The implications of Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the U.S. presidential race have not taken long to emerge in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as the Israeli officials seem to be seizing the chance to create facts on the ground before Trump’s four-year term even begins.
The Israeli infrastructure minister, Yuval Steinitz told a Hebrew broadcast early yesterday that settlement construction across the West Bank and East Jerusalem will see a swift and wide expansion in the coming period. The Israeli minister noted that, due to political pressure from the U.S., settlement expansion had not gone as planned in these areas, and the election presents an opportunity to work without obstruction.
In addition, a second Israeli television station reported yesterday that the Israeli cabinet approved 7,000 new settlement housing units in Jerusalem that have been frozen for years because of opposition from the Obama administration.
The quick response from the Israeli side to Trump’s triumph strongly suggests that Israel plans to fully capitalize on his winning to serve its interests with settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories and the ongoing distortion of the demographic and geographic reality on the ground. It also appears that the Israeli government hopes the new U.S. administration will aid them in the diplomatic battle as well, and possibly put an end to the U.S.-led peace process.
Naftali Bennett, the education minister in Netanyahu’s government has said that Trump’s arrival in the White House would put an end to the two-state solution. Bennett stated. “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”
It is not astonishing that Israeli officials moved to expand the settlements after Trump’s victory. Trump has already pledged that if he was elected he would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would indicate a clear American recognition of the Israeli claim over the city.
For Palestinians, it was not expected that the winner of the U.S. election, whoever it was, would shift American policy toward the Palestinian cause. United States foreign policy has been always characterized by a bias in Israel’s favor.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vowed to unconditionally support Israel during their heated campaign as this matter has never been disputed between the Democrats and the Republicans. The outgoing American president, Barak Obama has just handed Israel the biggest military aid package in the American history. His successor will definitely follow in his footprints. Although, Palestinians see that it may be harsher this time.
A lack of interest and frustration with the U.S. election has been the widespread response on the Palestinian street and among political parties, except for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which still expresses a willingness for peace talks and negotiations with Israel regardless of the total lack of interest on the Israeli side.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the PA would “deal with any president elected by the American people on the principle of achieving permanent peace in the Middle East based on the two-state solution on which is stubbornly rejected by the Israelis as they claim it constitutes great danger for their entity and security.”
Hamas, the Islamic movement that controls the besieged Gaza Strip, asks for re-evaluating and re-balancing for the American policy toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sami Abu-Zuhri, Hamas’s spokesperson, said that America has always been a reason behind the Palestinians’ continuous suffering as it provides the Israeli occupation with military, financial, and logistical support that has been used against the Palestinian people.
“We do not expect changes in the U.S. policy, it will remain as it was, very biased for the interests of Israel,” Abu-Zuhri noted.
Other Palestinian parties called on the PA to stop looking at the U.S. as a silver bullet for the Palestinian case since it failed to fairly respond to Palestinians’ complaints against the Israeli crimes, intransigence, settlement expansion, and movement restrictions in the past.
Islamic Jihad’s, Hani Habib, said that the PA should work for achieving Palestinian unity between the disputed sides in order to end the split and work together for the Palestinian’s people full rights.
The US policy has been stable when it comes to Israel, said Hussam el-Dajani, a political commentator based in Gaza.
“We are sure that the unbounded support will continue for Israel, but cannot determine how exactly the American administration will react to the conflict. Will the negotiation process be resumed and on what basis?”, he wondered.
He noted that if Israeli practices in the West Bank go uncontrolled, and the facts on the ground continue to be altered with of a green light from America, an angry collective Palestinian response is to be highly expected. “If Israeli practices change a lot on the ground, Palestinians will detonate in the face of Israel. It will be paying a heavy price if the far-extremist Israeli government was not deterred. Therefore, I do not see it will be 100 percent positive for Israel at least in the long term,” el-Dajani added.
Redwan el-Agres, a Palestinian activist said that it is better for the ugliness and bias of U.S. policy to be explicit rather than to have it hidden and embellished as it would have been if Clinton was elected. “Clinton and Trump would have worked against us, let them do it without deception at least,” he concluded.