DONALD TRUMP is very upset with the Palestinian leadership, accusing it of ingratitude.
The US president can’t believe, just because he declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pledged to transfer the US embassy there, that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told him to forget any Washington-led peace negotiations.
Either Trump is unaware of the city’s unique importance to Palestinian Muslims and Christians, as well as to Jews, or he believes he has a god-like power to make declarations binding on the whole of humanity.
His administration reacted angrily and with a degree of incomprehension to Abbas’s statement that the US has disqualified itself from leading any peace process and to the UN general assembly declaration that Trump’s unilateral attempt to rewrite international law is illegal and “null and void.”
He has taken to the Twitter air waves to complain that “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue ... peace treaty with Israel.”
The US president even suggested implausibly that he had helped the process, having “taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table.”
Appearing like a sulky adolescent, Trump added: “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
The Palestine Liberation Organisation commented: “We will not be blackmailed. President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice. Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!”
Netanyahu ministers swiftly welcomed Trump’s implied threat, with Communications Minister Ayoub Kara applauding him for ripping off the “Palestinians’ mask of hypocrisy.”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said: “It can’t be that on the one hand he gives $300 million to UNRWA [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and on the other hand they slam the door in his face and say they will not even enter into negotiations.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett was equally supportive, claiming: “The truth is the Palestinian leadership continues to fund terrorists, using US tax monies. By speaking truth, we can stop the fantasy of another Palestinian state in the heart of Israel.”
In reality, the US gives $300m a year to the Palestinian Authority, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the £3.1 billion handed annually to Israel, rising soon to £3.8bn, courtesy of former president Barack Obama’s going-away present.
US presidential pretensions to unchallenged world leadership are not a new phenomenon. Since the Soviet Union’s demise, Washington has designated itself and its closest allies as the “international community,” either directing the UN or supplanting it.
Yes, the US was isolated over its illegal blockade against Cuba, but otherwise it has been unchallenged on key global economic, diplomatic and military issues.
Obama’s plan to rerun the invasion of Iraq in Syria was scuppered first by disagreement in Britain’s Parliament and then by Russia’s decisive military intervention.
It should have been seen as a straw in the wind to Washington that its allies in Europe were no longer able or willing to ignore public opinion, as they had over Iraq, and to saddle up unquestioningly in the US global sheriff’s posse of deputies.
Trump’s attempt to scotch the comprehensive international treaty with Iran, covering nuclear power and global sanctions, has also run into difficulties, with EU states defending its legal status and their own trading opportunities with Tehran.
His authority has been similarly undermined by the reluctance of not only his transatlantic allies but major state governments such as California to share the unscientific stance on global warming of so many of his backers by pulling out of the Paris agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Trump administration has been left exposed again, supported over Iran solely by Tel Aviv which has not yet reconciled itself to US reluctance to approve — and assist, if required — massive Israeli aerial attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities, maintaining, against the judgement of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have anticipated Obama’s refusal to back an adventurist assault likely to set the region ablaze, but he might have expected better (worse) from Trump.
Perhaps this indicates, as some have suggested, despite Trump’s nuclear willy-waving contest with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — “my button’s much bigger, more powerful and it works” — that he has had to listen to advice from the many generals now stationed in the White House and its environs.
His Israeli acolyte has not been slow to exploit his patron’s Jerusalem statement, having a Bill passed by 64-51 in the Knesset on Tuesday that will require a special two-thirds majority vote in future to relinquish any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians under a future peace accord.
It also excluded a number of Arab villages currently within the municipality of Jerusalem but outside Israel’s apartheid wall, effectively removing 30 per cent of the city’s Palestinian population and further skewing its ethnic make-up, although they retain, for now at least, Israel residency permits.
The Netanyahu government has also acted to remove 16-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi from public awareness after she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier when he and other occupation forces entered her West Bank village shortly after her cousin was put into a coma when he was shot in the head with a rubber-covered steel bullet.
She was not arrested at the time but Israeli troops came into her home later at dead of night, locking her up in an Israeli jail along with her mother and cousin.
Ahed was denied a change of clothes for a week while in custody and, when she was taken to military court, three soldiers were deployed to sit immediately in front of her father Bassem Tamimi to prevent him seeing his daughter.
“I wasn’t even allowed to see her and any time I tried to speak to her, the Israeli officers would tell me to shut up and would threaten to kick me out of the court,” he said.
The military judge accused her of assaulting Israeli Defence Forces personnel, dragging up accusations relating to previous occasions when she has resisted IDF attempts to seize family members in their village.
He ruled that she and her mother Fatemah be held in jail until their cases are complete, possibly with custodial sentences, as though this will make Ahed disappear.
Her father has expressed pride at his daughter’s actions, calling her “one of many young women who in the coming years will lead the resistance to Israeli rule. She is not interested in the spotlight currently being aimed at her due to her arrest but in genuine change.”
Israeli commentator Uri Avnery sees her “becoming the Palestinian Joan of Arc before our eyes.”
He denounces the decision to hold her in custody as “totally stupid,” recognising that “thousands of Palestinian teenagers see the photos and their hearts swell with pride. Look how one of our own dared to confront the occupation. I want to be like her.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was asked about Ahed by the six-year-old daughter of journalist Clayton Swisher, telling her that “she shouldn’t be in prison because children should never be in prison and, if people are standing up for their rights, then they should be allowed to do that.”
Such self-evident facts may be anathema to the likes of Trump and Netanyahu, but their outdated and unjust views are increasingly at odds with public sentiment across the globe.
John Haylett is Morning Star political editor. He writes every other Thursday.
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