Before Donald Trump’s inauguration, exactly a year ago, it was hard to say – as with so many other policy areas – exactly what approach his administration would take to Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump’s first year is to some extent bookended by two key moments. The first, last February, saw Trump express ambivalence about the two-state solution, in remarks he made alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during the latter’s visit to Washington.
In December, meanwhile, Trump made international headlines with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declared intent of relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv. The shift in US policy prompted widespread protests by Palestinians, violently repressed by Israeli occupation forces.
Trump has appointed officials to sensitive positions who are all, to varying degrees, long-standing supporters of Israel. Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have been responsible for formulating a so-called ‘peace plan’ whose details remain sketchy.
Greenblatt has gained plaudits from some think-tank experts, but his main ‘achievement’ has simply been to visit the region and listen to Israeli and Palestinian officials. The Trump-appointed ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, meanwhile, is a well-known enthusiast of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
It’s true that the first year of the Trump administration hasn’t meant total carte blanche for Netanyahu’s coalition of right-wing nationalists and open rejectionists of Palestinian statehood. But those advocating for partial, or total, annexation of the West Bank have certainly been boosted by a White House whose approach to date has been characterised by a combination of disinterest, an amplification of long-standing Israeli talking points – such as attacking so-called Palestinian ‘incitement’ and the role of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – as well as the promotion of tokenistic, economics-focused gestures for the Palestinians.
Remember – for Israel, the status quo is just fine. Settlements expand, land is taken, Palestinian homes are demolished and their residents displaced. One year in, the Trump administration is a willing accomplice to Israel’s consolidation of an apartheid, single state reality, and in doing so, is forcing the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to face some tough questions about what lies ahead.