Trump, Abbas and the Middle East conflict

Rose-tinted posturing

Since Trump′s inauguration there has been plenty of contact between the White House and stakeholders in the Middle East. Achieving the ′big ultimate deal′, however, will take more than cosy platitudes. Commentary by Alaa Tartir

In his opening remarks at his Washington press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, Donald Trump praised the Palestinian president for courageously signing the Declaration of Principles (DoP) – the official name for the Oslo Agreement – on the lawn of the White House 24 years ago.

According to Trump, the DoP ″laid the foundation for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.″ Equally important, he told Abbas ″you signed your name to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.″ Trump supported Abbas for ″being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability and prosperity to both peoples and to the region.″

This was music to Abbas′s ears, who has been wishing for such recognition for a long time. Abbas has long complained about not receiving sufficient recognition for his historical role in signing that ″very important″ document, as all the credit went to the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, including the Nobel Prize.

Undoubtedly, Trump′s opening remarks boosted Abbas′ ego at a time when he suffers a deep legitimacy crisis at home, criticised by the Palestinian people for leading the Palestinian polity into authoritarianism – mainly through sub-contracting repression – and for solidifying the foundation of a Palestinian police state under Israeli military occupation.

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres puts his signature on the agreement during the signing ceremony of the historic Israeli-PLO Agreement, known as the Oslo I Accord, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC on 13 September 1993. Pictured from left to right: Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, unknown aide, United States President Bill Clinton, Peres, Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Arafat aide Mahmoud Abbas (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Sachs)
Dishonest brokers for peace: "the celebrated Oslo accord was merely a security arrangement between the colonised and coloniser to secure the latter, which is very far from being a peace agreement, to the detriment of the livelihood of the Palestinian people. Its failure has enabled Israel to consolidate its apartheid policies, practices and structures," writes Tartir

Leaders in denial

Yet Trump′s apparent warm reception reportedly worried and confused the Israelis. In turn, Abbas reciprocated this ″Trumpism″ of narrative and celebration of egos by telling Trump, ″Now, Mr President, with you we have hope.″ Earlier in his remarks, Abbas told Trump, ″your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiating ability″ will essentially bring about peace.

This glowing rhetoric, hypocrisy and egotism blocked the eyes and minds of the two presidents from acknowledging the stark failure of the DoP to bring about prosperity and security to both sides, the Palestinians and Israelis.

In fact, that Oslo accord has allowed Israel to expand its illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem and to continue its colonisation of Palestinian lands. The failure of that celebrated DoP and its framework meant that Israel entrenched its apartheid policies, practices and structures.

In essence, that DoP was merely a security arrangement between the colonised and coloniser to secure the latter, which is very far from being a peace agreement, to the detriment of the livelihood of the Palestinian people.

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