Thursday, 16 February 2017

U.S.: Trump & Peace Process in Middle East

The Palestinian President fully supports Donald Trump's call on Israel to pull back on settlement expansion, but is yet to comment on a trending idea that a peace deal might not necessarily include an independent Palestinian state. 

Trump, on Wednesday, asked the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to temporarily hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians for their future state.  ''I would like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit'' said Trump, instead promising to strike a deal that would bring an end to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While the official White House position has changed, Israel, prior to Netanyahu'sa visit to the US, went on to approve some 6,000 new settlement homes since Trump's inauguration. The Israeli parliament has also approved the legalization of nearly 4,000 settler homes in the Area C of the West Bank as it passed a controversial retroactive bill.

The issue of settlements has been widely publicized in recent months after the Obama's administration abstained from voting on what Tel Aviv called an ''anti-Israel'' UNSC settlement resolution. Trump and his team voiced concern over the adoption of the UNSC resolution and sent out messages which indicated that the new administration would not oppose Israeli settlement expansion once in office.

The peace process has been at a standstill for years. Israelis and Palestinians are stuck on the issue of settlements — there are now more than 300,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, and the Palestinians have refused to reopen negotiations unless Israel agrees to a settlement freeze. But The settlement issue is an easy one compared with the difficult problems down the road, such as how to draw the borders of the two proposed states, what to do about Palestinian refugees who have been living in camps outside the country for more than 60 years, and how to share water resources.

Trump's statement that the United States would no longer insist on an independent Palestinian state as part of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is a shift from the long-standing US policy which envisages a two-state solution, and it will destroy the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility in the region.

Trump's shift comes at a moment when Palestinians are disillusioned and Palestinian leaders who support a two-state solution are weak, and Israel is not in a mood for cutting deals. And Trump's ''doing nothing foreign policy'' suits Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is also pleased by the fact that the talks with Trump focused on the one state solution with two systems.

Under Trump, it will be difficult for professional diplomats to make the case for engagement and diplomacy on Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The larger problem is that the administration views disengagement from the Middle East and a minimalist foreign policy as a good foreign policy. 

Trump's ''doing nothing'' foreign policy approach is associated with America's current foreign policy of doing less, winding down wars and not starting new ones. If you are not doing anything, you have fewer headaches and fewer failures as well. But in reality, that does not speak to America's global leadership, nor does it really protect America's vital interests down the road.

Under Trump. hope of two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians fades away because Trump is the epitome of the status quo. Trump believes that the time for a two-state solution has gone.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo-Credit: AFP-photo: