For Palestinians, Secretary Blinken is precious little to celebrate

Palestinians can expect Israel's Trump-era plans to continue under Blinken
6 min read
04 Dec, 2020
Comment: Secretary of State Blinken will likely bring an 'acceptable' veneer to US enabling of Israel, but little concrete change, writes Ramona Wadi.
'A Biden presidency will not completely repudiate Trump's policies' writes Wadi [Getty]
As US President Donald Trump's era comes to a close, Israel is in search of a new narrative to sustain its future diplomatic relations with the US. 

Trump's White House oversaw a series of swift decision-making that led to US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, defunding the UNRWA, and ultimately the "Deal of the Century" and sweeping annexation plans. Now though, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the time of overt US support for Zionist colonisation will, at least for the time being, come to a close.

Many have speculated that President-elect Joe Biden would opt for a Middle East policy that is more reflective of the Obama era, and thus closer to international consensus on Israel and Palestine. And so, if Israel wants to maintain its gains, it will need to alter its propaganda from shameless land grab, to a reason for ongoing colonial expansion.

While it isn't yet clear how Blinken - himself a descendant of Holocaust survivors - might advise President Biden, it is likely that the ambiguous discourse of "shared values" in terms of negotiations and peace will once again become a prominent feature of US-Israeli diplomacy. And if Netanyahu finds no potentially belligerent political partner, the tried and tested soft diplomacy is still guaranteed to work.

After the rollercoaster of Trump, it is possible that such an approach will facilitate Israel's colonial expansion, if less ostentiatiously. 

Blinken is no stranger to diplomacy, having already served as National Security Adviser when Biden was vice-president, as well as deputy secretary of state under John Kerry in 2014. In April this year, Blinken indicated where his loyalties lie, when speaking about a return to two-state diplomacy in the event that Biden triumphs at the polls.

Biden can play the moderate card without any pressure to reverse the damage orchestrated by Trump.

"In many ways, pulling the plug on a two-state solution is pulling the plug, potentially, on an Israel that is not only secure but is Jewish and democratic - for the future. That's not something any of us, who are ardent supporters of Israel, would want to see," Blinken asserted.

An ardent supporter of Israel is an asset, of course, for Netanyahu, even though Blinken's politics differ from Trump's. However, Israel already has several reassurances. A Biden administration will not relocate the embassy to Tel Aviv, thereby tacitly endorsing Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It will also continue accusing the UN of anti-Israel bias - something that was ramped up by Trump. There will also be no conditioning of financial aid to Israel.

In short, a Biden presidency will not completely repudiate Trump's policies. Now that the US is no longer regarded as a pariah within the international diplomatic arena, Biden can play the moderate card without any pressure to reverse the damage orchestrated by Trump.

Let us not forget that Trump's legacy is the swiftness of how the narrative altered from annexation to the Arab countries' normalisation of relations with Israel - a trend which Biden will expand without having to answer for Israeli settlement expansion.

Read more: Tony Blinken: the good, the bad, and potentially ugly

After all, the international community's contention with annexation was the way in which Israel would have formalised an international law violation which has been overlooked for decades. The fact that a suspension of the annexation plans was celebrated as a complete halt illustrates the UN's disregard for de-facto annexation, which Israel has been embarking upon through settlement expansion.

In recent months, Blinken has already assured Israel's backers that any potential disagreements between the US and the Israeli government would be kept private - an assertion that does not bode well for transparent policy.

How will a Biden administration promote the two-state compromise against a backdrop of Trump's policies and Israel's unilateral decisions? Blinken's penchant for foreign intervention, the United Arab Emirates' assurance to Israel that the normalisation of relations will not be affected by any colonial violence against the Palestinian people, as well as unconditional military aid to Israel, indicate a stance that will facilitate Israel's colonisation project.

Therefore, even if the Biden administration will diplomatically align itself with two-state politics, Israel can still continue its Trump-era plans, in particular with regard to annexation. Blinken's assurance in this regard shows the US is prepared to maintain political duplicity, and the international community, spineless and complicit as it is, will play along.

It is likely that the Palestinian people will find Biden's presidency just as harmful as Trump's for their prospects, as well as harder to argue against.

The Palestinian Authority's frantic statements about the prospects of another four-year tenure for Trump are now a relic of the past, so much that Abbas rushed to re-establish security coordination with Israel even before Biden assumes his role.

The US is prepared to maintain political duplicity and the international community - spineless and complicit as it is - will play along

This move indicates the PA's acceptance of normalising relations with Israel - a stance it condemned the Arab League for, in addition to the countries which recently established ties with Israel.

With such poor decision-making, the PA is ignoring Trump's ongoing legacy. Trump's absence as president does not undo his policies. The Biden administration has already been given proof that Abbas is not up to even asserting Palestine's political rights, let alone challenging US policy on the subject.

The Oslo Accords, which will now take precedence in US foreign policy, will be an additional burden for the Palestinian people in terms of settlement expansion and annexation. The international community knows that the accords will not guarantee even a semblance of a Palestinian state, let alone independence.

Just because Biden's preferred diplomatic option is the two-state compromise, however, does not mean there is no intention to prevent Trump's "Deal of the Century" to run its course in the background.

Israeli leaders have so far found no contention with Biden and his choice of Blinken for Secretary of State. The PA, too, has yet to come up with the slightest criticism of what we can expect from Biden so far.

To have the coloniser and the leader of the colonised on the same page of acceptance for the forthcoming US presidency is an irony that cannot be ignored, when considering that the PA's actions so far are supporting and promoting Israel's next colonial phase. The sad reality is that Blinken may not just have an ally in Israel, but also in the Palestinian echelons which should be opposing him.


Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.