The advent of the Trump administration in early 2017, along with political developments inside Palestine, in the region, and at the international level heralded a new era for Palestine. Admittedly, many of its features are continuations of those seen in the period that preceded it: Palestinian divisions; Israel’s settlement activities and discriminatory system of control over the whole of Mandate Palestine; absence of progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; decline in Arab and international support to achieve this objective. However, the very persistence of these features for many years and the apparent absence of any prospect toward Palestinian statehood, which constitutes for the Palestinians the purported objective of the Oslo accords, have emboldened several actors to adopt postures and policies that were unthinkable before and whose effect appears to have reenforced further the Palestinian deadlock.
Under the cover of talks about the “deal of the century” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, President Donald Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (2017-2018). He also closed both the PLO office in Washington, and the US consulate-general in Jerusalem whose significant function had been to represent the US before the Palestinian Authority and to deal with consular affairs related to the inhabitants of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. This new US policy of endorsing Israel’s expansionist goals and downgrading the status of Palestine went hand in hand with encouraging several Arab states to establish official and open diplomatic and defense relations with Israel.
As most of Trump’s initiatives have not been reversed by his successor, Joe Biden, Israel’s policies (including its government’s official rejection of Palestinian statehood) and the new regional environment appear to solidify the Palestinian political and diplomatic impasse. Although international actors continued to pay lip service to Palestinian statehood, they have ceased to call for the resumption of negotiations as a path to an agreement.
Nothing definitive can be said about this thirteenth phase in the history of the Palestine Question, which is still at its beginning. Hence the question mark in referring to it. It is clear, however, that contradictory trends are at work. Opposite to those aggravating the Palestine impasse, significant currents are at play: Israel’s own long-term impasse in having to control a more and more turbulent Arab population whose number has been estimated in the early 2020’s to roughly equal that of its Jewish population; informed public opinion in much of the world and international legal reports that recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle and consider Israel an apartheid state; and judicial decisions in countries such as the US refusing to outlaw the boycott of Israel.
Evidence of such trends was demonstrated in Spring 2021. In response to Israel’s attempt to change the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque to the detriment of Muslim worshippers, and to its expulsion orders against Palestinian residents of Shaykh Jarrah neighborhood, Palestinian grass-root mobilization was so strong that it quickly spread throughout Mandate Palestine and beyond in solidarity with the resistance of Jerusalem residents. And shortly thereafter, the war Israel launched on the Gaza Strip - in response to the projectiles launched from Gaza on the vicinity of Jerusalem in support of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Shaykh Jarrah neighborhood - failed to carry the decision and break Gaza’s military front.