MIDDLE EAST

Timeshare politics: Could Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ be just a scam?

If you cannot achieve a lasting peace for all the right reasons, you could never achieve a true peace for all the wrong reasons.

All the spirited talks about renewed efforts to return to the so-called Palestinian-Israeli ‘peace process’ and to achieve the ‘ultimate deal’ seem entirely concerned with other objectives, least among them being peace that is predicated on justice and human rights.

The keyword behind all the peace rhetoric is ‘Iran.’ But does any sensible person truly believe that uniting the Arabs and Israel into one front against Iran will eventually benefit the cause of peace, bring an end to the Israeli occupation and create stability in a tumultuous region? 

Timeshare politics

US President Donald Trump is certainly a good salesman and keen real-estate developer.

A popular concept of investment for many such developers is timeshares – the idea of selling the same property to many buyers at once, and allocating time for each ‘buyer’ to make exclusive use of the property. The idea itself is affiliated with the word ‘scam’, both because often the deal is a con, and because of the shady sales techniques used by sellers to rope in more investors.

Like an astute timeshare-salesman, Trump arrived in the Middle East on May 20 with lofty promises and a host of sales pitches to various buyers. He quickly demarcated the enemies, the allies and the objectives. Yet, he left his objectives purposely vague, so as to leave plenty of room for interpretations, speculation and hyped expectations.

And, in some way, this actually worked. His trip to Israel on May 23 was the most successful of the tour, with him treated by his Israeli hosts the way he wanted to be treated – feeding his ego in a way that he had not experienced in the first 100 days of his term in office. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew exactly what Trump wanted, and delivered.

In Israel, Trump felt truly presidential.

But, while timeshare investments may work for some, they are the illusion of property ownership. Like Trump’s precarious style of politics, one buys into the idea, not the product.  

What Trump Wants

But what does Trump want anyway?

His love affair with Israel was superficial from the beginning. His early remarks on Israel when he was still a nominee actually showed that he was hardly a stalwart supporter of the Jewish state.

His language shifted in Israel’s favor as his chances of the White House job became more real. Like most presidential nominees, he groveled before the Israeli lobby, AIPAC. He even upped his sales pitch when he offered to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

When he became president, however, reality struck. Although he maintained the fervor of the language, he cut down on the promises.

Israeli leaders, on the other hand, want a president that does not question Israel; who hands over the annual $3.8 billion aid package without daring to censure any of Israel’s actions or make a single demand.

Former President, Obama, accommodated Israeli whims, too. He too groveled before AIPAC and signed the most generous aid package ever, but he committed the ultimate sin of questioning Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land.

Obama did little to enforce it, true, but the mere demand of a settlement freeze was enough for him to fall out of favor with Israel and its powerful supporters in the US.

With all this in mind, will the Israel-Trump honeymoon continue? It all depends if Trump actually has a plan. 

Mr. Showmanship 

Media pundits are purportedly unsure.

As if he has, overnight, been transformed into a master politician, Trump’s 27-hour trip to Israel has seemingly left many analysts mystified.

From an American mainstream media perspective, to be judged “presidential” enough, all US presidents would have to commit to unconditionally supporting Israel and demonizing Palestinians. Trump passed that litmus test, and US media, which has been otherwise polarized based on their own political allegiances, has finally taken a break from its raging conflict over Trump’s presidency, and rallied behind him during his visit to Israel.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud

Quoting former Israeli political adviser, Mitchell Barack, the New York Times referred to Trump as the ‘Liberace of world leaders”, in reference to flamboyant, piano player, Wladziu Valantino Liberace. The latter, known as “Mr. Showmanship”, was, at times, the highest paid entertainer in the world and his successful career lasted over four decades.

New York Magazine Online quoted former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, too, trying to decipher Trump’s supposedly complicated persona.

“Either Trump’s visit was substance-free — or he ‘is being uncharacteristically subtle’ in planting the seeds for a new round of peace negotiations,” NYmag quoted, paraphrasing Shapiro’s tweets.

‘Liberal’ US media, which has stooped to many lows in its attacks on Trump, became much more sober and quite respectful in the way they attempted to analyze his short trip to Israel, and the very brief detour to Bethlehem, where he met with Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

“Mr. Trump’s speech at the Israeli Museum was so friendly and considerate of Israeli emotions,” reported the New Your Times, “that one right-wing Israeli legislator described it as deeply expressive of the ‘Zionist narrative.’“

The Washington Post, on the other hand, still found faults, but, certainly not because of Trump’s lack of balance and his failure to deride the Israeli Occupation and Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.

Max Bearak wrote in the Post: “Trump’s entry in the guest book at Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial was strangely upbeat, self-referential and written in his signature all caps: ‘IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS — SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!’”

Bearak found such choice of words and the style in which it was written sort of offensive, especially if compared with the supposed thoughtfulness of former President Barack Obama who wrote a significantly longer note, which partly read: “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world.”

If they bothered to ask Palestinians, they would have found a completely different interpretation of Obama’s words. But since none of this matters to the ‘Zionist narrative’, it subsequently matters so very little to mainstream American media, as well.

From an American mainstream media perspective, to be judged “presidential” enough, all US presidents would have to commit to unconditionally supporting Israel and demonizing Palestinians. Trump passed that litmus test, and US media, which has been otherwise polarized based on their own political allegiances, has finally taken a break from its raging conflict over Trump’s presidency, and rallied behind him during his visit to Israel.  

Awkward Journalism 

Ironically, the man has been often judged for lacking substance on numerous occasions in the past. Yet, Trump’s trip to Israel was the most lacking and most divisive. However, the fact that he, time and again, reiterated Israeli priorities was all that the media needed to give the man a chance. Their collective verdict seems to rebrand his lack of substance as his unique ‘subtle’ way of conducting politics.

Israeli media, which is often more critical of the Israeli government than US media ever dares, needed to keep up with its ‘democratic’ tradition. But Trump’s groveling also gave them little room for criticism. The often-impulsive Trump this time stuck to the script and followed his repeatedly rehearsed speech and media comments to the letter.

But Josefin Dolsten insisted on finding a way to nitpick, composing for the Times of Israel the “7 awkward moments from Trump’s Israel trip.”

For Palestinians, it must not be easy to find the humor in these tough times. Hundreds of their prisoners, including their most popular leader, Marwan Barghouti, were enduring a prolonged and life-threatening hunger strike in which they were making the most basic demands for better treatment, longer visitation hours with their families, and ending of arbitrary detentions.

But American media cannot see this, for it, too, seems to follow a script, in which Palestinian rights, dignity and freedom are hardly never mentioned.

Yet strangely, Trump’s trip was, in a sense, a success. He sold nothing. In fact, he had nothing worth selling, but somehow had many buyers. He brought the Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians together, united by common fears, but nothing else. And he continued to speak of making the ‘ultimate deal’, which ultimately turned out to be timeshare politics.

_________________________
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net and he tweets @RamzyBaroud.

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Last Update: Sunday, 4 June 2017 KSA 11:31 - GMT 08:31
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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