Dangers of a potential return to ‘normality’
In American politics, everything changes and nothing changes, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
President-elect Joe Biden this week had a very friendly conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which the former reassured the latter that Israel is America’s closest ally and that US support for the country will remain steadfast. Biden’s transition team released a press statement saying: “The president-elect thanked the prime minister for his congratulations and reiterated his steadfast support for Israel’s security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state.” There was no mention of the hundreds of illegal settlements Israel is pushing ahead with establishing in the Occupied Territories.
The Palestinian leadership also released a statement, showing that it was not really so upset with President Donald Trump’s policies as much as it was by him personally. President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would resume its “security cooperation” with Israel, which it had ended in May in protest at Netanyahu’s Trump-backed plan to annex large portions of the West Bank.
The mainstream media issued a collective sigh of relief, hailing the election of Biden over Trump and the impending government changeover as an example of how the world order can be restored to how it was before Trump was elected in 2016. The return to “normal” in this case will basically ease concerns about money. Restoring security ties will allow the transfer of $108 million a month in tax collections from Israel to the Palestinians to be resumed, which the PA can use to pay its employees. And Biden has said he will restore millions of dollars of funding for the Palestinians that Trump terminated. The president-elect will also push to restore the Palestinians’ Washington diplomatic office that was shuttered by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Yes, the world is “back to normal” now that Biden has defeated Trump. At least that is what much of the news media and the left want you to believe. But this apparent return to normality is truly threatening to the people of the Middle East, because the “normal” of the past was plagued by violence, civil rights violations, and Israeli laws that discriminate against the country’s non-Jewish population or toughen the oppression of those who live under military occupation in the West Bank.
The kind of normalization Biden plans on restoring is no less ugly than the policies Trump has been criticized for initiating.
It seems that some Arabs, and activists especially, are comfortable with a status quo that aligns with what they feel is acceptable. But how can the status quo of no peace be acceptable? The truth is that many activists make a living from it.
Don’t expect Biden to bring about a genuine peace accord between the Palestinians and Israelis after he is sworn into office. That is not going to happen. What will likely happen is that Biden will bring the Middle East back from Trump’s policies, which saw three normalization accords signed between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. Instead we will be back to the old spot where the status quo was frozen — a place between peace and conflict.
This is a place where Israelis have learned to live with their country’s violent theft of land from Christians and Muslims, while the Christians and Muslims have learned to live either as second-class citizens in Israel or with no rights as victims of Israeli apartheid in the Occupied Territories.
The status quo of the past was plagued by violence, civil rights violations, and discriminatory Israeli laws.
The Israelis will be happy to see everything go back to a situation of no movement and no progress. There will be some violence, but not enough to threaten their lives. Israel will be able to go back to killing and arresting Palestinians and confiscating their land, while suffering no consequences. People will be able to find a place to survive, but without ever really resolving the problems.
The PA believes that to be a situation where it can continue to survive and work. And Israel is happy to keep it going as long as it maintains military and legal control over non-Jewish life.
Many will say Biden is restoring the hope for peace without ever advancing it. But, to me, the status quo is just a tinderbox of potential violence; a sleeping giant that, if awakened, will only bring greater suffering for all parties.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania