WITH the chapter now closed on the Trump presidency, the eyes of many in the international community — particularly the Palestinians and all those who wish to see a just settlement for them — will be on Washington to see if Joe Biden can bring a semblance of neutrality to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

The Trump era was of course one where Israel was given royal treatment by America, while the Palestinians were treated with disdain. The so-called deal of the century, a failed Trumpian solution to the dispute, was roundly rejected by the Palestinians as it sought to reward Israel for its decades of land grabbing and violence, and limit the Arabs to ‘reservations’ on their ancestral land. However, with Mr Biden in the driving seat, there may be a change in tone, if not substance, from Washington.

Israel, in the meantime, seems committed to illegally devouring more and more Arab land and creating ‘facts on the ground’. As reported by Israeli NGO Peace Now, Tel Aviv has issued tenders for 2,500 settler homes in the occupied territories, a move that is considered illegal under international law. The development is apparently aimed at the Israeli election, due in March, as Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to cling to power and fend off challenges to the premiership from right-wing challengers by appeasing hard-line voters.

While on the record Mr Biden has condemned Israeli settlements, members of his administration have said there is no plan to reverse Donald Trump’s move to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It would be naive to hope for a complete turnaround in US policy in favour of the Palestinians as Mr Biden as well as his vice president are committed Israel supporters, as are most members of the American political establishment. However, it is hoped that the new US leader will at least temper some of the more overtly pro-Israel policies of his predecessor. Specifically, the expansion of illegal settlements must end, while Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians, particularly its frequent savage forays into Gaza, cannot continue.

The two-state solution is indeed on life support, thanks largely to Israeli impunity and America’s indulgence of its favourite Middle Eastern client. Yet if the peace process is to be revived, then the Palestinians must get a fair deal which promises them a viable state safe from the predatory attacks of Israel. If this formula is ignored, more turbulence is in store for the region.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2021

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