President Trump is set to visit Europe and the Middle East next week in an effort reaffirm alliances with American allies. Hoping to correct for President Obama’s infamous 2009 Cairo speech, in which the new Commander-in-Chief apologized for America’s supposed offenses while sycophantically appealing to the Muslim world, Trump will meet with traditional U.S. allies neglected in the Obama years, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi monarch King Abdulaziz. After meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, Trump will return the favor and meet with Abbas in "Palestine."
According to Trump’s social media director Daniel Scavino Trump’s itinerary includes a meeting with a Abbas in “Palestine,” a non-existent, imaginary nation state located in the West Bank and/or Gaza, depending on which Palestinian activist you ask.
Trump's social media director appears to think the president is traveling to "Palestine" later this month.... pic.twitter.com/P8jeC8HWq0— Adam Kredo (@Kredo0) May 12, 2017
Perhaps Scavino’s use of the proper noun “Palestine” (as opposed to the non-state “Palestinian territories or better yet “West Bank”) was an honest mistake. Or perhaps he thought that “Palestine” and “Palestinian territories” are synonymous (they’re not). Either way, it’s disturbing to see this level of profound geopolitical ignorance coming from an administration official.
The word “Palestine” is controversial, historically-loaded, and highly political. Beyond being a term premised on falsehoods, “Palestine,” as a term used in the halls of the United Nations and other international platforms, implies that the matter of the Palestinian people’s statehood is settled.
The implications of using that word are immense and should not be downplayed. In fact, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is largely based on debates surrounding the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of Palestinian nationalism.
The Trump administration would be wise to clean up its act before the president embarks on his biggest international tour yet.