Since he assumed power in January of last year, U.S. President Donald Trump has been targeting the most sensitive issues of the Palestinian cause that have for decades been considered the basic pillars of the Palestinian struggle and among the main inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Starting with the pressure his government, along with Israel, exerted on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to halt the stipends the PA gives for thousands of Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, and then his provocative move to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate the U.S. Embassy there his decision to cut funds for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
The Trump administration's war on Palestinian prisoners, the holy city of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees can only be understood in the context that this administration has nothing to do with being an impartial mediator between Palestinians and Israelis or a transparent peace broker in the Middle East. Rather, the Trump administration's moves concerning Palestine has proven month after month that Trump had been apparently tasked to terminate the Palestinian cause by putting an end for Palestinian rights that have been guaranteed for decades by the international resolutions and covenants.
In April of last year, reports revealed that Trump had officially asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting held in Bethlehem to cut the monthly stipends the PA government pays to thousands of Palestinian prisoners suffering for decades in Israeli jails and solitary confinement. The reports affirmed that Trump's move came upon a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. With this, the U.S. appeared as though it does not care about the humanitarian ramifications of such a decision, which would have undesirable side effects on tens of thousands of Palestinian families who would become homeless and starving as a result of such a reckless step.
Two months later, the U.S. peace envoy to the region Jason Greenblatt insisted Abbas again stop providing financial assistance to the families of Palestinian prisoners and warned that the U.S. would not agree for this policy to continue. Greenblatt's offensive statements prompted the head of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, Qaddoura Fares to say that Israel started to take advantage of its network of relations, most importantly its strong ties with some members of Trump's team, to launch a campaign to "defame the issue of Palestinian prisoners and to label the Palestinian legitimate struggle against the Israeli occupation as terror acts."
Trump's position on Jerusalem, that he embraced at the beginning of last December, was unprecedented as well since he managed to pass a decision on relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem after the decision being suspended for more than 20 years. Trump's move not only triggered Palestinian anger, but also ignited the largest Muslim capitals where millions of people took to the streets and showed how much they were united in rejecting the U.S.'s stark violation for their first Qibla.
For decades, Jerusalem had been deemed the essence of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis where thousands of Muslim, Arab, Palestinian fighters have died for its sake. It is worth noting also that most of the big battles, intifadas and uprisings in 1987, 1996, 2000, 2015, and 2017, occurred with a view to protect Jerusalem from Israel's plans to Judaize the Holy Land. Even though the great deadlocks accompanied the peace process since it was launched in 1993 stemmed from Israeli stubbornness to not relinquish positions regarding Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, even in the eastern part of it, and Israel's continuous policies to establish new settlements there. It is totally sarcastic that Trump came in 2017 and dictated with his big signature to erase Jerusalem from the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim consciousness.
Peace or not?
Trump's battle against Jerusalem threatens the essence of the Palestinian cause and also means an end to the two-state solution, which poses a big danger for the whole region since neither Abbas nor any future Palestinian leader would have the capacity to compromise on this issue due to its religious, ideological and national background. Moreover, there is international consensus to not remove Jerusalem from any peace process or change its legal status, which was unanimously approved in a U.N. General Assembly vote on Dec. 21, in a unified, international rejection of Trump's move.
The third of Trump's policies to antagonize Palestinians and terminate their just cause was his vow to cut funds for the UNRWA. Since the U.S. State Department said it would withhold roughly $65 million in aid to Palestine for what it described as "future consideration."
The U.S. decision regarding Palestinian refugees was shocking for the whole world because it politicized a humanitarian aspect of the cause, which, if it comes true, may harm more than 5 million refugees scattered in camps in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Asserting that the U.S. move would not only impact regional security at a time the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, the UNRWA commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, explained in a Jan. 16 statement released to describe the repercussions of that serious decision: "At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future. At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At stake is the access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community."
It is clear that Trump has launched a war in his first year as president against Palestinians and their just cause and its humanitarian aspects. He came with a big priority to totally terminate the Palestinian cause and eliminate Palestinian rights. To sum up, Trump has distanced the U.S. from being party to a solution to the region and instead has made it an integral part of the persistent problem.
* Researcher in Middle East affairs