Trump’s Middle East Deals: Cynical Politics, Not Peace

Civilian and military locations in Gaza under attack from Israeli air strikes on August 17. Image credit: PeoplesDispatch

Last month, on September 11, President Trump announced on Twitter that he had arranged a peace treaty making Bahrain “the second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days.” This announcement came just after a similar treaty signed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bahrain is the fourth country on the Arabian Peninsula to recognize and establish relations with Israel, joining the UAE, Egypt and Jordan. Trump presents these treaties as a victory for peace in the region, and especially for the Palestinians and Israelis in their 70-year-long conflict. The reality, like much that comes out of Trump’s mouth or Twitter feed, is that these deals are only meant to fool Trump’s supporters and confuse others. The facts on the ground in the Middle East are that these treaties are one more step taken by the corrupt Middle East governments to openly abandon the Palestinians and make a closer alliance with U.S. interests in the region.

Israel was founded in 1948 in Palestine – a coastal area of the Mediterranean Sea the size of Vermont. In 1948, Israeli military forces drove a million Palestinian Arabs from their homes and seized 77 percent of Palestine for the new Israeli state’s territory. In 1967, the rest of Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza strip – were seized in a second Israeli war on the Palestinians. Since 1967, Israeli settlers have flooded the West Bank, creating illegal settlements. In Israel itself, two million Palestinians, ten percent of Israel’s population, live as second-class citizens, much like African Americans in the U.S. South before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. All of this was done with the support of every Israeli government since 1948. In addition, Israel has had the support of the United States. Every administration, Republican and Democrat, has committed to support Israel with money and weapons, a total of $234 billion since 1948. In return, Israel is a “cop on the beat,” keeping the Middle East under threat of violence to protect U.S. interests.

In the past, the Arab states officially condemned the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians that is at the origin of the state of Israel. This is not because the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq have ever worked for anything other than their own benefit. They were forced to voice some opposition to Israel by the political situation in the Middle East. Ordinary Arab people saw the Palestinian struggle against occupation as a part of their struggle against foreign powers and against their own rulers who were ready to sell the resources of the region to the highest bidder. Every Arab ruler had to claim to support the Palestinians one hundred percent or face the anger of their own population. From the king of Saudi Arabia to the presidents of Iraq and Syria, they all shed tears for the Palestinians and condemned Israel in the harshest terms. These governments brought toothless condemnations and criticisms of Israel to the United Nations, knowing that any action against Israel would be vetoed by the United States. Out of the 27 times the United Nations has officially condemned governments for human rights abuses, Israel has received 21 of those official condemnations. Even if these resolutions achieved nothing, they are a recognition and an exposé of Israel’s abuses against the Palestinians.

The Palestinian national movement became trapped in a so-called “peace process” starting in the 1990s. The U.S. government oversaw these pointless negotiations, pretending to be a referee or “honest broker.” Meanwhile, the Palestinians lost more land as the number of illegal Israeli settlements more than doubled. Today, settlers in the occupied West Bank make up five percent of Israeli citizens, over 500,000 people. With the help of the U.S., Israel has rejected any compromise that would allow Palestinians to build their own state on what is left of their land. Over time, the hopes and dreams of Palestinians gave way to despair as their national liberation movement failed to achieve any real independence or defend their remaining territory.

The newly signed treaties are the product of a long period of cooperation and mutual interest between the Arab rulers of the Middle East and Israel, especially those who want to be close to the United States. The treaties formalize and coordinate military cooperation between Israel, and the UAE and Bahrain. While Saudi Arabia has not signed a treaty with Israel, it has a big influence on the UAE and Bahrain. The treaties reflect the attitude of the Saudi government, that Saudi Arabia is ready to accept and work with Israel, both of them as allies of U.S. interests in opposition to the U.S. state’s main competitor for influence in the region: Iran. In January, Israel declared its intention to annex 20 percent of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – another major land grab. Trump gave this annexation his blessing and made it a central part of his so-called peace plan, his “Deal of the Century.” The UAE and Bahrain have shut their eyes to all of this while they sign their treaties with Israel.

The news about these treaties is just a part of Trump’s strategy to build up his personal brand during the election campaign in the U.S. The treaties are one more cynical alliance between the ruling elite of the Arab world, the state of Israel, and the U.S. government. Real peace and real liberation for the Palestinians and the people of the Middle East won’t be achieved by negotiations among these corrupt rulers. It will only come when the Middle East states and the U.S. empire they support are torn down and replaced with a system that represents poor and working people, both in the Middle East and around the world.