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REFUSING TO ENDORSE TWO-STATE SOLUTION, TRUMP SHIFTS THE “PEACE PROCESS” PARADIGM
Volume X1, No. 3,986 • February 16, 2017 • February 16, 2017
Did Trump Just Nix the Idea of a Two-State Solution?: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2017— In diplomatic parlance, nothing says "I love you" more than telling a right-wing Israeli leader that perhaps a Palestinian state isn’t necessary after all.
The Two State Solution: Does Trump’s Indifference Matter?: Jonathan S. Tobin, National Review, Feb. 16, 2017— Those who expected Donald Trump to effect genuine change in Washington still might be waiting for him to take action on some issues, but when it comes to altering existing Middle East policy, the president has not disappointed.
Trump Has Fans in Israel: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Feb. 13, 2017— In a poll taken following Donald Trump’s victory, 83% of Israelis said they consider Trump a pro-Israel leader; by contrast, another poll showed that 63% view Barack Obama as the “worst” US president with regard to Israel in the last 30 years.
In the Middle East, Whispers of Breaking the Mould — and the Dangers that Poses: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Feb. 6, 2017— All eyes here are on Washington, where on Wednesday President Donald Trump will welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.
“The Two-State Solution”: What Does It Really Mean?: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Feb. 14, 2017
Tread Carefully with the New US Administration: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Feb. 16, 2017
Trying to Create a Palestinian State Would Repeat Mistakes that Have Led to so Much Mideast Bloodshed: Lawrence Solomon, National Post, Feb. 6, 2017
Netanyahu and Trump Must Confront Iran, Global Threats: John Bolton, Algemeiner, Feb. 15, 2017
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 16, 2017
In diplomatic parlance, nothing says "I love you" more than telling a right-wing Israeli leader that perhaps a Palestinian state isn’t necessary after all. He could have gone for the more traditional type of Valentine’s Day present. Nothing wrong with champagne, cigars, roses or even chocolates hearts.
But then, US President Donald Trump is hardly a run-of-the-mill politician. Touching the third rail of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by appearing to disavow a two-state solution is in keeping with his torch and burn attitude to tried and true staples of Washington policies. Twenty-some years ago, another outlier politician, former US president Bill Clinton, created a new paradigm for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Rose Garden. There, on the White House lawn on a bright fall day, he wed the Israelis and Palestinians to the notion that the only resolution to the conflict was a two-state solution.
The principle of two states for two peoples became such a basic truth, that in the conflict’s lexicon it was defined as synonymous with peace. Those who supported peace wanted a two-state solution and those who didn’t, opposed it. As Netanyahu left for Washington this week to hold his first meeting with Trump since the latter's January 20th inauguration, right-wing Israeli politicians called on him to trash the 25-year-old standard. They demanded that Netanyahu convince the new US president to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and to support settlement building in Area C of the West Bank. “A Palestinian state is a stumbling block to peace,” Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said in Jerusalem this week.
They were buoyed in their calls by the fact that since taking office, Trump has not pledged his commitment to a Palestinian state. It was presumed that he was simply waiting for Netanyahu’s arrival, so that the two of them would speak of this together, before Trump spoke about it publicly. Instead, on a cloudy day, in a packed briefing room inside the White House, Trump created the first new paradigm for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a quarter of a century and became the first US president to set aside the principles of the 1993 Oslo Accord.
Trump did it immediately upon Netanyahu’s arrival, as the two stood near each other, at joint podiums, flanked by Israeli and American flags. With a few brief sentences, Trump stated that a two-state solution was not the only option to resolving the conflict. “I’m looking at two states and one state. I am very happy with the one that both parties like. I thought for a while the two-state might be easier to do, but honestly, if Bibi [Netanyahu] and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, then I am happy with the one they like the best,” Trump said.
His goal, Trump explained, was peace, and in its pursuit, he was not wedded to one solution or the other. “I would like to see a deal be made,” said Trump. This would not be a deal for a two-state solution, but a deal for peace, with or without a two-state solution. In a Tuesday briefing to reporters in Washington, a White House official expanded briefly on this idea, stating, “Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that’s what the parties want, or something else, if that’s what the parties want. We’re going to help them.”
This wouldn’t be just any deal, Trump said on Wednesday, in his characteristic way of speaking. “It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand,” he said. It would not just be a bilateral deal but would involve other regional players. “It would take in many, many countries and it would cover a very large territory,” Trump said. These are countries, of course, that are firm in their stance that a two-state solution is the only alternative. But Trump’s words do not rule out a two-state solution, rather they change the focus and the end goal. It neither eliminates nor affirms a Palestinian state, but rather invites a fresh start of sorts.
On the surface of it, Trump appeared to hand Netanyahu a significant victory. Netanyahu could return to Israel and assure his right-wing voters that one of their key demands, disavowal of a Palestinian state, might be achievable, even if he himself remained committed to it. But Trump’s new philosophy for ending the conflict, uttered amidst a pledge of friendship, also carried with it some words of warning. His pursuit of what he has called the ultimate deal and peace between Israelis and Palestinians would know no bounds, such that he would entertain a non-ethnic nationalist solution, otherwise known as a one-state solution, or a state for all of its citizens…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jonathan S. Tobin
National Review, Feb. 16, 2017
Those who expected Donald Trump to effect genuine change in Washington still might be waiting for him to take action on some issues, but when it comes to altering existing Middle East policy, the president has not disappointed. With his refusal to specifically endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the president has seemingly discarded the idea that has been the bedrock principle of U.S. Middle East diplomacy for the past generation.
When asked about a two-state solution during a joint press conference prior to his first meeting as president with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump replied: I’m looking at two-state and one-state. I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. In doing so, Trump upset people on both sides. Palestinians think his unwillingness to pledge to work for an independent Palestinian state reveals his belief that they don’t deserve sovereignty. By the same token, many Israelis worry that his willingness to “live with” a one-state solution means he wouldn’t care if a Jewish state were replaced by one in which Arabs outnumbered Jews — which would end the entire Zionist experiment.
His statement was typically Trumpian in that it displayed either his ignorance or his lack of interest in the details, but it’s clear that the president wasn’t supporting either the one-state or the two-state option. Instead, what he was doing was endorsing a diplomatic principle that is just as important: The U.S. cannot impose peace on terms that aren’t accepted by the parties, and we shouldn’t behave in a manner that encourages Palestinians’ ongoing refusal to make peace.
Using the words “one state” was a mistake on Trump’s part. A one-state solution could lead to peace of a sort but only if one of the two sides surrendered. If Israelis acquiesce to the destruction of their country, it would end the conflict — at the cost of a potential Holocaust. Similarly, peace could result from the Palestinians’ deciding that they were ready to cede all of the country to the Jews and give up all hope of governing themselves. But since neither scenario is going to happen, to speak of one state is to declare that any compromise is impossible even in a distant and theoretical future.
The one-state option is the platform of Hamas, the Islamist terror group that governs the independent Palestinian state that exists (in all but name) in Gaza. Hamas’s goal is one Islamist state in which the Jewish population would either be massacred or expelled. The Fatah Party that runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank pays lip service at times to a two-state solution, but its ideology centers on denial and hope: Deny the right of the Jews to any part of the country, and hope for a state Arabs will dominate. Both Hamas and Fatah glorify violence against Jews and honor terrorists.
That’s why few Israelis believe a two-state solution is possible. Though it’s clear an overwhelming majority of Israelis want a two-state solution, they understand that the Palestinians have yet to come to terms with Israel’s legitimacy, and they think more territorial withdrawals would endanger their security without bringing peace. The idea of possibly replicating a Hamas state in the West Bank — far larger and more strategic than Gaza — strikes most Israelis as not only ill-advised but utterly insane.
A minority of Israelis do think that Israel can rule between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River indefinitely in spite of the presence of millions of Palestinians who don’t want to share the country with them. But there is a difference between supporting the right of Jews to disputed territory and asserting that you regard the exercise of that right as more important than making peace (if making peace were possible). Those to the right of Netanyahu might oppose giving up any territory, but they know that if the Palestinians ever did accept one of Israel’s offers of statehood, the Right would be heavily outvoted by the Israelis willing to give up territory for peace.
But just because Trump isn’t demanding a two-state solution doesn’t mean he is opposing it or even that his stance makes it less likely. For eight years, President Obama insisted that the Israelis give up the West Bank and part of Jerusalem in order to allow a Palestinian state. Putting all the pressure on the Israelis was a bigger mistake than anything Trump has said. Obama didn’t take into account that Palestinian politics and the Hamas–Fatah rivalry made it impossible for their so-called moderates to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be located. Obama’s approach had the effect of rewarding Palestinian intransigence, which doomed his efforts.
In saying he didn’t care what the terms of peace were so long as both sides accepted them, Trump sent the opposite message to the Palestinians. The Palestinians believe that pressure from the international community will isolate the Jewish state and make it vulnerable. Trump’s refusal to sanctify the two-state mantra is a warning that if Palestinians want a state, they will not get it by jettisoning negotiations and asking the United Nations to impose terms on Israel — which is how they rewarded Obama for his efforts on their behalf.
Trump appears genuine in his desire to broker a peace deal. Indeed, to the dismay of many on the Israeli right, he wants Netanyahu to restrain settlement growth in parts of the West Bank that would be included in a Palestinian state — even if Trump knows that settlements are not the cause of the conflict. Yet like all others who have tried, Trump is bound to fail in his quest to conclude the ultimate Middle East real-estate transaction. If he does fail, it will not be because he declined to utter the magic words “two states” at a White House presser. Even the ablest diplomat or deal-maker can’t wish away the realities of Palestinian politics. But Trump’s willingness to put pressure on the Palestinians — rather than pointlessly hammering the Israelis as Obama did — actually increases his chances of success, minimal though they may be.
Prof. Efraim Inbar
BESA, Feb. 13, 2017
In a poll taken following Donald Trump’s victory, 83% of Israelis said they consider Trump a pro-Israel leader; by contrast, another poll showed that 63% view Barack Obama as the “worst” US president with regard to Israel in the last 30 years. Indeed, after eight years of tense relations with the Obama administration, most Israelis are relieved to see a friend in the White House. Moreover, on issues that are important to Israel – Iran and the Palestinians – there seems to be a greater convergence of views than before.
Trump’s stance on Iran is particularly important now, as Iran recently held a military exercise to test its missile and radar systems after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Tehran for a ballistic missile test. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Trump in Washington DC this week, it will be worth noting what the leaders say about the Iran nuclear deal and what kind of role the US will play in Israel. Netanyahu fought tooth and nail against the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration with Iran. Trump slammed it as “one of the dumbest deals ever.” Senior members of his administration share this view and are apprehensive about Iranian intentions.
Obama gave a high priority to negotiating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was obsessed with Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He estranged Israelis by not distinguishing between Israeli building in Jerusalem and in the West Bank. He often dished out “tough love” to Israel, as he called it when addressing a synagogue in Washington, DC. Trump and his advisors, by contrast, seem more relaxed about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, correctly understanding that it is by no means the most important problem in the chaotic Middle East. Even the White House criticism of new settlement building plans – it called them unhelpful to the peace process, but added that they are not impediments to peace – represents a positive change to many Israelis.
Furthermore, Trump’s promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem seems more sincere than similar promises made by previous presidential candidates. Throughout his campaign and into the early days of his presidency, Trump has shown that he follows through, and is more concerned with fulfilling his promises than flattering the electorate. Israelis cannot understand why other countries refuse to accept Jerusalem as their capital and to place their embassies in western Jerusalem, which is not, after all, disputed territory. Picking David Friedman – an Orthodox, pro-settlement, Jewish American who owns an apartment in Jerusalem – as ambassador to Israel lends credence to Trump’s promise.
Several of Trump’s positions that draw tremendous criticism at home and abroad are less problematic for Israelis. For example, the idea of building a wall along the US-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration is viewed in Israel as the expression of the sovereign right of any nation to prevent undesirable elements from entering its territory. Israel has built walls and fences to stop the infiltration of terrorists and illegal immigrants from Palestinian territory. Trump’s diatribes against Muslims are unseemly, but Israelis can understand where he is coming from, since they have been subjected to Muslim terrorism and Arab state aggression for 100 years. The political correctness of the Obama years – when the president refused to acknowledge radical Islam as the source of most of the terrorism in the world – frustrated Israelis.
Thus, Trump’s willingness to speak his mind is appreciated in Israel, even if some of his statements border on the vulgar. It is refreshing to the Israeli ear to hear an American president decline to beat around the bush, but rather to address issues directly, without the constraints of liberal political correctness. This quality has earned Trump some popularity in Israel. Israelis well know that a portion of the Washington bureaucracy, especially at the Department of State, and some of the media and academic elites are unfriendly to Israel. They welcome a president who dislikes that bureaucracy and is critical of those elites.
We should not forget that since the late 1960s, Israelis have largely preferred Republican presidents. Yitzhak Rabin, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington from 1968 to 1973, openly supported the Republican presidential candidate, Richard Nixon. Similarly, Prime Minister Netanyahu made his preference for Mitt Romney over Obama abundantly clear. Unlike many European politicians and American Democrats, Israelis are substantially nationalist and conservative. The conservative Israeli Likud party has won more elections than any other party since 1977.
Israelis followed the decline of American international fortunes during the Obama years with alarm. It frightens them to see America so weakened. Thus, a Trump who wants to make his country great again by increasing defense spending and standing tall against America’s enemies abroad (especially Iran) strikes a responsive chord among Israelis. Finally, Trump’s family biography endears him to Israelis. His daughter converted to Judaism and belongs to an Orthodox community. Trump has Jewish grandchildren of whom he is proud. His Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is an important advisor. Living in New York may have sensitized him to the sensibilities of the Jewish community. Moreover, he has always expressed strong support for the Jewish state…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post, Feb. 6, 2017
All eyes here are on Washington, where on Wednesday President Donald Trump will welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House…Unpredictability is precisely the order of the day. The predictable future is no longer so predictable here.
I have been coming to Israel regularly for more than 10 years, and on this visit I am hearing for the first time people discussing openly that that two-state solution is dead, or that its time is past, or that it needs to be revived, or that it should be rejected. Apparently no one thinks it likely. Such views are not new, but the public rhetoric at least honoured the two-state consensus, which has been the basis of global Israeli-Palestinian policy for the nearly 25 years since the Oslo Accords.
Senior ministers in the Netanyahu coalition government speak openly about annexation of parts of the West Bank — the “Area C” territories where the overwhelming majority of Jewish settlers live (some 400,000) and where the Arab population (some 100,000) could be granted Israeli citizenship without upsetting the demographic balance of Israel, which is about 75 per cent Jewish, 21 per cent Arab, and 4 per cent others.
While the end of Obama and advent of Trump might explain some of the more frank talk, the underlying dynamics have been in place for years. Neither Netanyahu nor Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, believes the other is sincere in wanting a two-state solution. Neither trusts the other to keep promises made. And on the Israeli side, there is no confidence that Abbas, who is in his eighties, will be succeeded by a stable partner for peace. To the contrary, the fear is that the Hamas takeover in Gaza might be replicated in the West Bank, or that the broader regional dynamics — disintegration of Syria and Iraq and Yemen, regime change in Libya and Egypt, the expansion of Iranian influence, the rise of ISIL — might visit themselves upon Israel’s eastern border.
Indeed, there is more talk now than I have heard in years about a regional conference that would include the Arab powers in addition to the Israelis and Palestinians. Along with open talk of annexation, there is talk of a kind of confederation that would link Gaza and the West Bank with Jordan and Egypt. All of which brings about a certain déjà vu. After the first Gulf War, there was the regional conference in Madrid in 1991, convened by the United States and co-sponsored by the Soviet Union, then in the last days of its existence. Today, Russia is back in the Middle East as it has not been since the early 1970s, and its arrival makes any peace less likely. Madrid produced the various bilateral talks that led to the Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the Oslo Accords which created the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s agreement to the latter in Gaza and the West Bank, headed by the PLO’s Yassir Arafat, was agreement in principle to a future Palestinian state. The entire existence of the Palestinian Authority is premised on being a state in waiting.
Waiting is perhaps the most ancient practice of politics in the land of Israel, from biblical times until today. In that light, the quarter century since Madrid, or even the 50 years since the Six Day War, or the even the nearly 70 years since the independence of the modern state of Israel, might not seem so long. Yet the widely held conviction is that waiting for a new situation, new circumstances, new leaders, will not produce progress toward peace in a two-state solution. There are popular majorities in favour of it on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, but similar majorities also believe that it is impossible given the failings of the other side.
Which leaves the status quo, no longer as the default in light of failed peace talks, but as a deliberate choice for an unhappy but tolerable situation, as opposed to an exhausting striving for an impossible situation. The alternative is to break the existing mould, the consensus of experts who for decades have insisted that the only way forward was toward a solution that successive generations of leaders could not deliver…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
“The Two-State Solution”: What Does It Really Mean?: Amb. Alan Baker, JCPA, Feb. 14, 2017—The phrase “two-state solution” is repeated daily by international leaders and organizations. It has become the catch-phrase for anyone advocating resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. However, the phrase is repeated without a full awareness of its history or of the practical aspects of its implementation in the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Tread Carefully with the New US Administration: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Feb. 16, 2017—In the run-up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's February 15 meeting with President Donald Trump, the difference in worldview between the Israeli political Right and Left, especially with regard to the Palestinian issue, became more pointed.
Trying to Create a Palestinian State Would Repeat Mistakes that Have Led to so Much Mideast Bloodshed: Lawrence Solomon, National Post, Feb. 6, 2017— Will Palestine exist in another generation? With the Trump administration gearing up for its meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, it’s a question worth asking. The last thing the Trump administration should want is a repeat of the mistakes the Great Powers made a century ago when they created artificial countries.
Netanyahu and Trump Must Confront Iran, Global Threats: John Bolton, Algemeiner, Feb. 15, 2017—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today with President Donald Trump. While the two leaders had a full agenda to cover — including international terrorism, the ongoing carnage in Syria and Israel’s continuing efforts to find peace with its neighbors — Iran’s nuclear-weapons program undoubtedly dominated their discussions.
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)