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Trump’s dim view of Palestine-Israel

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When President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon at the White House it was unclear what, if any, official administration policy might develop in Washington on the back of the highly anticipated conversation. Trump’s administration has been nothing if not hostile toward the Muslim World: his ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries (none of which feature in Trump’s global business empire, of course) would seem to place him firmly in Israel’s Likud camp. Their pro-war, pro-occupation policies see military dominance of the more than 4 million Palestinians under their control in the occupied Palestinian territory as the only acceptable way forward in the ongoing regional conflict. Trump’s ban, plus his oft-repeated campaign-trail declaration that he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, would surely have to make for cozy bedfellows in Washington this week.

But only a week ago, Trump seemed to distance himself from his overtly pro-Israeli stance stating, albeit meekly, that he did not believe that “advancing [Israeli] settlements is good for peace.” A subtle shift to be sure, but a shift away from Likud and their bombastic leader Netanyahu, nonetheless. A much more substantial—and arguably, a much more confusing—shift came on the eve of the meeting in Washington when a Trump administration officials broke from long-standing U.S. policy in the Middle East by stating flatly that although they were intent on bringing about peace in the Middle East, a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict need not result in the creation of two states in the region.

Trump’s seismic departure from decades of stated U.S. intentions in Palestine and Israel naturally begs the question: if not a two-state solution, then what kind of solution does Donald Trump envision?

The reality is that Trump’s ploy might contain within it a glimmer of hope for Palestine. In fact, for many in the academic and activist communities, a one-state solution in Palestine-Israel has long been considered both the most practicable and the most just plan for peace between the two national communities. That plan would include the full enfranchisement of Palestinians currently living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and would ultimately lead to the establishment of a single, representative government managing a binational state entity: a fully-fledged, fully-shared, integrated, and inclusive democracy for all. One man, one woman, one vote. 

But the prospect of a single binational state is anathema for Zionists who see within it the abrogation of the Jewish nature of the state of Israel. This solution—the embrace of representative democracy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—then becomes a demographic contest, one in which current populations, as well as rates of natural increase, favor the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

If this week has, in fact, seen the Trump administration advocate the former, enlightened, and democratic version of the one state solution, then perhaps the “special relationship” between Washington and Tel Aviv is changing before our very eyes. In that event, it is possible that we have completely misapprehended Trump, who publicly and plainly asked Benjamin Netanyahu publicly to stop settlement construction in the West Bank, and his Foreign Policy priorities.

But another possibility remains.

Perhaps the “state” Trump envisions is taken directly from Israel’s far-right playbook, cast unapologetically in the mold of the South African, apartheid model of statehood: permanently separate and decidedly unequal citizenship between different ethnic groups within a shared political space. This nightmarish, authoritarian ideal would force the Palestinians to accept second-class status, to be inferior beings within their national community, and to subvert their national, political goals in favor of the presumably loftier, nobler, and more recognizably European version of nationhood expressed by the Israelis.

This latter version of one state is, in essence, what exists now for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. As a community, they remain in political liminality, continually and consistently prevented from establishing an autonomous government by the deliberate wheels of the Likudnik approach to the peace process. This approach, championed by Netanyahu himself, has long ago abandoned the idea of enfranchisement for the Palestinians altogether, either within their own state or within a shared political entity with the Israelis. It is possible, then, that the Trump Administration simply plans to remove the “interim” designation for this infrastructure of dominance and allow Netanyahu and his far-right coalition to permanently annex what remains of Historic Palestine over and above international objection, but also, crucially, with the full support of the United States into perpetuity.

Much hangs, then, upon the designation “one state” in the mind of a man who has proven to be anything but of sound mind in these Orwellian days of the new American presidency.

Luke Peterson

Luke Peterson has a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge. His latest book, Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses is available through Routledge Publishers, London. Dr. Peterson currently lives and works in Pittsburgh.

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22 Responses

  1. eljay on February 17, 2017, 2:06 pm

    … Perhaps the “state” Trump envisions …

    I don’t think Trump actually “envisions” anything other than crowing about having achieved the “ultimate deal”. If I-P manages to work itself out peacefully, he’ll gladly take credit for it; if it doesn’t, he’ll just as gladly point the finger in blame.

    • Citizen on February 18, 2017, 5:06 pm

      He’s already pointed the blame–on Palestinian education institutional, home-grown Jew-hate.

  2. Ossinev on February 17, 2017, 5:29 pm

    James Mattis the new US Defence Secretary is quoted in the UK Times as saying in comments over controversy surrounding the ex National Security Advisor`s contacts with Russia;
    “They (ie the Russians) have to live by International Law just as we expect all mature nations on this planet to do”
    Presumably the US considers the only democracy in the ME (yawn) to be a “mature nation” so great things lie ahead with regard to the new administration tackling Israel`s ongoing flagrant refusal to “live by International Law”.

    Don`t think so somehow.

  3. Sibiriak on February 18, 2017, 5:29 am

    Perhaps the “state” Trump envisions is taken directly from Israel’s far-right playbook…”

    Ya think?

    Let’s see, based on the highly-valued advice of right-wing Zionists Jared Kushner, David Friedman et al., Trump envisions:

    A.) A single democratic state comprising Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, with equal rights for all +Palestinian Right of Return, signifying the total and final annihilation of the Jewish state and the Zionist dream.


    B.) A Greater Israel, excluding Gaza and some highly-populated areas of the West Bank wherein Palestinians can enjoy “autonomy” or whatever, signifying a massive land grab and raucous consolidation of the Jewish state and Zionist dream.

    Hmmm. That’s a tough one.

  4. on February 18, 2017, 10:12 am

    Agreed with most of what you say. I think the key point is that speaking of one-state or two-state or impractical notions of some ideal negotiated resolution, without context is misguided or worse.

    To be realistic we must look at what it would take for the U.S. to make a measurable positive difference in the quest for a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict

    First, for Israel to change course meaningfully and work out a solution which brings justice for Palestinians, with reasonable security for both sides, will take more than the UN Resolution, Kerry’s speech, wishful thinking about some vague solution and even a more aware American public.

    Israel has staked the deck against the Palestinians with decades of disingenuous “negotiation”, unquestioning support from the U.S and the Israel Lobby (see Walt and Mearsheimer’s “Israel Lobby” and Alison Weir’s “Against Our Better Judgment”). Israel needs to be held responsible for its decades of actions and wrongs against (1) the Palestinians and (2) the true interests of most people in the U.S.

    This means changes in our leadership so they take away the carrot and administer a stick, namely withdrawal of uncritical and unrequited financial, media and policy support for Israel, like the $38 billion without asking anything in return, all to the detriment, impaired security and cost of the U.S.

    Current ineffective and damaging policy is what our leaders, the mainstream media, our cultural institutions and our educational institutions have corruptly supported for many decades, because of the massive power and influence of the Israel Lobby, which has allied itself with the rest of the corporate oligarchic elite. They are all strong Israel firsters, which many people would label a serious conflict of interest, some might say bordering on treason.

    More people are becoming aware of Israel’s brutal occupation, oppression, apartheid and war crimes against the Palestinian people, all in violation of international law. But the powers that be or were or to be, including Clinton, Obama, Hillary, and Trump are still mostly taking and advocating strong action against any change by Israel or the Israel Lobby, like BDS, for example, including laws and policies which are clearly unconstitutional restraints of free speech. Experience has shown current policies are not well-calculated to promote change in Israel. Look at Netanyahu thumbing his nose at Obama and biting the hand that feeds him, as he laughs all the way to the bank with his $38B from Uncle Sam.

    So I join with many others in demanding change from our leaders, the corporate, oligarchic elite and Israel. But given the outcome of the Presidential election (and it wouldn’t have mattered if it was Trump or Clinton), and the continuing power and influence of the Israel Lobby in Congress and with the White House, I don’t see much prospect of positive change coming from those quarters for the next four or eight years.

    For anyone who hasn’t gotten the message yet, the two state solution is dead and not workable because of Israeli annexation and forcibly taking the valuable land and Palestinian property which was supposed to be set aside for Palestinians, restrictive walls and settler violent actions backed by Israeli military and American weapons.

    As many say, it’s true the conflict between Israel and Palestine has been years in the making, but the U.S has had a big part in fostering the conflict by helping Israel to the disadvantage of the Palestinians and in a way which encourages Israel not to negotiate or to compromise.

    The United States should be a leader in the peace process, not a reactive bystander. But we’re not leading or being even a reactive bystander. Instead of encouraging an independent and viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, with security and human and civil rights for all citizens, we’re encouraging Israel in its denial of these rights. We should be leveling the playing field by encouraging BDS and other non-violent opposition to Israel’s occupation and oppression and taking away our support of Israel, which is just pushing things toward another Middle East conflagration.

  5. Misterioso on February 18, 2017, 3:42 pm

    Good news from the north:

    “Poll: Canada’s politicians out of touch with public on Mideast”

    “EKOS survey reveals Canadians feel government is biased towards Israel”

  6. Citizen on February 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

    Trump has stated many times already that if anybody can bring a peaceful solution, it’s his son-in-law, who is basically the leader of US brokering negotiations. Everybody here is very likely aware of Jared & his family’s past financial links to the settlements, and to Netanyahu personally.
    Ditto re Friedman’s, Trump’s trusted bankruptcy lawyer. I don’t see him stepping on their ultra Zionist toes. He also wants to make Ivanka happy & she won’t be happy unless her hubby is. I don’t have the imagination to see who might make a dent, something to follow up on Trump’s coxing Bibi in public to “hold off a bit” on the settlements.

  7. James Canning on February 18, 2017, 6:36 pm

    Donald Trump is unlikely to have given the “one state” solution much thought. But I assume he would expect the Jews to retain control of all important state institutions, all branches of gov’t, etc etc etc.

  8. brent on February 18, 2017, 10:53 pm

    Whether Trump is foolhardy or crazy like a fox, activists on the Question of Palestine should appreciate his having changed the chemistry, incentivized proposals for two states from those who want a Jewish State and for putting the winning issue of equality on the agenda for us to get serious with.

    • oldgeezer on February 20, 2017, 12:58 am


      Funny in a way. If you had to name three comedic characterdls from the bush admin it would be bush, runsfeld and bolton. That this moron isn’t serving fries at mickey d’s is astounding. Maybe he was riding the tails of some smart friends but he is not only back of the pack but a straggler.

      That said the twit is dangerous. I actually wouldn’t want fries produced under his watch. No class. No substance. No sense of awareness. And most importantly no a tive brain cells. He has bee trained to act at the level of a puppy. I do love puppies but not him. No redeeming character to be seen.

      • amigo on February 20, 2017, 9:15 am

        Oldgeezer , thanks for the reply.

        I recall that not long after Obama was elected , we all celebrated the demise of the neocon gang of war mongers ie Bill Kristol /Bolton et al .We were a tad naive .The dregs of society are again on the rise and Trump is there to put out the welcome mat to those who orchestrated the Iraq war which he claims he opposed.

        Bolton is as you say , a very dangerous little man whose bite is far worse than his bark.I find him revolting .

        On the lighter and positive side , I read an article recently that suggested , Trump might not choose Bolton because he does not like folks with beards or moustaches .(I guess wigs are fine.) To him , they do not exude confidence .Something to do with Image .Trump places more importance in confidence than competence.

        Are you going to watch the fun in Westminster this afternoon.

      • oldgeezer on February 20, 2017, 10:18 am


        I’m not aware of what is going on in Westminster?? Geeze… I need to stop posting late at night with my phone. Even I had trouble reading what I had typed in that reply lol

      • oldgeezer on February 20, 2017, 11:12 am


        I do watch bbc a fair bit. I know what you are referring to now in Westminster. Should be a lively debate!

  9. Atlantaiconoclast on February 19, 2017, 10:22 pm

    Can someone settle once and for all the question of the competing birthrates of the Palestinians vs. the Israeli Jews? I have heard various Zionists bragging that the birthrate for Israeli Jews is now higher than that for Palestinians. They really seem to believe they can defeat the Palestinians once and for all by out breeding the Palestinians. But then so many on our side say that the Palestinians have the highest birth rate. Anyone have data to support either contention?

    • oldgeezer on February 20, 2017, 12:47 am


      How you settle for once and all what is in fact a movi g target. And over what period. Is anything other than the last 9 months relevamt and if so what is the period. Can trend lines change. Of course otherwise they wpuldn’t be followed and update.

      One person one vote. Equal rights for all. Anything else is to some degree irrelevant. If Israel wishes to keep it’s gerrymandered faux democracy it needs to curtail it’s lust for more territory that belongs to others.

      Every human being has the same rights as all human beings. Anything that denies that is evil and should be called out as such. No exceptions because a group feels exceptional or entitled. No group rights override another group rights. Zionism is evil as it stands against all of that. Zionism is about privilege and exception (exceptionalism left out intentionally) when none os warranted. Zionism is all about denying amd suppressing the rights of others.

      I wish the state of Israel well but it is up to it’s citizens. As long as it continues on it’s current path it is an abomination and represents all that is bad in mankind. And there is a lot.

      • Atlantaiconoclast on February 20, 2017, 10:29 am

        Yes, I know that birthrates must be examined over a long period. I thought maybe someone here had hard numbers to support either case.

  10. amigo on February 20, 2017, 7:02 am

    For those interested !!.

    The debate in the commons on Trump State visit to the UK will take place today , Monday Feb 20th.It will be available on BBC Government at 16,40 GMT.

    1.8 million people signed the petition opposing Trump,s visit . 300,000 voted in favour. A 6 to 1 ratio.Of course Theresa May will ignore her people,s wishes and the Queen will put on her best face for this farce.Watch her face when she is shaking hands with this quasi dictator.

    God help the queen.

    • eljay on February 20, 2017, 11:39 am

      || amigo: For those interested !!. The debate in the commons on Trump State visit to the UK will take place today … Theresa May will ignore her people,s wishes and the Queen will put on her best face for this farce.Watch her face when she is shaking hands with this quasi dictator. … ||

      I wonder if Trump will:
      – tug her toward him when they shake hands; and/or
      – hold her hand and take her for a stroll.

      • amigo on February 20, 2017, 1:55 pm

        “I wonder if Trump will:
        – tug her toward him when they shake hands; and/or
        – hold her hand and take her for a stroll. – See more at: “eljay

        The poor woman , about to have another “annus horribilis “. And she can not comfort herself in declaring it is for “Queen and Country”.

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