The importance of Trump’s remarks is that the US objective is to make a peace agreement rather than to create a Palestinian state.
US President Donald Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in their joint press conference on Wednesday, he that “likes the one both parties like.” He also said on another occasion that he wasn’t going to pressure Israel to make a deal.
The importance of his remarks is that the objective of the exercise for the US is to make a deal rather than to create a Palestinian state. The push back on this has been substantial, not only from the EU and the UN but also from some officials in the State Department.
To deflect some of the criticism, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, framed it this way, “We absolutely support the two-state solution, but we are thinking out of the box as well.”
“The solution to what will bring peace in the Middle East is going to come from the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority,” Haley said. “The United States is just there to support the process.”
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates have been working together with Israel to confront their common enemy, Iran. Both Netanyahu and Trump want to build on this and formalize it. They hope that as part of building this alliance, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will soften their demands on Israel regarding the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict or perhaps enter a peace agreement with Israel without reference to the conflict.
DEBKAfile reports that “these sentiments reflected agreement in principle between Trump and Netanyahu to seek an Israeli peace accord with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates as the lead-in to negotiations for an accord with the Palestinians. Egypt, Jordan and Turkey with whom Israel already has normal relations would jump in later. This deal fits in with the US plan reported more than once on these pages for a regional peace between the Sunni Arab nations and the Jewish State.”
At the press conference, Trump also said, “This is one more reason why I reject unfair and one-sided actions against Israel at the United Nations — just treated Israel, in my opinion, very, very unfairly — or other international forums, as well as boycotts that target Israel.”
That was not the first time that he indicated that he would not tolerate the UN’s war on Israel.
To buttress this, Haley said in her UNSC remarks, “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”
The message to Saudi Arabia and the PA is that they can no longer fight Israel through the UN. It is hoped that Saudi Arabia will be more amenable to burying the hatchet particularly given the threat from Iran. The PA will realize this is a blow to them, one of many to come.
One State? Two State? Is Either Doable?
But let us go back to the one-state, two-state choice.
Neither is doable.
Israel will not accept a bi-national state inherent with the one-state choice. The PA won’t accept it either, if there isn’t such a state. Neither will compromise on this.
As for the two-state plan, Netanyahu laid out his long-standing demands in the press conference: “But rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance. It’s something I’ve hoped to do for years in a world that’s absolutely fixated on labels and not on substance. So here’s the substance: There are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out two years — several years ago, and they haven’t changed.
“First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. They have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. They have to stop educating their people for Israel’s destruction.
“Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River. Because if we don’t, we know what will happen — because otherwise we’ll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas exploding the peace, exploding the Middle East.”
He went on to say:
“Now, unfortunately, the Palestinians vehemently reject both prerequisites for peace. First, they continue to call for Israel’s destruction — inside their schools, inside their mosques, inside the textbooks. You have to read it to believe it.
“They even deny, Mr. President, our historical connection to our homeland.”
Both of these pre-requisites have been adamantly rejected by both the Palestinians and the Saudis from day one. Obviously, if the Saudis agree, the Palestinians would be isolated in their refusal.
But even if they accept such pre-requisites, Israel will still insist on borders which include most of the settlements so that their citizens don’t have to be uprooted as they were in Gaza. Aside from Jerusalem, there are close to 500,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, their homeland. The political will or the physical ability to remove even 100, 000 of them is not there.
Another reason Israel wants to retain part of these lands is that they wish to widen their midriff from 6 miles to perhaps 30 miles or even more. Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home Party, is demanding that Israel annex all of Area C as laid out by the Oslo Accords.
If this sounds overly aggressive to some of you, let me state for the record, these lands are not occupied Palestinian territories. They are territories awarded to Jews/Israel by the Palestine Mandate. The UN or anyone who believes in international law, has no power to change that. Furthermore, Israel has no obligation to relinquish any part of these lands having come into possession of them by means for a defensive war.
UNSC Resolution 242 did not require Israel to withdraw from all the territories she liberated in the 1967 Six Day War. It will surprise you to learn that the entire West Bank, properly named Judea and Samaria, amounts to only 1o% of the territories.
‘Settlement’ Construction Advances Peace
Trump and Netanyahu are now working out an understanding of what and where Israel can build in Judea and Samaria. It is fairly certain that Israel will be permitted to build inside the settlement blocs and inside Jerusalem. But what if anything will she be permitted to build in the rest of Judea and Samaria?
Those who want Israel to freeze construction essentially want Israel to hold these lands in trust for the Palestinians, no matter how long it takes to reach agreement. Why should she do this given that she has the legal right to these lands? If anything, a freeze forestalls an agreement because there is no cost to the PA’s policy of not negotiating or compromising. On the contrary, allowing Israel to build puts enormous pressure on the PA to cut a deal. The longer it waits, the more construction. So rather than settlement construction being an obstacle to peace, it advances peace.
Although the international community keeps declaring that the settlements are illegal, the truth is otherwise.
Unfortunately, even Trump wants to curtail Israel’s right to build on lands given to her by the Palestine Mandate.
So, it would appear, neither the one-state nor the two-state solution will be agreed upon. To achieve peace, the US must think outside the box, as Haley suggests.
David Friedman, Trump’s trusted friend on matters of Israel and present nominee for the post of US Ambassador to Israel, before Trump’s election gave an interview to The Algemeiner, in which he said:
“We trust Israel. We think it is doing an excellent job of balancing its respect for human rights and its security needs in a very difficult neighborhood. Israel is a partner with the US in the global war against terrorism. And we want our partner to be attendant to that task and not distracted by foreign countries telling it what to do. That’s really the overall premise of the policy — to respect Israel as a partner, and not to unduly influence its decisions.”
“It is inconceivable there could be a mass evacuation on that magnitude (referring to the Israelis living in Judea and Samaria), in the unlikely event that there was an otherwise comprehensive peace agreement. It makes no sense for Judea and Samaria to be ‘Judenrein [void of Jews],’ any more than it makes sense for Israel to be ‘Arabrein [void of Arabs].’ It’s not fair.”
“The critical thing is to recognize that there is not going to be any progress on a Palestinian state until the Palestinians renounce violence and accept Israel as a Jewish state. Until that happens, there is really nothing to talk about in terms of a political process.”
Now that Trump is president, he will implement these policies, just as he is implementing most of his platform promises. In essence then, he will tell countries to stop telling Israel what it should do and will tell the PA to clean up its act first. He has already told the UN to stop bashing Israel. The US will no longer treat Israel as a client state, but as a trusted partner.
Trump’s first priority is to push back against Iran and to build the Sunni-Israel alliance to help in so doing. The second priority will be to negotiate an understanding with Russia that ends the war in Syria, excludes Iran from Syria and defeats ISIS. The peace process is way down on the list. Meanwhile, Jarad Kushner, whose job it is to broker a deal, will spend his times below the radar, investigating the possibilities.
The ‘Jordan is Palestine’ Option
The New York Times recently published an article by Yishai Fleisher, titled “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future,” in which he decried the two-state solution and laid out five alternatives which currently are being discussed. I like the first one:
The first option, proposed by former members of Israel’s Parliament Aryeh Eldad and Benny Alon, is known as “Jordan is Palestine,” a fair name given that Jordan’s population is generally reckoned to be majority Palestinian. Under their plan, Israel would assert Israeli law in Judea and Samaria, while Arabs living there would have Israeli residency and Jordanian citizenship. Those Arabs would exercise their democratic rights in Jordan, but live as expats with civil rights in Israel.
I recently wrote an article setting out my version of this plan, which was first published by American Thinker. Thereafter, I published it on Israpundit with significant changes. It is followed by close to 200 very knowledgeable comments.
It needs only the agreement of Israel and the US.
By Tel Belman
(Ted Belman has been the publisher of Israpundit for 15 years. Originally from Toronto, he settled in Jerusalem in 2009.)