On Tuesday, White House officials kept the American president Donald Trump updated in real time on the developments of the attack in Manchester, claimed by the Islamic State. I wonder if they also reported the gunfire by Israeli soldiers that seriously injured 17-year-old Hammad Tuqua, who threw stones at military jeeps, in Silwad, near Ramallah. Or the killing of 15-year-old Raed Radayda of Ubeidiya, near Bethlehem, who, according to the official Israeli version, tried to stab a soldier at an army checkpoint on Monday.
I doubt it. And anyway, he would not have done much — an American president who spent barely an hour in Bethlehem, and said nothing but empty phrases in front of a population already troubled by the pressures made by President Abu Mazen’s government to remove, ahead of Trump’s arrival, some of the protests set up in support of Palestinian prisoners, who have been on a hunger strike for the last 40 days in Israeli jails.
“The president should have refused the meeting with Trump and instead gone to lead the demonstrations against the U.S. and Israel and in support of our heroic prisoners,” said Adel Hourani, one of the hundreds of Palestinians in Bethlehem who demonstrated against Trump’s visit. In Gaza, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organized a protest march and burned posters with Trump’s image.
The dominant topic in the West Bank is the hunger strike of the political prisoners. On Monday, there was a massive participation in the general strike called by several Palestinian political organizations that declared Tuesday a “Day of Anger.” The health conditions of the approximately 1,700 prisoners who have been fasting since April 17, following the lead of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, are deteriorating rapidly. Two of them, Mansour Fawaqa and Hafith Sharayaa, are in critical condition. They have suffered loss of consciousness, vomiting and severe pain, in addition to the loss of 15 pounds. Many other detainees show similar symptoms.
In this climate, Trump showed an optimism based on nothing, after his flash visit to Bethlehem and his return to Jerusalem to visit the Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem) and the Israel Museum. He reiterated that the United States will do everything in its power to make peace between Israel and Palestine.
“I am personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement, and I had a meeting this morning with President Abbas and can tell you that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. I know you’ve heard it before. I am telling you — that’s what I do. They are ready to reach for peace” Trump added: “Making peace, however, will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise, and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.” In short, a festival of banalities.
Hot air, empty phrases, unjustified confidence in the possibility to reopen the negotiations and to reach a goal no other U.S. president could achieve. Trump actually has nothing to offer, and in fact he has already taken away from the Palestinians. He carefully avoided making any reference to the two-state solution and the creation of the State of Palestine. This caused the Israeli right to rejoice, since they now believed to have survived the “danger” of Palestinian independence and self-determination.
Abu Mazen, particularly annoyed, explained again that the main problem is the military occupation and the Israeli settlements, and not the conflict between religions. He explained: “Once again, I intend to reiterate our position about the existence of two states within the borders set in 1967. We ask for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, that can coexist alongside the Israeli State in peace and security, to finally resolve the issue. Our problems are the military occupation, the settlements and Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinian state. We have no problem with the Jewish religion.”
Trump listened without commenting. Back in Jerusalem, he repeated that with him, the United States will always be on Israel’s side. Then he pointed the finger again at Iran. Finally, he reached the Tel Aviv airport, where he took off for Italy. A trip to the Middle East without any political results but full of financial ones: the billions of dollars Saudi Arabia will spend to buy U.S. arms.