Britain must not reward Israel for its abuse of Palestinians

First published by the Arab Weekly on Sunday 10/6/2018

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Breaking with the norm? Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Prince William arrive as she hosts a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London, on May 31. (AP)

Prince William’s visit to Israel this month, the first official British royal visit to the country, could not come at a more inappropriate time.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30, when mass protests near the Gaza-Israel border broke out to highlight the plight of the besieged enclave and the rights of refugees. More than 10,000 people have been reportedly injured.

Among the fatalities was Razan Al-Najar, a 21-year old volunteer medic who was shot in the back while tending to injured protesters near the Israeli fence. Her death caused international outrage. Nicolai Miladinov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, tweeted: “Medical workers are #NotATarget!”

Israel, however, has not been held accountable. A resolution tabled at the UN Security Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people was vetoed by the United States hours after Razan’s death.

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who was visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel, tweeted: “Circumstances of dreadful death of young Palestinian medic yesterday require urgent clarification.”

The world community failed to condemn Israel for the use of live ammunition fired by highly trained snipers, when less lethal force could have been used. There were no reports of injuries either to Israeli army personnel or nearby settlers.

Britain called for an independent inquiry into Israel’s killings of Palestinians only to abstain in the UN Human Rights Council when a resolution setting up the required inquiry was tabled.

Criticism of Britain’s U-turn on an independent inquiry grew when Burt said he could not verify how British weapons would be used once delivered to Israel. This raised concerns that British weapons may have been used by the Israeli military to kill Palestinian protesters, which is in contravention of the licences that allowed their sale.

Burt explained that once a risk assessment had been conducted, the licences were issued and no further checks made.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade said the United Kingdom issued approximately $300 million worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel, substantially more than the $115 million sold last year and the $27 million licensed in 2015.

Over the past five years, Israel has bought more than $450 million worth of British military hardware, making Israel the eighth largest market for UK arms companies. Last year’s sales included targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. This makes it possible that snipers were using British rifles to kill and maim civilian protesters at the Gaza fence.

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Britain’s Royal Air Force took part in a flyover to mark Israel’s Independence Day last month, even though it coincided with the Palestinians’ commemoration of 70 years of their Nakba.

Last December, HMS Ocean, a flagship of the British Royal Navy, docked in Haifa. It took part in exercises with the Israeli Navy and Air Force. To encourage British-Israeli business cooperation, particularly in the high-technology sector, the United Kingdom created the UK Israel Tech Hub. Its website confirms that it focuses on “tech areas with the potential to contribute to growth in both the UK and Israel.”  The areas include cyber-security, biomed, clean tech and fintech.

The United Kingdom is also firmly against placing pressure on Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and has attempted to stop British local authorities excluding companies complicit in Israel’s occupation from applying for contracts or for their pension schemes to invest in such companies.

Israel is on a list of ten countries the United Kingdom is targeting for trade deals post Brexit and the United Kingdom appears to be exercising caution in taking any action against Israel that may put such a deal in jeopardy.

Prince William’s visit to the region is to include stops in Jordan and the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the visit, however, it is likely to be a only courtesy call in Ramallah, rather than a “meet the people” affair. The pomp and pageantry will be with the Israelis. Significantly, the prince will not visit Gaza to see first-hand the effect of the siege — imposed by the leaders whose hands he will shake and whose wine he will drink — on 2 million people.

It is the norm that royal visits avoid politics but by choosing to make such a visit in the current climate, every step and every word uttered by the prince will matter.

To avoid the many pitfalls, it would have been better for this visit to take place after a peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis, rather than after the significant loss of life in the Great March of Return.

Razan perdió su vida; mientras tanto, Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad

Primero publicado en Monitor De Oriente on 5/6/2018

Razan murió como una orgullosa palestina lleno de humanidad y será recordada con el mismo nombre con el que nació. Por el contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, será recordada por su nombre adoptado, Nikki Haley, ocultando su herencia india. Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

El pasado viernes, 1 de junio, una médico voluntaria palestina, Razan Al Najar, mientras ayunaba, atendía a los heridos en la verja artificial que separa a Gaza de Israel. A miles de kilómetros, la embajadora de Estados Unidos en la ONU, Nikki Haley, maquinaba en nombre de Israel en el organismo internacional. El día acabó con Razan glorificada y convertida en mártir y en Nikki humillada y avergonzada.

Como hacía cada día desde el comienzo de la Gran Marcha del Retorno el 30 de marzo, Razan se despidió de su familia y se dirigió a la frontera, consciente de que sus habilidades serían necesarias para tratar a los palestinos que se disponían a marchar hacia la valla que separa artificialmente a Gaza del resto de la Palestina histórica. Marchan para ejercitar su derecho a regresar a los hogares de los que proceden y de donde las fuerzas israelíes les expulsaron en 1948. Sin duda, los conocimientos médicos de Razan serían necesarios, ya que Israel había decidido desplegar a decenas de francotiradores profesionales para asesinar a palestinos. El número de víctimas ha alcanzado las 119 y más de diez mil heridos; algunas estimaciones elevan esta cifra a más de 13.000.

Una publicación de Facebook – cuya exactitud no puedo verificar – afirma que, en sus últimas palabras, Razan le pidió a su madre que hiciera hojas de parra rellenas para la ruptura del ayuno al anochecer. Se despidió y marchó a encontrarse con sus compañeros médicos en la valla. En aquel momento, Nikki Haley estaría probablemente desayunando antes de dirigirse a la ONU y decidir cómo lidiar con los 15 miembros del Consejo de Seguridad. No había llegado a un acuerdo sobre ninguna declaración respecto a los acontecimientos en la frontera de Gaza desde el comienzo de las marchas, a pesar del alto número de víctimas. Aquel día, el Consejo decidía si respaldar una resolución presentada por Kuwait pidiendo protección para el pueblo palestino, o respaldar una resolución estadounidense condenando a Hamás por una serie de cohetes disparados desde la Franja de Gaza en respuesta a los crímenes israelíes.

Razan, de 20 años, era la mayor de seis hermanos. Tenía un título en enfermería general y había completado unos 38 cursos de primeros auxilios. Aunque no tenía asegurado un trabajo remunerado, se ofrecía como voluntaria en hospitales, ONGS y organizaciones médicas, desarrollando habilidades y experiencia que la convirtieron en una gran ayuda durante la Gran Marcha.

En una entrevista con el The New York Times el mes pasado, Razan explicaba por qué se había ofrecido voluntaria para ayudar en la Gran Marcha del Retorno, sobre todo como mujer. “Ser médico no es sólo un trabajo de hombres”, dijo Razan, “también es de mujeres”.

También atestiguó los momentos finales de algunos heridos de muerte. “Me rompe el corazón que algunos de los jóvenes que resultaron heridos o fueron asesinados me dijeran a mí su última voluntad”, contaba a Al Jazeera. “Algunos incluso me daban objetos suyos [como regalo] antes de morir.”

En una publicación en su cuenta de Facebook el 16 de mayo, Razan negaba las acusaciones de que ella y otros voluntarios habían sido coaccionados para ir a la frontera.

El 1 de junio, un francotirador israelí la disparó por la espalda, según informó la organización activista Al Mezan, citando a testigos oculares y a sus investigaciones. En el momento de recibir el disparo, se encontraba a 100 m. de la valla y llevaba ropas que claramente la identificaban como médico. Su chaleco médico manchado de sangre la acompañó a la tumba durante el funeral masivo que se celebró para ella al día siguiente.

Comparemos los actos humanos y desinteresados de Razan, de 21 años, con oportunidades limitadas de conseguir paz y justicia para su pueblo, con los intentos vergonzosos y descarados de la embajadora Nikki Haley en el Consejo de Seguridad para denegar la protección al pueblo de Razan. Mientras que Kuwait proponía una resolución al Consejo para cumplir su responsabilidad ante un pueblo oprimido y garantizar su protección, Haley proponía una resolución para denunciar a Hamás por los cohetes lanzados contra zonas israelíes tras los ataques y bombardeos mortales de Israel en el enclave asediado.

La votación sobre ambos textos se produjo poco después de la muerte de Razan. Haley no consiguió más votos que el suyo para su resolución; tres países votaron en contra y 11 se abstuvieron. Una total humillación para Estados Unidos y personalmente para Haley que hizo que los analistas revolvieran los registros históricos hasta encontrar otra ocasión en la que una resolución sólo hubiera contado con el apoyo del país que la proponía. En el momento de escribir este artículo, aún no han encontrado ninguna.

Una vez más, Haley quedó aislada cuando Estados Unidos vetó una resolución para proteger a los palestinos. Con su poder en Israel, ha dado la espalda a un pueblo palestino mayoritariamente pacífico que se enfrenta al ejército de Israel, ayudado por el hardware militar de EEUU, con un valor de miles de millones de dólares. En una reunión previa del Consejo respecto a los asesinatos de Israel contra manifestantes palestinos, decidió salir en cuanto su representante comenzó hablar. Supuso una clara violación del protocolo y produjo grandes críticas. Dado su desempeño general como embajadora de los Estados Unidos, el presidente Trump debería despedir a Haley inmediatamente. Ha provocado el aislamiento y la humillación de su país; todo por el bien de un aliado inmerecido, Israel.

El 1 de junio de 2018, Razan perdió su vida mientras Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad al defender las acciones terroristas de un Estado criminal, Israel. Razan murió como una palestina orgullosa, llena de humanidad, y será recordada con el mismo nombre que le pusieron al nacer. Al contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, hija de inmigrantes sij, un día fallecerá y será recordada por su nombre adoptivo, Nikki Haley, con el que oculta su herencia india. Razan será recordada por su voluntariado desinteresado, mientras que Haley será recordada por apoyar y proteger al único Estado de apartheid del mundo.

Razan no podía hacer mucho por cambiar el mundo y conseguir la paz en tierra santa, mientras que Haley, desde una de las oficinas más poderosas de la política mundial, podría haber ayudado a proteger a los palestinos y llevar la paz a la región. Si Razan hubiera tenido un cargo tan alto, el mundo sería un lugar mejor.

Descansa en paz, Razan Al-Najar. Vales más que un millón de Nikki Haleys.

 

 

Is Mahmoud Abbas’ peace plan achievable?

First published by TRT World on 5/6/2018

The US has effectively removed any facade of its status as ‘mediator’ between Palestinians and Israelis. Will it be possible for any peace process to move forward in the face of US and Israeli belligerence?

The Palestinians are at a crossroad, as they commemorate the 51 anniversary of the Naksa (day of the setback) when Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Sinai desert – prospects for a peace treaty with Israel that would bring any form of justice appear further today than ever.

The intransigence of an extremist settler-led Israeli government has been strengthened by a US Administration that not only has Israel’s back, but is prepared to be isolated at the United Nations if it means protecting its ally.

If confirmation of this was needed, then the recent theatre at the UN Security Council should be sufficient.

The US vetoed a resolution that sought to bring protection for the Palestinian people from Israeli violence—in which at least 118 have been killed since March—mostly at the hands of Israeli snipers positioned high above the fence between Gaza and Israel, using lethal explosive bullets. If the bullets did not kill, the injuries they caused were devastating, resulting in many amputations.

Yes, the Security Council, which is mandated to ensure security, let the Palestinian people down at the behest of US UN envoy Nikki Haley’s raised hand. America’s isolation was compounded when Haley failed to secure a single vote for her resolution condemning Hamas for a volley of 70 rockets, which left the Gaza strip a few days earlier in response to Israel’s killings and frequent air raids on Gaza.

The US secured exactly one vote: that of the US itself.

The US had been isolated earlier in 2018 after US President Donald Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in record time moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, absent of any peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Nikki Haley again had to raise her hand to veto a resolution rejecting its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, the US lost heavily when the same text was put to the UN General Assembly, where it has no veto. Haley resorted to threats to those that “disrespected” the US and indicated there would be consequences for doing so.

The Palestinian response to the US Embassy move, its subsequent defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and threats to close the Palestinian mission in Washington DC was to suspend all contact with the US administration.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has since refused to meet any American officials, specifically Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman. He even recently shunned a delegation of Democrats on a visit to the region.

The Americans claim to be close to releasing “the ultimate peace deal”, which will apparently be presented for implementation after the holy month of Ramadan. With Trump declaring he has taken Jerusalem “off the table”; no prospects for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes; no plans to dismantle or evacuate any of the illegal settlements in East Jerusalem or the West Bank; it is likely to be a very thin document, which no Palestinian leader could sell to his people, whose sacrifices before and since Israel’s creation have been immeasurable.

There have also been major geopolitical changes in the region that weaken the Palestinian position. The threat of Iran has sent a number of Gulf States to seek US protection, which in turn has been used as leverage to cajole them into developing clandestine relationships with Israel and in some cases those relationships are out in the open. They even responded to Trump’s call to control the anger that his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital ignited, leaving Haley purring that the sky did not fall in after the announcement.

In the face of such monumental challenges, Abbas has developed his own peace plan, which he put to the UN Security Council and more recently to the Palestinian National Council. It is based on a “multilateral international mechanism”.

The plan would be based on the two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. In addition, it includes an international peace conference by mid-2018 that would recognise Palestine as a state; the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative; and the refraining of all parties from taking any unilateral actions during the negotiation process.

In essence, this plan is dead in the water unless the US approves it because it would have to eventually be put to a vote in the UN Security Council. It’s a safe bet to assume the Haley hand would be raised to veto.

In any case, there is no evidence that either the EU, Russia or China are willing or capable of holding a peace conference in mid 2018 as Abbas asks. We are already there and there is not a whisper of a possibility of this taking place.

It is therefore likely that the situation will revert to the status quo—which Israel can live with—but which the Palestinians have been unable to change.

Two options the Palestinians can pursue to raise the cost of the occupation to Israel are to continue to pursue criminal charges against Israelis in the International Criminal Court, and to escalate the popular non-violent resistance, which caught Israel off-guard and struggled to deal with except through violence. The third strand is to adopt and escalate the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as the Palestine National Council agreed at its recent meeting in Ramallah.

These are actions Palestinians can take themselves and with the help of supporters around the world, rather than relying on Arab or western governments to support them.

It is only once the cost of the occupation has risen to a level which troubles Israel that it will negotiate seriously for a just peace.

In his current mindset Abbas is unlikely to effectively develop an alternative strategy, along these lines. However, the 84 year old has health issues and may abruptly exit the political scene. That might just  open the way for a new approach that delivers freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

While Razan lost her life, Nikki Haley lost her humanity

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 3/6/2018

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations votes during a UN Security Council meeting following the United States, United Kingdom and France attacks on chemical weapons positions in Syria at United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 14 April, 2018 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Razan died a proud Palestinian full of humanity and will be remembered with the same name she was born with. In contrast, Nimrata Randhawa, will be remembered by her adopted name, Nikki Haley, hiding her Indian heritage. Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Last Friday, 1 June, a Palestinian volunteer medic, Razan Al Najar, was fasting and tending to the wounded at Gaza’s artificial fence with Israel. Thousands of miles away, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was scheming on behalf of Israel at the world body. The day ended with martyrdom and glory for Razan and shame and humiliation for Nikki.

Just like she had done since the start of the Great March of Return on 30 March, Razan said goodbye to her family to go to the border, knowing that her skills would undoubtedly be called upon to treat Palestinians planning to march to the fence that artificially separates Gaza from the rest of historic Palestine. They have been marching to exercise their right of return to the homes they and their families hail from and which Israel and its terrorist gangs had expelled them from in 1948 and continued to do since then. Razan’s medical skills would surely be needed because Israel decided to deploy tens of highly trained snipers to kill Palestinians. The number killed has now reached 119, with over ten thousand injured; some estimates put this figure at over 13,000.

File photo of 21-year-old Razan Al-Najar, a volunteer medic in Gaza, killed on June 1, 2018, during the 10th week of the ‘Great March of Return’ protests at the Gaza-Israel border

A post on Facebook whose accuracy I cannot verify says that her last words to her mother were to ask her to cook stuffed vine leaves for her breaking of the fast meal at sunset. She said her goodbyes and left to join her medical colleagues at the fence. Nikki Haley would at that time probably been having her breakfast before heading to the UN to decide how to deal with the 15-member Security Council. It had failed to agree on any statement regarding the events at the Gaza fence since the start of the marches, despite the high number of casualties. The choice for the Council that day was whether to back a resolution tabled by Kuwait calling for protection for the Palestinian people or to back an American resolution condemning Hamas for a volley of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in response to Israeli crimes.

Twenty-one-year-old Razan was the eldest of six siblings. She had a diploma in general nursing and had completed some 38 first aid courses. Although she had not secured paid work, she volunteered in hospitals and with NGOs and medical organisations, building skills and experience that made her an asset when it came to the Great March.

In an interview with The New York Times last month, Razan explained why she had volunteered to help with the Great Return March, especially as a woman. “Being a medic is not only a job for a man,” Razan said. “It’s for women, too.”

She also bore witness to the final moments of some of those who were fatally wounded. “It breaks my heart that some of the young men who were injured or killed made their wills in front of me,” she told Al Jazeera. “Some even gave me their accessories [as gifts] before they died.”

In a post on her Facebook account on the 16 May, Razan denied claims that she and others went to the fence under duress.

On 1 June, she was shot in the back by an Israeli sniper, the human rights group Al Mezan stated, citing eyewitnesses and its investigations. She was100m from the fence the moment she was shot and was wearing clothing which clearly identified her as a medic. Her blood stained medical vest accompanied her to her grave during what was a massive funeral the following day.

Contrast the humane and selfless acts of 21-year-old Razan, with limited opportunities to bring peace and justice to her people, with the shameful and brazen attempts in the Security Council by US Ambassador Nikki Haley to deny another people, Razan’s people, protection from Israeli terror. While Kuwait had brought a resolution to the Council to call on it to fulfil its responsibility to an oppressed people and ensure their protection, Hayley was bringing a resolution to denounce Hamas for the volley of rockets that were launched into other Israeli controlled areas following the deadly attacks at the fence and bombings of the beleaguered enclave.

Votes on the two texts came shortly after Razan’s death. Haley failed to garner any votes for the resolution except her own, with three countries voting against it and 11 abstaining. A complete humiliation for the US and for Haley personally, leaving observers scrambling through historical records to find another occasion when a resolution only had the support of the country proposing it. None were found at the time of writing this piece.

Palestinians attend the funeral ceremony of Razan Ashraf Najjar, 21, a female paramedic who was shot dead by Israeli forces while healing wounded demonstrators during ‘Great March of Return’ protests in Khan Yunis on Friday, in Huzaa neighbourhood of Khan Yunis, Gaza on June 02, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

Hayley was again isolated when the US vetoed a resolution to protect Palestinians. With her Israel proxy, she had turned her back on a largely unarmed Palestinian people, facing the might of Israel’s military, aided by American military hardware worth billions of dollars. She had walked outof a previous Council meeting on Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters when their representative began to speak. It was a clear breach of protocol which brought heavy condemnation.  Given her overall performance as US ambassador, President Trump should, without delay, sack Hayley. She has brought isolation and disgrace to her country; all for the sake of an undeserving ally, Israel.

On 1 June 2018, Razan lost her life while Nikki Hayley lost her humanity defending the terrorist actions of a rogue state, Israel. Razan died a proud Palestinian full of humanity and will be remembered with the same name she was born with. In contrast, Nimrata Randhawa, the daughter of Sikh immigrants will one day pass away to be remembered by her adopted name, Nikki Haley, hiding her Indian heritage. Razan will be remembered for her selfless volunteering while Hayley will be remembered for her astonishing role, supporting and shielding the world’s only apartheid state.

Razan had little power to change the dynamics and bring peace to the holy land, while Hayley, from one of the most powerful offices in world politics, could have helped protect Palestinians and bring peace to the region. If only Razan had such a high profile office, the world would be a better place.

Rest in peace Razan Al-Najar, you are worth more than a million Nikki Haleys.

112 Palestinians were killed in #Gaza by Israeli forces from 30th March to 15 May 2018

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Six million Palestinians are a fact Trump and Netanyahu can’t ignore forever

First published by the Middle East Eye on 1/6/2018

Abandoned by the world, Palestinians could find strength in demographics

The political climate is ripe for Israel to achieve, in only a matter of months, victories it would once have only dreamed of attaining over a number of decades. The primary reason for this? Donald Trump.

During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the White House in February 2017, the US president dismissed longstanding policy on the political solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, saying: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one… As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

With regards to the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, he said at the time: “I’d love to see that happen. We’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with great care – great care, believe me. And we’ll see what happens. Okay?”

Two-state solution

All of the above is contrary to international law and longstanding international consensus. The international community’s long-time position has called for a two-state solution with agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194.

Trump’s key advisers, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and lawyer Jason Greenblatt, have collected thousands of air miles on trips to the region, mostly to Israel and Palestine – but also to key Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Visits to Palestine were a smokescreen.

It appears that instead of working on a just peace deal, Trump’s team was working on ways to implement, one step at a time, Netanyahu’s vision for “peace”. A crucial prerequisite was to convince key Gulf states that to secure US support against the Iranian threat, they had to befriend or deepen their friendship with Netanyahu.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE obliged. While the two Gulf states publicly distanced themselves from any dialogue with Israel, clandestine engagements were taking place – facilitated, it seems, by Kushner. Far from the Palestinian issue remaining front and centre of the Arab world’s agenda, Trump’s team managed to convince them that it was an impediment to their plans.

They began to deliver for Trump and Netanyahu within months of the American president’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which was about telling the Arab and Muslim world that he was boss. The chequebooks were out, with billions promised on the spot. Shortly after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was summoned to Riyadh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went there too, to be told to accept Trump’s deal.

Silence of Arab leaders

The Arab regimes also acceded to Trump’s demand that they contain the anger of the Arab street when he announced his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there. Again, they obliged. Yes, there were demonstrations, but there was no significant individual or collective action either by the Arab or Muslim world. “The sky’s still up there. It hasn’t fallen,” beamed Nikki Haley, US representative to the UN.

Even when the move coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary of what it calls its independence – which the Palestinians call the Nakba – and when more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, Arab leaders were silent save for cursory condemnations.

Donald and Melania Trump with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (AFP/Saudi royal palace/Bandar al-Jaloud)

Guatemala and Honduras followed the US lead, as was expected – and again, not a whisper from the Palestinian people’s historical backbone. The UK and most EU states took what appeared to be a principled stand and boycotted – though they would not describe it as that – the opening of the US embassy. But that stance turned out to be only symbolic, as the UK’s Foreign Office confirmed that British officials would meet their US counterparts in the embassy. While the EU has not officially announced its stance on using the embassy, it would be surprising to see it break away and stand up to the US.

Netanyahu can tick off one of the main goals he wanted to achieve, and which Trump has delivered: US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He can mark as a “work in progress” the elimination of Palestinian refugees’ right of return, which Trump is attacking through the defunding of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

In US ambassador David Friedman, Israel has an ally on the ground. He is working hard to erase the term “occupation” from the State Department’s vocabulary, claiming that settlements amount to less than two percent of the West Bank. It seems that no one in the administration sees these settlements as illegal; Greenblatt believes they are not an obstacle to peace.

A race against time

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump gave substantial weight to facts on the ground, and almost no weight to international law. This is music to the ears of Israeli politicians, for whom international law is an inconvenience. With a US president prepared to ignore the law and longstanding agreements, Israeli politicians are pushing ahead with new demands to recognise more facts on the ground.

They appear to be in a race against time to extract as much as they can while Trump and his pro-Israel team are in office. Next on the list of demands is US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the illegally occupied Golan Heights.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz claimed that the subject was “topping the agenda” in talks with the Trump administration. He used the Iran card to justify this, saying: “The most painful response you can give the Iranians is to recognise Israel’s Golan sovereignty with an American statement, a presidential proclamation.”

If all that was not enough, perhaps the biggest prize would be recognition of Israeli sovereignty over al-Aqsa Mosque and US support for the building of a Jewish temple on the site. A stake has been placed in the ground, with the image of a beaming Freidman being presented with a poster showing the compound with a Jewish temple in place of the Dome of the Rock. While the US embassy dismissed the significance of the image, Friedman’s record thus far has been staunchly pro-Israel and unconventional to say the least.

Non-violent resistance

Faced with all this and an ailing president devoid of any meaningful strategy, what are Palestinians to do? The Palestinian Authority could take former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s advice to “hold on and be strong”, and not yield to Trump’s demands.

They could finally begin the process of bringing Israeli leaders to account for crimes committed against Palestinians through the International Criminal Court, which would take time, and might well not end in success. They could also escalate their non-violent resistance, taking encouragement from the Great March of Return.

The most troubling facts on the ground for Israel, however, are the Palestinians – every one of the six million who remain in historic Palestine, plus the collective memory and attachment of the other six million in the diaspora. It may feel it is winning with Trump’s support, but it is losing the demography.

Unlike Israeli leaders, I see human beings as individuals, not numbers in a political game. However, in the absence of justice for Palestinians through traditional peaceful means, perhaps their numbers in historic Palestine constitute a winning card.

How about a national Palestinian strategy for strengthening their hand with more babies? More demographic facts on the ground will eventually “trump” Israel and Trump’s recognition of Israeli facts on the ground.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as a commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash. He writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Protesters waving Palestinian flags stamp on burning prints of US flags and President Donald Trump during a demonstration in the southern Gaza Strip on 15 May 2018 (AFP)