Don't expect Biden to reverse Trump's legacy in Palestine

Don't expect Biden to reverse Trump's legacy in Palestine
Comment: Joe Biden has neither obligation nor political will to reverse Trump's worst concessions to Israel, and the UN has only progressed in its complicity, writes Ramona Wadi.
6 min read
27 Jan, 2021
Joe Biden, vice president at the time, holds a joint press conference Ramallah, 2010 [Getty]
Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman left his post on a triumphant note. "I'm frankly somewhere between addicted and intoxicated with what I've been able to do, and how much joy it gives me," he declared in a recent interview with the New York Times.

On the other end of the spectrum, Palestinians will continue to reap the consequences of the US-Israeli scheming in the form of forced displacement, paving the way for a de-facto annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Former President Donald Trump has left a devastating legacy for Palestinians, and the international community is just as much to blame for the forthcoming deterioration, as much as the previou administration.

According to Friedman, Trump "injected a tremendously needed dose of realism into the Palestinian psyche about what's achievable and what's not." Had Friedman spoken honestly, he would have stated that the Trump administration conspired with Israel to relegate Palestinians' historical rights and memory to oblivion, and the international community were only too happy to stand aside as spectators.

As far as the international community is concerned, there is no need to antagonise the major stakeholders of power over the politics of decolonisation.

Trump was the perfect diversion for the international community to achieve its aims. Lacking rhetorical eloquence and held in disdain by most world leaders, the media latched on to the publicised diplomatic shortcomings and created transient fervour over each concession which brought Israel closer to its annexation plans.

The UN condemned and stepped aside, as it always did. Only this time it had a strategy.

Donald Trump has left a devastating legacy for Palestinians, and the international community is just as much to blame

Its greatest contention was the so-called US Deal of the Century, which was described as going against the two-state compromise, but yet never completely discredited. And when Trump announced the Abraham Accords, the UN quickly forgot its irritation at the US and returned to its pedestal once again - its hypocrisy revealed.

For all the years the institution pleaded with the Palestinians to pursue international recourse and channels, to abide by negotiations and to wait, the UN was merely biding its time. It is, after all, effectively an accomplice in the colonisation of Palestinian territory.

There is no forgetting the 1947 Partition Plan which favoured the Zionist project in its division of land, or the Palestinian right of return which indirectly protected the Israeli colonial presence in Palestine.

The UN's acceptance of the normalisation agreements brokered by Trump in return for a suspension of annexation allowed the institution to reinstate itself and its two-state diplomacy. With Joe Biden assuming the US presidency with no obligation or political will to reverse Trump's worst concessions to Israel, as Friedman gleefully imparted, the UN has progressed in its complicity.

Read more:  Doubt and division cast a shadow over Palestinian elections

The Palestinian Authority also rushed to restore relations with Israel in November of last year, notably security coordination. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas based his decision solely upon the US electoral results that have ushered in a US president who will bring his country back into the international fold; the latter having moved closer to embracing Trump's legacy.

So far, Biden's approach towards the PA has been to encourage the leadership to hold elections - not to usher in a democratic process for Palestine, but "to renew the legitimacy in the Palestinian Authority," indicating that the US does not intend to work with any other Palestinian option other than Abbas and his echelons.

This, of course, suits Abbas well. Throughout Trump's presidency, Abbas has traipsed through a plethora of reactions. These have ranged from calling for protests against the US and Israel, pretending to embrace the Palestinian resistance, playing the security coordination card, and in the end, reneging on his decision to end relations with Israel, in order to ensure the PA's survival.

If Palestine is lost in the process of illusory state building, the consequences are of no concern to Abbas.

The only issue Abbas has not reneged on is his adherence to the two-state compromise - the international paradigm that facilitated Israel's land-theft in Palestine. When Trump announced the details of his so-called Deal of the Century, Abbas proposed a weak alternative to the US scheme, coming up with nothing other than grovelling to other international leaders to support the two-state politics.

The US president will bring his country back into the international fold

Never has the international community had it so easy on Palestine. The PA willingly "waited" out Trump's tenure and treated Palestinians to more territorial loss, while the UN periodically issued diplomatic reminders that there is no alternative to the two-state. While Israel planned further settlement expansion to facilitate annexation, substantiating its rhetoric with facts, the PA was content with lip service and negligible reassurances.

Biden has repeatedly stated that his administration will return to the international consensus on this matter. What is still left unsaid, by the US, the PA and the UN, is that there is no real return to international consensus. Rather, the US and the UN will be meeting at a point where they will merge the two-state diplomacy and Trump's legacy.

The PA and the UN will say that international consensus prevailed, but neither will admit endorsing Trump's legacy. The normalisation deals were the Trump administration's parting gift to the UN - it cannot criticise an approach which it has long practiced in terms of its political ties to Israel.

In his parting reflections, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process also urged the international community "to build upon the new opportunities created by the Abraham Accords." Briefly - seek out the economic benefits of the brokered deals, in return for turning a blind eye to annexation, which both Israeli and US officials have clearly reiterated is suspended, not called off.

The US and the UN will be meeting at a point where they will merge two-state diplomacy and Trump's legacy

The two-state politics and the normalisation agreements will bolster each other and the main repercussion will be a complete marginalisation of the Palestinian people. Abbas will see to it that any attempts at anti-colonial struggle by the Palestinian people will be clamped down on, and with security coordination as "sacred" as ever, Israel can rest assured of the usual practice of the PA sending Palestinians off to Israeli jails.

The havoc wreaked by the the two-state compromise in Palestinian society is macabre. Under Biden's presidency and a purported return to normalcy - the international endorsement of colonialism, that is - the Palestinians will be worse off than ever, because the PA leadership has gambled with Trump's departure and lost anyway.

The two-state solution was always a road to depletion. Biden's refusal to overturn Trump's decision while endorsing the two-state will be the new face of Israel's annexation plans.


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:

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.