the motions of negotiations and dialogue in order to ensure unwavering U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine and general indifference to settlement construction. Even Netanyahu, who first became prime minster in the nineties by campaigning against the establishment of a Palestinian state, felt the need, after Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, to support an independent Palestine.
This faith in the end of Oslo is well-placed. Trump’s chief Israel advisor, Jason Greenblatt, promised an end to the Obama administration’s condemnation of Israeli settlements. Another adviser said Trump would eliminate those parts of the recent $38 billion dollar military aid deal that prevented Israel from requesting more funds. The likely appointment of Mike Huckabee, a prominent supporter of Christian Zionism, as U.S. ambassador to Israel reinforces Trump’s clear intentions to remove any semblance of diplomatic pressure on Israel.
To Palestinians who have suffered decades of military occupation and failed peace negotiations, this open disavowal of the peace process will hardly seem new. As the origins and course of the Oslo Accords reveal, they had no chance of leading to a Palestinian state. Even Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in Oslo’s negotiations, told the Knesset in 1995 that the peace process would only ever lead to the creation of an entity that is “less than a state.”
Over the course of the last twenty years, one U.S. administration after another has been unwilling to expend the political capital necessary to end the occupation and create a Palestinian state. While Trump may seem like more of the same, his administration could have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian people.
Over recent years, there has been strengthening global pushback against Israel’s apartheid policies. Because of the unusually cool relations between Obama and Netanyahu, there was even concern the United States might withhold its customary protection of Israel at the UN Security Council. Trump’s support for a more rightwing Israel could reverse these gains, and lead to even more oppressive Israeli policies toward Palestinians inside Israel itself, as well as the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
Emboldened by Trump, time will tell how far Israel may go in tightening its grip on the Palestinian people.