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Thursday, May 4, 2017

January 2011 was the first time the US allowed the Palestinian flag to officially fly in Washington, DC:

The Palestinian flag was flown for the first time outside PLO diplomatic offices in Washington today, in a symbolic step that officials said shows momentum towards creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Ambassador Maen Areikat unfurled the red, green, white and black banner from a balcony above the office entrance to a round of applause from supporters. He hailed the moment as historic.

Areikat praised the Obama administration for a small, if symbolic, gesture that reflects improved diplomatic relations and a U.S. commitment to help promote the goal of a Palestinian state.

"It means the administration is serious," he said of the U.S. permission to fly the flag. "What we are urging them now is to translate their support for a Palestinian state into concrete action."
In September 2015 the US opposed raising the Palestinian flag outside the UN:
After Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ramped up rhetoric toward Israel Wednesday, the United Nations raised the Palestinian flag above its headquarters in New York as part of a ceremony that the world body’s leader said represented a “day of hope.”
The United States opposed the move, asserting that Palestinian statehood must be reached through a negotiated peace with Israel.

Wednesday, the Palestinian flag flew at the White House itself.


Inexplicably, President Trump was positioned in front of the Palestinian flag and Abbas in front of the American flag:


And Fatah supporters celebrated photos like this, claiming that it was an implicit recognition of the "State of Palestine" by the US:



It seems unlikely that the White House intended to give such a gigantic symbolic victory to the Palestinians to get nothing in return.

To Western eyes, symbolism may not be meaningless but it is not of overarching importance. But to Palestinians, it is everything. The honor/shame system ensures that appearances are more important than reality. A smart US policy would use this divergence between the shame culture of the Arabs and the guilt culture of the West and trade symbols from the US in exchange for tangible concessions from the Palestinians.

A good dealmaker wouldn't just give away what is the most valuable to one side without ensuring something significant for the other. As of this writing, we are not aware of any such deal. The likelihood is that this was cluelessness, not cleverness.




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