- ‘Blind Spot’ on Palestine is Consistent Feature of US Policy for Past Century
by Josh Ruebner, https://mondoweiss.net/
America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump by Khaled Elgindy
345 pp. Brookings Institution Press $25.99
The Trump administration’s often delayed and much hyped “deal of the century” to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace may never see the light of day thanks to the chaos into which Israeli politics has been plunged following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inability to form a governing coalition and the subsequent decision by the Knesset to dissolve itself and hold new elections in the fall.
No serious analyst gave the plan a snowball’s chance even in the absence of concrete details about its content. As presidential adviser Jared Kushner made clear in remarks last month to the pro-Israel think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the plan revolves around contenting Palestinians with economic betterment while denying them their political rights under perpetual Israeli domination.
Kushner’s recent interview with Axios, during which he averred that Palestinian freedom from Israeli military occupation would be a “high bar” to achieve, reinforced the wholly untenable nature of whatever the Trump administration is cooking up. Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concededthat others may legitimately perceive the plan to be “unexecutable” and “a deal that only the Israelis could love.”
Against this backdrop, Khaled Elgindy’s conclusion in his important new book Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians from Balfour to Trump (Brookings Institution Press, 2019) that “the Trump era signaled a notable shift in US policy from ambivalence toward Palestinian leaders and Palestinian statehood to total indifference” (p. 246) seems a measured understatement.
And while the Trump administration may differ from its predecessors in its bombast and flair for the dramatic policy announcements, as Elgindy persuasively demonstrates, “Trump’s radical policy reversals on Jerusalem and refugees,” by moving the US embassy to the contested city and cutting US funding to UNRWA, “were not so much a ‘new approach’ to resolving the conflict, as his administration has claimed, as they were the culmination of the old approach.” (p. 249)
“Long before Trump arrived in the White House, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and other presidents going back to Lyndon Johnson had already been working to sideline the issue of Palestinian refugee rights” and were guilty of “steadily chipping away at UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the ‘land-for-peace’ formula by lending tacit approval to Israeli settlement construction,” (p. 250) Elgindy notes.