West Bank visit: Trump is plain wrong
07 December 2017
It’s hard to underestimate the potential damage to the Middle East peace process of President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. It will be widely interpreted as an endorsement of Israeli policy on illegal settlements in the occupied territories - a policy whose consequences became all too clear to me when I visited the West Bank with a delegation from Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine last month. One visit sticks in my mind: the “tyre school” in the Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar, built in an area of the West Bank regarded as strategic by the Israelis who refuse to give the Bedouins permission to build permanent structures. Community leader Eid Abu Khamis told us how his community sought permission to build a school after 5 children were killed in traffic accidents on a busy road on the long walk to their old school. That permission was denied because of the restrictions on permanent buildings made of concrete, so they built their school of car tyres instead. Today 150 children attend that school which also offers adult classes and other services. But the Israeli government has issued demolition orders against the school, claiming it's in breach of planning rules. No such restrictions are placed in the nearby Israeli settlements we visited - one complete with a water park.
President Trump’s decision is no way to secure peace in the Middle East where the situation is already volatile after war in Syria and Yemen and instability in Lebanon. It may play well to certain sections of his electorate, but it shows no understanding of the sensitivities of local feeling and effect on real peoples’ lives.
Picture: Meeting Community leader Eid Abu Khamis