As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago there are hints that a huge policy shift is underway in the Trump administration towards closer ties to Israel. Early in the month the administration released a statement that completely reset US policy towards Israeli settlement activity. It no only said that the administration did not see settlements, per se, as a barrier to peace, it made it clear that Israel building new housing with the bounds of existing settlement activity was no a concern. This is critical because the act that resulted in the UN Security Council, with American connivance, passing a resolution condemning Israel was the building of housing in East Jerusalem which Israel annexed in 1980. The administration also acted to block the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister as the head of a UN diplomatic mission to Libya. This signaled that the administration is not going to permit the Palestinian Authority to continue to wrap itself in the pretense of legitimate nationhood.
Yesterday, additional steps were taken that should be writing on the wall to the Palestinians, if they are capable of reading while they are planning their next terror attack. This was the initial media reaction:
"A two state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the WH official said on condition of anonymity.
— Andrew Beatty (@AndrewBeatty) February 15, 2017
!!! WH offl on 2 state solution: "Maybe, maybe not. It's something the two sides have to agree to. It's not for us to impose that vision."
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 15, 2017
As with any first report, these are a bit overblown but the actual statement was very significant:
A senior White House official said that President Trump’s administration will not insist on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, the longstanding cornerstone of international peace talks, according to the press pool report.
“A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official told reporters. “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.”
The official stressed that the administration will not “dictate” the terms of a potential geopolitical agreement while reiterating that Trump seeks to achieve peace in the region.
“We’re not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be,” the official said. “President Trump has very much indicated that he wants to achieve peace.”
I think everyone recognizes a two-state solution is the only viable outcome for Israel. If it opts to govern the West Bank and Gaza it is going to find itself in much the same position as South Africa or Rhodesia. It will have an Arab and Muslim majority in the nation which it can either enfranchise, and see Israel become just another Third World sh**hole, or it can deny them full citizenship and set up a system where there is a permanent Helot class. The negotiations, to this point, have been focused on preventing Israel from unilaterally declaring its own borders and imposing a two-state solution. The Palestinians, for their part, are focused on the destruction of Israel. This is why they’ve shown no interest in good faith negotiations leading to their own state. Also, once they have full statehood they can no longer play the victim card and their government will have to produce something other than suicide bombers.
What the administration is saying is that they aren’t going to get sucked into mediating the agreement that will establish a Palestinian state and they aren’t going to bully Israel into accepting a solution for the sake of reaching a solution. Any solution must result in real peace and that can only be reached between the parties.
When viewed in its totality the administration is saying a) Israel can build more housing in existing settlements which hardens existing borders, b) new settlements are permissible which gives Israel a new pressure point, and c) the Palestinians are being put on notice that arriving at a deal with Israel is up to them, no one is going to force Israel to take a deal.
I don’t know whether this will work or not, but it has the best chance of working of anything any American president has attempted because the Palestinians finally have a vested interest in bargaining in good faith.