In the wake of the United States’ elections, the waning weeks of 2016 are being defined by despair for progressives. That despair is at its thickest when considering the prospects for ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The questions that are troubling everyone concerned with resolving the conflict are existential: Is there any possibility of a Palestinian state anymore? How can we even keep hoping in the aftermath of the election in the United States? Is there any path forward? Yet, as troubling as the current situation is, hope and opportunity remain.
The obstacles facing advocates for a peaceful and just future for Israelis and Palestinians are difficult to overstate. In Israel, we have a government that has been marching farther and farther to the right since 2009. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fears nothing quite so much as being outdone from the right by Naftali Bennett. Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, is working to stake out a position as the sensible character who can, with more care than Bennett, defend the interests of the settlements. These forces continue to push Bibi farther and farther rightward and can be expected to do so for the foreseeable future.
On the Palestinian side, little has changed. Mahmoud Abbas’ activities center around holding on to power. Around him, various challengers jockey for position in a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority, while Abbas’ supporters in the PA maneuver to keep control of the West Bank after Abbas’ departure or death. Meanwhile, the rift between the PA and Hamas is as wide as ever, the occupation of the West Bank grows ever deeper and the brutal living conditions in Gaza continue their precipitous decline.
While no one is certain about where Donald Trump might take United States policy on Israel and Palestine, early signs are not promising, to say the least. His campaign advisors, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, all support Israel’s settlement project. Kushner has been mentioned as a possible special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace while other key names rumored for Trump’s foreign policy braintrust have included Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Mike Huckabee, Rudolph Giuliani and Tom Cotton, all of whom are known to harbor similar views.