There will be a collective sigh of relief from Palestinians when disgraced President Donald Trump finally leaves the White House for good on Wednesday, because no single nation has suffered more as a result of US foreign policy under this man. However, is it possible that some of Trump’s more insane pronouncements, like recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist state and moving the US Embassy to the holy city, are nothing more than elaborate hoaxes?
Rather than take Trump at his word — as if! — I checked into the reality of the embassy. At the time of writing, the US State Department under Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo has yet to issue an invitation to tender, or even a budget, for the embassy design let alone find a plot of land suitable for what will, no doubt, be a pretentious building and compound.
Another political maverick is Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whose trial on fraud and other charges has been postponed yet again; like Trump, he is a stranger to the truth. On the day that the outgoing US president was impeached for a second time, Netanyahu proclaimed loudly and proudly that he was giving a chunk of precious Jerusalem land for the US Embassy building. It was time to return a favour to the man who the Israeli prime minister has described as the “best friend Israel has ever had” in the White House.
The decision by social media networks, including his beloved Twitter, to ban Trump has spared us from reading about this “GIFT FROM BIBI” in his usual caps lock style. As it was, earlier this week, Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee pushed through with great haste planning approval for no less than two US Embassy compounds. What wasn’t said, though, is that the US State Department has already rejected both sites as unsuitable; they are simply too small to accommodate the 1,000 diplomatic staff and officials who work out of the fortress-like embassy in Tel Aviv.
So what is the truth about the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and how serious are Trump’s pronouncements about it? Was it actually a hoax? Trying to ascertain the facts has been a bit like trying to nail jelly to the wall; the US-Mexico border wall, perhaps, yet another Trump pipe dream which has yet to materialise.
The planning committee, which bizarrely sat in secret at less than 24 hours’ notice, approved an extension to a complex in West Jerusalem, but it is still too small. The same secret meeting also gave the green light to a plan for a 65,000 square foot complex on the Hebron Road in the Talpiot neighbourhood. The area falls within West Jerusalem and Israel’s 1948 borders and offers unrivalled panoramic views of the Old City and surrounding hills.
I contacted the US State Department to ask for further details but, at the time of writing, I’m still waiting for a full response. To be fair, though, most of the Trump administration’s media people have either bailed out or taken leave. Netanyahu’s office, meanwhile, has declined to respond to media enquiries suggesting that his “generous gift” to Trump on the eve of his departure was little more than showboating amounting to nothing. A bit like “Trump Heights”, in fact.
READ: Israel approves new US Embassy building in Jerusalem
Remember that? We all watched the theatrics in March 2019 when the Israeli government conducted a media-driven ceremony in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to inaugurate Ramat Trump. “Trump Heights” is looking rather sorry for itself these days. The gold-embossed signage has lost its sheen, I’m told, and some of its letters have been stolen or vandalised, while the US and Israeli flags are beginning to look the worse for wear.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the territory in 1981. Most of the international community refuses to recognise Golan as part of Israel and considers it to be occupied land under international law. Although it is illegal to annex land taken in war, 55 years have now passed since Israel built its first illegal settlement on the Golan, and just over 20,000 Jewish settlers occupy the territory. Despite Trump’s unlawful pronouncements about recognising Israel’s annexation of this and other occupied territories, nobody has moved into “Trump Heights”, not least because it doesn’t exist.
The place where Netanyahu stood next to the massive sign bearing the US president’s name in gold letters in Hebrew and English boasting of the forthcoming development is now covered by waist-high weeds. No ground has been broken, and not a single brick has been laid.
So beyond the imaginations of Trump and Netanyahu, is there any reality to the building of a US Embassy in Jerusalem or recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights? We know that politicians often fail to tell us the whole truth about anything, but outright lies? Are Trump and Netanyahu trying to outdo each other in this department? The multiple indictments against Netanyahu and Trump’s efforts to worm his way out of any responsibility for the attack on the Capitol Building place them neck and neck in the lack of sincerity stakes.
One heartening aspect of this is that there are many people around the world, including the Palestinians, who neither believed nor supported the duplicity and lies that came tumbling out of Washington and Tel Aviv during the Trump years. As the struggle for truth and justice to prevail continues, though, it is worth considering those who have been duped by the outgoing Trump administration into cosying up to the alleged fraudster Netanyahu. Step forward Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco for their own roll call of shame. Before exposing themselves to even more international contempt, perhaps they should look very thoroughly at the small print of the Abraham Accords to see if they are even worth the paper that they’re written on.
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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.