Donald Trump is making strong moves in the waning days of his presidency to continue building up Israel’s role as a U.S. colonial outpost in the Middle East and North Africa. Four Arab majority countries have now normalized relations with Israel, signaling an end to the lip service paid to Palestinian Liberation by Arab-led governments in Sudan, Bahrain, UAE, and now Morocco.

On Dec. 10, Morocco became the fourth state to normalize relations with Israel. This deal includes U.S. recognition of Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara. The territory of the Western Sahara is also claimed by the Polisario Front, a nationalist movement of the Sahrwai people, backed by Algeria. The Sahrwai people demand self-determination and have fought to establish an independent state since the 1970s. Along the way they’ve faced severe repression from the Moroccan regime.

President Trump tweeted, “Morocco’s serious, credible and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity! Morocco recognized the United States in 1777. It is thus fitting we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara.”

Regional tension between Morocco and Algeria have already flared up over Western Sahara, which is an important route for Algerian trade with Western Africa. This move by the U.S. also has the potential to drag Russia into the regional conflict due to a growing relationship with the Algerian government. Following a Moroccan purchase of F-16 fighter jets from the U.S., Algeria purchased 14 SU-17 fighter jets from Russia. Russia, emerging as an imperialist power, with a successful intervention in Syria, is expanding its reach in the Middle East and Northern Africa. This includes the construction of a military base in Sudan.

In this context, Trump’s drive to extend Israel’s influence from the UAE to Morocco will be an important conduit for further securing U.S. imperialist interests and blocking Russia. Trump’s push to consolidate new peace deals among majority Arab nations with Israel can help incoming President Biden’s foreign policy by allowing him to focus more attention, as the Obama administration did, toward confronting China’s influence on trade in the Pacific.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to develop at the expense of the Palestinian people. In November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israeli settlements at the same time that 1200 new settlement buildings were going up in East Jerusalem. The construction of these settlements in what is considered Palestinian territory deepens the colonial project and further displaces more Palestinians.

The Trump administration has taken a hard-line approach to the Palestinians over the past four years. They’ve cut aid, encouraged settlement expansion, and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It’s likely the Biden administration will take a different approach that may reestablish aid to the West Bank and perhaps allow the Palestinian Authority to reopen its mission in Washington, D.C. Biden may even caution the Israeli government about building new settlements while fully funding their construction. It also is possible Biden will try to reengage the Palestinian Authority by offering aid with the understanding that they continue to police the West Bank in the interests of pacifying the movement.

The movement in Palestine faces an uphill battle. The absence of a real independent mass working-class leadership has created a vacuum that is being filled by entrepreneurial schemes that further normalize the Israeli occupation. The new city of Rawabi, constructed by Palestinian real estate investor Bashar Masri, is a perfect example of capitalist solutions to the occupation that do nothing concrete to advance the fight for Palestinian liberation.

Illustration by General Strike Graphics