“It is clear that those who do not consider that the lives of Palestinians and Israelis are of equal value cannot possibly promote any plan that will be remotely close to a just and lasting peace.”
— Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat
In an unprecedented move, a senior Palestinian official sent a letter on Thursday to all foreign diplomats stationed in Ramallah assailing the American envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt.
Saeb Erekat, who is the Palestinians’ chief negotiator as well as secretary general of the PLO’s executive committee, also urged the diplomats to back the Palestinians at the United Nations and other international agencies, including the International Criminal Court, in demanding an investigation into “ongoing Israeli crimes against Palestine and the Palestinian people.”
Erekat, who has met with Greenblatt many times since the latter took office, charged that since the mass demonstrations near the Israel-Gaza border began a few weeks ago, the U.S. envoy has “assumed the role of spokesperson of the Israeli Authorities” and “consistently repeated Israeli talking points.”
During a recent trip to the US . . . I found devoted activists, all of them committed to resisting occupation and supporting peace . . . who refused to speak to each other solely based on the question of how many states we should have in this piece of land. I suggest that we hold off on that question and focus on the heart of the matter.
A new poll reveals that following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration there has been a drop in support for the two-state solution among both Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the occupied territories — with both communities dipping below the 50 percent level. Only Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who live inside the Green Line show overwhelming support for this solution.
The poll also shows that in tandem with this ongoing downward shift, there is a significant rise in the hostility of each group toward the other, as well as increasing support for armed struggle or a “decisive war” as a solution to the conflict. Conducted by veteran pollsters Dr. Khalil Shikaki and Walid Ladadwa from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), along with Israeli pollster and +972 Magazine writer Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin and the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research (TSC) — this is a poll to be taken seriously.
These new findings have significant value, as they expose Trump’s devastating impact on the chance to end the occupation in the foreseeable future, while sounding the alarm bells over the hopelessness of both sides, such that violence and bloodshed are actually gaining traction as possible solutions to our troubles.
And yet, we must not view the poll results as a harbinger of “the end of the two-state solution” or “final proof that one state is the only way to go.” One state? Two states? You’re asking the wrong question.
“Trump and Israel want to end the Palestinian cause; they want to erase the idea of Palestinian refugees. They want to pressure Jordan, the Palestinians and others to give into the demands of an imaginary peace process that benefits only Israel, and that is unacceptable.”
— Abdul Rahman Qanas, 52, a resident of the Baqaa, the largest refugee camp in Jordan
Vice President Mike Pence met with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Sunday, telling reporters afterward that they had “agreed to disagree” on the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The meeting in Amman, on the second day of Mr. Pence’s visit to the Middle East, came as tension has increased between the two allies over President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem last month and his decision last week to withhold aid to the United Nations agency that serves Palestinian refugees.
Speaking before the meeting with Mr. Pence at Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, King Abdullah reiterated his support for “East Jerusalem as a capital of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with a secure and recognized Israel,” Petra, Jordan’s official news agency, reported.
Jordan is also home to more than two million Palestinian refugees who could be affected by the cut in American aid to the United Nations agency.
Mr. Pence said the two leaders had a “very frank discussion.”
Trump has said he wants to revitalize long-stalled peace talks in pursuit of what he has described as the “ultimate deal.” Yet when Pence touches down in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, the US’s role as mediator in the conflict may be over for good.
It’s not the trip to the Holy Land that Mike Pence might have imagined. For a start, the US vice-president — an evangelical Christian — is no longer welcome in Jesus’s birthplace of Bethlehem.
Donald Trump doomed Pence’s chances of a visit to the West Bank when he reversed decades of US policy last month by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This broke a longstanding international consensus that the issue would be negotiated in peace talks with the Palestinians, who also claim parts of the city.
While Trump did not rule out a future division of Jerusalem, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, swiftly rescinded Pence’s invitation to meet him and visit Bethlehem, while senior Christian clerics in Egypt — where Pence arrives on Saturday at the start of his four-day trip — also cancelled planned events.
Most of the circumstances that made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ripe for resolution — or at least made the peace process attractive to both parties — have all but disappeared over the past decade.
A national movement requires genuine mass engagement in a political vision and a working project that cuts across boundaries of region, clan, and class, and a defined and acknowledged leadership with the legitimacy and representative standing that empowers it to act in its people’s name. This no longer holds for Fatah, the P.A., or the P.L.O.
Many Israelis were likely happy to read The New Yorker article titled “The End of This Road: The Decline of the Palestinian National Movement” earlier this month. The piece is of particular interest due to where it was published — the liberal elite’s most prominent magazine, which generally champions the Zionist Left and the American-backed two-state solution.
The identity of its authors is also noteworthy: Ahmad Samih Khalidi was involved in Israeli-Palestinian talks for years; Hussein Agha is a close associate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was charged with holding secret talks with Yitzhak Molcho — Netanyahu’s chief envoy to the negotiations — and Obama’s former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross in the run-up to John Kerry’s peace initiative in 2013.
For the same reason we should also take the authors’ main argument, according to which Abbas is the last remaining Palestinian who can sign a final-status agreement, with a grain of salt. Yet the headline is not misleading, and it joins a long list of publications that rightfully declare the end of the Oslo peace process.
Kushner’s trip has only highlighted the sizable obstacles he faces. Here are five of the biggest:
The rest of the Middle East
White House adviser Jared Kushner headed back to Israel and the West Bank this week in a renewed push to broker Middle East peace, just one of several responsibilities the administration has handed to President Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law.
Despite Kushner’s unusually varied workload — he’s also tasked with reforming veterans’ care, solving the opioid crisis, something to do with “American innovation,” and more — this is his second trip to the region in the space of just three months. That may be a sign of how keenly the new administration is chasing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which Trump has described as the “ultimate deal.”
A few months ago, there was actually some cautious optimism among Middle East watchers that Trump might be able to make some progress. Sure, he and Kushner don’t have any diplomatic or political experience, but so what? Trump was a self-described dealmaker who didn’t have much of the political baggage of his predecessors. The experts hadn’t done so well finding a solution, so why not give them a try?
The outside-in approach is merely the latest in a series of failed tactics aimed at creating new incentives to make peace, rather than pursuing strategies — withholding financial assistance, to begin with — that steer the parties away from the status quo. Trump frightens Israeli leaders precisely because he is one of the only American politicians they could imagine even considering the latter approach.
Not so long ago, President Donald Trump had backers of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process worried and Israeli settlers and annexationists elated. Many were convinced that a change in U.S. policy toward Israel was imminent, not least because the President’s three main advisers on Israel were modern Orthodox Jews with ties to West Bank settlements. Mr. Trump’s chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, is a former West Bank yeshiva student. The new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, until recently headed a settler fund-raising group. And the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has donated to the institutions of a settlement northeast of Ramallah.
For months after Trump’s election, Palestinians couldn’t manage to arrange so much as a phone call with his senior advisers. And, at a White House press conference in February with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump himself expressed ambivalence about Palestinian statehood. Few doubted Naftali Bennett, the head of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, when he declared that “the era of a Palestinian state is over.”
Today, however, Palestinians leaders are roundly praising Trump — not just Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, but also Khaled Meshal, the former leader of Hamas. In Trump, they see the rare possibility of an American President who appears capable of challenging the decades-long bipartisan consensus to underwrite Israel’s occupation while making empty promises to end it. The fact that Mr. Trump is a Republican and surrounds himself with lifelong Zionists makes him seem even better positioned to twist Israel’s arm. Palestinians took note when, during the Republican primaries, Trump vowed to be a neutral mediator, refused to blame only one side for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and declined to back down when attacked, even though he had many electoral and financial incentives to do otherwise.
What is clear, for all the muddle, is that the centre of gravity in US thinking is lurching from the two-state solution as it has been understood by US politicians and diplomats for more than 20 years seemingly towards one of two extremes: a maximalist pro-Israel administration or, equally risky, a minimalist and disconnected isolationist position.
As Donald Trump continues to ponder his choice for secretary of state, and other key foreign policy positions, one thing seems clear: the impact on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians is likely to be serious and retrograde.
The question now is whether the moribund process, which has weathered presidents both Republican and Democrat since it was sealed in 1993 with the aim of securing a two-state solution, can survive the Trump era at all.
The signs are not encouraging. Israel’s far right has greeted Trump’s success with ecstasy, hailing his promises to recognize Jerusalem as the country’s capital and move the US embassy to the city, as well as suggestions from his team he would not stand in the way of Israeli settlement construction.
The frontrunners for the secretary of state nomination — Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton — have both been vocal opponents of the idea of a Palestinian state.
Trump’s own pronouncements have swerved wildly between suggesting he would be “neutral” on the question, promising to be Israel’s “best friend,” and even suggesting he could secure the best peace deal ever.
Meanwhile his advisers have fueled a sense of deep confusion by making a series of highly contradictory statements.