Trump endorses a separate Palestinian state

Trump endorses a separate Palestinian state
President Trump hopes to release his Middle East peace plan within two to four months and conclude a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine can be traced back to mid-20th century. The origins to the conflict can be traced back..

President Trump hopes to release his Middle East peace plan within two to four months and conclude a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Background

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine can be traced back to the mid-20th century, originating from the period of Jewish migration to the area. Much of the issues that two regions have fought over through the decades have been: mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, and the Palestinian right of return.

On December 6th, 2017, US President Donald Trump pivoted from decades’ long US foreign policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The international community has never recognized Israel's claim to the entire city. Trump’s announcement triggered a wave of protests and violence across the Middle East. Muslim countries in the region have also unified to condemn the announcement from the US President. In addition, despite veiled threats from the US, 128 members voted in favour of the resolution condemning and rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Oslo Accords were the first set of documents which built on the “two-state” solution and transformed it into an achievable target. They represent a significant milestone in the Israel Palestine peace process, as being one of the few bilateral agreements with a defined solution to the conflict.

Analysis

Sitting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he prefers an outcome that would give Palestinians a separate state. That is the most specific he has been about what he wants to help negotiate.

“I like two-state solution,” Trump said. “That’s what I think works best.” A separate Palestinian state alongside Israel has been the stated goal of U.S. peacemaking efforts for two decades, but the Trump administration had until now declined to endorse it. Trump had said previously that he would support a two-state outcome if that was what both sides wanted.

“I really believe something will happen. It is a dream of mine to be able to get that done before the end of my first term,” Trump said before he and Netanyahu met on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

At a news conference later on Wednesday, Trump expanded on his preference for two states, observing that “in one way it’s more difficult because it’s a real estate deal,” but “in another way it works better because you have people governing themselves.” He called himself “a facilitator” who would help the two sides reach the deal they both prefer. “I think probably two-state is more likely, but you know what? If they do a single, if they do a double, I’m okay with it if they’re both happy,” he said.

During their meeting, Trump put the Israeli leader on the spot by saying that his decision last year to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem must be reciprocated by Israeli concessions to the Palestinians. Netanyahu did not respond. He has endorsed the goal of two states in the past, but members of his right-wing coalition oppose the idea.

Trump said he would like the agreement to be “solid, understood by both sides — really, semi-agreed to by both sides,” before formal negotiations begin. Netanyahu thanked Trump for the embassy move, saying, “You changed history and you touched our hearts.” The U.S. Embassy had been in Tel Aviv, about an hour’s drive away, so as not to show favouritism to either side.

Counterpoint

The two-state solution has been the de-facto US policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict since 1978 when President Jimmy Carter hosted the Camp David Accords. Although the accords did not explicitly state “two-states” as the solution, it has been the official position of the US government on the conflict ever since.

The US cannot explicitly endorse Israel as the sole state and legal authority over the remaining Palestinian territories as it would completely undermine its objective of being a mediator in the peace process. In addition, a full backing of Tel Aviv in this conflict will result in Washington losing all of its Middle Eastern allies, starting with Saudi Arabia, its largest strategic partner in the region. Therefore, the two-state solution is the only viable option for the US, irrespective of whether President Trump likes the idea or not.

Assessment

Our assessment is that President Trump’s announcement is a result of the massive outcry against Washington’s decision to shift its embassy to Jerusalem. This announcement could be seen as a course correction measure on part of Washington’s cautious approach to an increasingly aggressive Israel. We believe that this was done to soften the blow of the US withdrawing funds from the URWA. We also feel that Washington maybe is exploring options to set up preliminary talks between Israel and Palestine.

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