Washington in knots over Russia probe : Palestine’s agony worsens | Sunday Observer

Washington in knots over Russia probe : Palestine’s agony worsens

A double-amputee in a wheelchair was among the ten people killed by Israeli fire in civilian protests by Palestinians in the week since the United States of America announced that it was recognising the politically divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But with a relatively tame Arab and Muslim reaction to the US move, the people of Palestine – or what is left of it after Israel’s military expansion in 1967 – are disheartened and in disarray.

Not that Donald Trump has the time or the inclination (or the intelligence) to be concerned, as he continues to be hemmed in by both FBI as well as Congress probes into his, or his associates’, conspiratorial links with the Russian government. Aside from the Russia probe, the US President also had to cope last week with the political humiliation of losing what was normally a safe US Senate seat for his Republican Party in the state of Alabama to the opposition Democratic Party.

This week Trump’s team of lawyers are to have their first meeting with the investigators of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Washington is rife with speculation as to if and when FBI Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will focus directly on Trump himself. The combined FBI and Congress Committee probes have now homed in on the inner circle around the US President, including the President’s son, Donald Trump, Jr, his son-in-law and millionaire businessman and Special Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner, his original election campaign manager Paul Manafort, and his short-lived National Security Adviser General (Retd) Michael Flynn.

As the net seemingly draws tighter round Trump, the bets in Washington are increasingly on “when” and not “if” the President becomes a target of the probe into what is probably the biggest scandal to hit the US Presidency since the Watergate scandal that led to the fall of President Richard Nixon.

Watergate, as earthshaking as it was at the time, is a relatively minor issue of domestic politics compared with the current probe in which the highest in the land are being probed for apparently being in cahoots with what is seen as being still the country’s worst enemy, Russia.

Hunted guerrilla

Imagine if the President of Sri Lanka had been in some conspiracy together with LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran! In the case of Prabhakaran, he was never more than a hunted guerrilla leader who was in hiding and did not have the legitimacy nor the power of a recognised political leader. Not so Vladimir Putin, elected President of Russia, the world’s second most powerful military power and, long-time rival of the US for global geo-political influence.

Fortunately for Donald Trump, the Republican Party has ideologically shifted to the Right and a large faction within it is even more consciously isolationist in foreign policy than is the US President. Trump, being barely literate, has little idea of geo-politics and the implications of an isolationist and unilateral foreign policy for the US.

After all, when the US was last taking this isolationist line, which was in the 1920s-30s, the world was much less integrated, less inter-dependent and less inter-connected. Hence, being isolationist may have appeared to be a viable foreign relations option for Washington in that era. But, not so, today.

In the globalised world of today, we are all locked in to the world system of economic relations, of inter-dependent markets, value chains and production lines, of a web of multilateral treaties and military alliances. Hence, it is almost impossible for any country today to function entirely and purely on its own – certainly not for the currently sole superpower and dominant engine of the global economy.

Yet the Republican Party today finds itself internally divided with the ultra-neo-liberal ‘Tea Party’ faction increasingly dominant while the liberal old guard party elite now find themselves approaching retirement and lacking any second tier leadership within the party to take over and follow traditional liberal politics.

Thus the ‘Grand Old Party’ (GOP) as it is fondly known in America, today may be at the crossroads: should it swing even further to the Right and embrace an old-style White, Conservative Christian outlook to retain its new core demographic voter base? Or, should it lose some of that rock-solid White American social base in order to win over ethnic minorities and White secular liberals and exploit a broadened vote base?

It is likely however, that for the purpose of a quick legislation of reform of the tax system, the Republicans will pull together in Congress this week to pass the first serious legislation of the Trump Presidency.

In Palestine, there is no future to talk about. A good half of the Palestinian people, mainly the Muslim majority, are in exile, displaced by the first Israeli colonising wars of the 1940s. They live in what are now permanent refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon while the other half remains in what was supposed to have been their independent Palestine from 1967 onwards but since the 1967 War, has become Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza strip.

Even those two remnants of territory are not only militarily occupied by Israel and controlled by the Zionist state, but up to 42 per cent of West Bank Palestine is already permanently settled by Israeli Jewish settlers in government-built and maintained fortified settlelements.

The remnant of Palestine does not have an economy to speak of and barely has an integral society with its necessary social infra-structure for education, health, sciences, and intellectual and cultural growth.

Technically, Jerusalem remains a divided or partitioned city that is recognised as a holy site for three of the world’s major religions – Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Under UN law, West Jerusalem is designated as affiliated to the state of Israel while East Jerusalem is linked with the state of Palestine. East Jerusalem, with the holy Al Quds Islamic sanctuary, is to be the capital of Palestine according to one track of the UN designated treaty arranegments.

And Israel is allocated West Jerusalem.

On the ground, however, after the military invasion of the whole city by Israel in 1967, Israel has the freedom to forcibly make the whole of Jerusalem its capital. The US, in its diplomatic announcement last week, has now pushed the total Israeli occupation of Jerusalem one step further.


One important early response by the world Muslim nations within days of the Trump announcement, was the special summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened by Turkey in Istanbul last Wednesday. In that quite poorly attended (more than half of the heads of member states were absent, including chief sponsor Saudi Arabia) summit meeting, there was resounding condemnation of the US move but little concrete action.

Most significant was the collective call by the OIC for the recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestine’s official capital. The East Jerusalem move, while almost impossible to implement in terms of actual placement of Palestinian government offices in that city, is at least well within the UN treaty and resolution mandate.

For the Palestinians, the future has never seemed so bleak as it does today. As we approach the Christian festival of Christmas, increasingly it is the Palestinians who are becoming more ‘God’s chosen people’ as they live without their Promised Land.