Did you see it, and hear it? I did, and thought I could forget it, but I can’t. So here I am.
The scene is the joint press conference held by President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister in the East Room of the White House on February 15th, 2017. In response to a question, Trump is blathering on about one state/two state, formulating U.S. foreign policy on-the-fly as if such things hold no more importance than what he might order for lunch: a turkey sandwich or, no, maybe the corned beef, or whatever… God help us.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. (Laughter.) I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.
I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.
And “Bibi” is laughing. Benjamin Netanyahu, in his public persona, is not known particularly for displays of jocularity, so when he lets loose an unscripted laugh during our president’s frighteningly inane comments on Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects — a realm fraught with issues of justice, human rights and international law — perhaps we should pay attention. It was unnerving, and chilling, for what it portends.
Here’s what it looked and sounded like [click on image below for a 19-second out-take— but promise to come right back]:
If you want to view the entire 26-minute press conference, or just want more context, go HERE (the key segment starts at 10:45)– but come right back!
So, my first thought was that Netanyahu was laughing at me — at all of us, as Americans — for permitting such a vacuous fool to ascend to the highest office in the land. On one level, I don’t blame Bibi for laughing– at the absurdity of it all. Beyond that, I can’t help thinking that the prime minister relishes the prospect of manipulating this man, our president — which from all appearances will prove ridiculously easy. Given Israel’s longstanding hypnotic sway over the U.S. Congress, why should Trump not fall in line and acquiesce to the nationalistic agenda of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition — and essentially ignore the ongoing, relentless dispossession of the Palestinian people.
At first I thought it was just me: It’s what I get for trying to parse and make rational sense of Trump’s off-the-cuff mumbo-jumbo. But, no– others got it too: At one fell swoop, in his own unknowing way, Trump has made perfectly clear what everyone who’s been paying attention has long known: America, by unequivocally embracing the neighborhood bully, has abdicated any meaningful role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a corollary, the 8 to 10 million dollars a day we channel to Israel in military aid (doubling as corporate welfare to the US weapons industry) will continue to flow, with no strings attached. Maybe it all goes without saying. After all, the two leaders — perhaps the two countries themselves — belong to the cozy, self-congratulatory global fraternity of bullies.
For an informed (and very pointed) take on all this, the analysis of Robert Fisk, correspondent for the UK media outlet The Independent, is well worth a read. He “gets it”, and connects all the dots. Click (again) on the above image, or HERE. A sample:
Indeed there was laughter. Not because this was an intended joke by Donald Trump, but because his words were so flippant, so careless, so ignorant, so utterly deplorable, that laughter was the only psychological human release available to sane men and women after such tragic frivolity.
An entire Arab people, a future Palestine – I notice the word itself was actually avoided – lies under the longest military occupation in modern history and the best the President of the United States could do was say that, heck, he’d go along with one state or two states – or maybe three, for all we knew. The idea that one state might either be a secular Israel/West Bank state for Jews and Arabs with an Arab majority – goodbye Israel – or one state for Jews only but including a non-voting Arab majority – apartheid Israel – was simply neither here nor there. […]
[I]t was instructive to recall beyond all this nonsense just how the very foundations of any modern discussion of an Israeli-Palestinian “solution” have for decades been built on a pile of journalistic and political semantic trash – which has now become so normal a part of the Palestine story that we have come to accept it as genuine. We all invented “alternative facts” in the Middle East when Trump was still at school…
Independent journalist Jonathan Cook — who calls the press conference a “supremely clarifying moment” — also weighs in with some cogent comments and valuable context. See his brief commentary in full HERE:
For 15 years, the Middle East “peace process” initiated by the Oslo accords has been on life support. Last week, United States president Donald Trump pulled the plug, whether he understood it or not.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu could barely stifle a smile as Mr Trump demoted the two-state solution from holy grail. Instead, he said of resolving the conflict: “I am looking at two states or one state … I can live with either one.”
Given the huge asymmetry of power, Israel now has a free hand to entrench its existing apartheid version of the one-state solution – Greater Israel – on the Palestinians. This is the destination to which Mr Netanyahu has been steering the Israel-Palestine conflict his entire career.