Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is the logical outcome of decades of US policy
Since Donald Trump first stood for election, the prevailing wisdom portrayed him as an anomaly and a change in direction. Having elected the first black president, liberal circles hoped to see the glass ceiling shattered for women. The boorish and ungentlemanly Trump was thus perceived as a reversal of a progressive story towards social justice and prosperity.
This narrative, sold by Democratic Party loyalists, has never been tenable. Observers were quick to point out continuities in migration policy between Trump and Obama, and in government policy on women’s rights between Trump and his Republican predecessors. His tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, though extraordinary in their scale, are also nothing new. Yet Donald Trump’s seemingly uncritical support of Israel in the international arena, especially his recent ‘deal of the century’, is still widely regarded as an unprecedented change of course.
Indeed some of Trump’s decisions may appear radical. His deal proposes to recognise illegal Israeli settlements in blatant disregard for international law. He recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, a move reinforced by the relocation of the American embassy. He has also sought to strip millions of refugees of their historic rights as well as cutting funding to UNRWA, the agency which supports them.
He also supported Israel in its continued aggression towards Muslim-majority countries. Notably he has torn up the Iran Nuclear Deal and recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights which were illegally occupied and annexed following the 1967 Six-Day War.
Yet the general course of American policy towards Israel remains the same. For decades, the United States has looked towards Israel as a strategic bulwark against secular Arab nationalism which it sees as the principle threat to its strategic position in the Middle East. As argued by the historian Avi Shlaim, both Israel and the United States have sought to forestall the advent of an Arab Ataturk who would pursue an independent foreign buttressed by political and economic modernisation. Both the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the Six-Day War were born out of the desire to stifle Arab modernisation and independence as well as Israel’s need to monopolise the use of force in the area.
Trump’s support for Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is also consistent with that of his predecessors. His most recent deal is similar to previous proposals which sought to create a legal framework for the enforcement of the existing apartheid system under the guise of peace. The new peace plan is reminiscent of the Oslo Accords in its intention to grant the Palestinians a small demilitarised state, sovereign in name only and deprived of control over its own borders. The Palestinians would be subcontracted to enforce Israel’s security. The possibility of a capital city in East Jerusalem would be abandoned, as would control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. All of this is reminiscent of the Oslo Accords which were never intended to bring peace to the Middle East.
Both Trump and his predecessors support Israel throughout its assaults upon the people of Gaza, which this year was deemed ‘unlivable’ by the United Nations. Just as the IDF continues to kill peaceful protesters with guaranteed American diplomatic cover, Israel was able to count on Obama’s support during its ferocious and cowardly Operation Protective Edge which left 2,251 Palestinians dead of whom most were civilians.
Trump may have gone further than Obama or Bush in supporting Israeli militarism and repression, yet the basic policy tenets remain unaltered. Those who care for the future of Palestine and stability of the Middle East must remember this bitter truth.