This has been a defining year for Palestine and Israel. Despite the usual political stagnation of the Palestinian leadership, two factors contributed to making 2019 particularly eventful and, looking ahead, consequential as well: The unprecedented political power struggle in Israel, and the total US retreat from its own self-proclaimed role as an “honest peace broker”.
Since his first day in office, US President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to embrace fully the right-wing agenda of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although the process started earlier, 2019 has witnessed the complete collapse of traditional US foreign policy which was, for nearly three decades, predicated on the principle of a negotiated political solution.
This year delivered the final American assault on Palestinian rights. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 2019, the US officially quit the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), accusing the global institution of “anti-Israeli bias”. The US government has contributed over 22 per cent to UNESCO’s budget. Among other things, the American action was meant as a warning to the Palestinian leadership and its allies that Washington was ready and willing to use its financial and political muscle to suppress any criticism of Israel.
Washington’s threats, however, failed to deliver the desired outcomes. On 8 February, Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrived in the Middle East to promote his so-called “deal of the century”, a strategy that revolved around the creation of an alternative political paradigm to replace the defunct “peace process”.
US punitive measures continued. On 4 March, the US shut down its Consulate in Jerusalem, now that it had a fully operational embassy in the city. The act was intended to downgrade the US mission in Palestine, and thus the diplomatic relationship with the Palestinian Authority. A few days later, on 14 March, the US dropped the term “occupied territories” when referring to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in its annual human rights report. This measure was understood, and rightly so, as a prelude to a future US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over occupied Palestinian land. On 18 November, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, duly declared that illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem are “consistent” with international law.
Source: Middle East Monitor.