The Trump team says it wants to find the solution first and give it a title later.
By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News
When U.S. President Donald Trump and his team launched their effort to formulate an Israeli-Palestinian plan for the future, the first objective which they set for themselves was to drop the terms that had been used in the past.
From their perspective, taking any contentious terminology from previous failed U.S. efforts in the Mideast would serve only to entangle them in a web from where there would be no escape.
A response by Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Tuesday to a question about the two-state solution fit neatly into that approach. Asked if the anticipated U.S. plan, now expected to be issued publicly at the beginning of June, includes the formula of a state called Palestine next to Israel, Kushner replied: “I think that if people focus on the old traditional talking points, we will never make progress.”
The senior adviser was speaking at the TIME 100 Summit in New York City.
To supporters of this approach, the Trump team is showing great skill at dealing with substance while dancing around terminological traps. To opponents, the presidential advisers are showing that they over their heads in tackling what Kushner himself acknowledged is “about as tough of a problem set as you can get.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach has evolved in a similar manner. His outright objection to a Palestinian state was changed by a speech in 2009 in which he expressed his willingness to live alongside such a state, and later by comments in which he preferred to speak of Palestinian rule in demilitarized territories and evaded the issue of whether it would be called a state.
Due to the U.S. president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which included the transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital, his acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Mr. Netanyahu – as he works on forming his new government – is more willing to accept, albeit cautiously, that he and Mr. Trump are capable of working together regarding this peace plan.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), on the other hand, has declared that the Trump plan “won’t amount to anything” because the president has already shown his pro-Israel stripes, they argue.
The PA has reason to be concerned.
The U.S. team has accepted the argument that the Palestinians have lost previous opportunities, in particular, at the 2000 Camp David summit, when Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke with U.S. President Bill Clinton and PA leader Yasser Arafat of concessions regarding Jerusalem and a withdrawal from nearly all of Judea and Samaria, in addition to a handover of territory within Israel to a Palestinian state to compensate for areas that Israel would continue to hold in Judea and Samaria.
The mistrust between the PA and the Trump administration is mutual.
Washington is largely circumventing PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers, and instead dealing with Arab states with which the Trump administration has already built an alliance: Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia as well as other Gulf states. It’s also focusing on the people in the Palestinian areas instead of the leadership.
Apprehensive about a Palestinian state
This is why Kushner and his colleagues are so apprehensive about talking about a Palestinian state. They do not trust the current leadership to run a state. Instead, the focus, they say, is on the people and arrangements worked out with the Arab allies.
“Our focus is really on the bottom-up, which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better,” said Kushner at the TIME event.
President Trump has addressed various issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as though they were business deals. In this spirit, the U.S. team reportedly has been offering aid to countries that help advance this plan, and Kushner said Tuesday that the key in helping the people who live in the PA territories is not whether it is called a state, but instead: “What can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable?”
He spoke begrudgingly of the traditionally thorny issues ranging from refugees to the final status of Jerusalem, saying that the plan does “deal with all the core status issues, because you have to do it.” However, said Kushner,”we’ve also built a robust business plan for the whole region.”
Whatever the framework is ultimately called, “tough compromises” will be required by both sides and “we’re not trying to impose our will,” said the senior Trump adviser, using two phrases that have been part of the old-time terminology, even if this is supposed to be a new kind of plan.