Israeli annexation and a history of broken American promises
Last February, a joint US-Israeli committee began working to implement President Donald Trump's "Vision for Peace." The committee included the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and his Israeli counterpart, Ron Dermer.
Among its tasks was to delineate lands in the occupied West Bank for annexation by Israel. The committee's work and membership demonstrated the deep partnership and coordination between the US and Israel. It also revealed the Palestinian leadership's lack of strategy or preparation for this eventuality.
For decades, Palestinian leaders have gambled on the United States to help them achieve their goals. They believed, with encouragement from Washington, that the United States was the only country capable of pressuring Israel to agree to territorial concessions and the creation of a Palestinian state. As Trump's vision has demonstrated, they have lost this bet.
But America's duplicity did not begin with Trump. The United States has abandoned the Palestinians many times over the years. Indeed, their empty promises were on display 38 years ago in Lebanon.
After receiving approval from Washington, Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982. As the Israeli army besieged Beirut, the United States attempted to end the fighting and secure the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organization's forces from the city. Through its special envoy, Philip Habib, the United States guaranteed the protection of Palestinian civilians.
Shortly after the evacuation of the last Palestinian fighters from the city in early September 1982, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat expressed his concerns for the security of the remaining Palestinian civilians after the withdrawal of the Multi-National Force comprised of the United States, France, and Italy.
Later that month, Israel used the assassination of newly-elected Lebanese president, Bashir Gemayel, as an excuse to enter West Beirut. The Israeli military cordoned off the Palestinian refugee camps, closed the crossings leading to them, and prevented residents from leaving. It secured the entry of right-wing Lebanese forces from Gemayel's Phalange party into the Shatila refugee camp and the Sabra neighbourhood. The Israeli military oversaw the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians by the Phalange militia.
From the roof of our home, my siblings and I watched the Israeli flares illuminate the sky over the camp not knowing for certain what was transpiring below or what was next for us. We learned, to our horror, the emptiness of American promises. And every time we saw a column of Israeli tanks near Bourj al Barajneh refugee camp, we feared another massacre.
However, Arafat and the Palestinian leadership did not learn the lesson from Lebanon. In December 1988, they agreed to recognise Israel and accepted UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Their reward for this major concession was low-level discussions with American diplomats that were eventually abandoned by the United States.After the massacre, the Americans returned to Lebanon claiming to act as peacekeepers. Instead, they coordinated with Israel and the Phalange and became another faction in the Lebanese civil war. We watched as the USS New Jersey shelled the Chouf Mountains in February 2003 claiming to target the Syrian army. The shock waves from its massive guns rattled homes and we could see the smoke rising from the mountains where the shells landed.
When Arafat signed the initial Oslo Agreement in September 1993, the United States and President Bill Clinton oversaw the ceremony. The Clinton administration coordinated with Israel on the interim and final status negotiations while Israeli settlements expanded in the West Bank. Meanwhile, Arafat boasted that Gaza was "liberated" even though it remained under occupation.
Trying to please his American mediators, Arafat negotiated concessions on the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and his advisors enriched themselves in preparation for the declaration of an independent state that never came.
Today, the Trump administration has abandoned any pretense of mediation, negotiation, or the application of international law. Beginning in December 2017, it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved its embassy to the city. A year later, it cut aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.