The conventional wisdom is that among American presidents, President Trump is the staunchest Israel supporter ever. However, decisions he made recently, prove that while he might be a true Israel lover at heart, his actions might cause the Jewish state only trouble.
President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel was received with joy in the city. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the decision and called it “historic.” However, once the enthusiasm subsided, it turned out that what the declaration had actually accomplished was to leave the Palestinians without any hope in an American-brokered peace.
Not that the Palestinians had great expectations from Washington in the first place. In October 2017, a public opinion poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), found that 74 percent of Palestinians thought that Trump wasn’t serious about the peace process, and 83 percent believed that the Trump administration was biased in favor of Israel. But if things weren’t bad enough, the Jerusalem declaration made them worse: When in December 2017 the PSR polled Palestinians again, more than 90 percent viewed Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem as “a threat to Palestinian interests.”
Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemed to have signed the death warrant of the Oslo Accords. He blamed Israel for it, yes, but unleashed his wrath on the Trump administration, vowing: “We will not accept for the U.S. to be a mediator, because after what they have done to us — a believer shall not be stung twice in the same place."
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Why should we Israelis care about what Palestinians think or say? Because whether we like it or not, we are bound forever to live with them on the same piece of land. So there are only two scenarios: either a two-state solution, or one state, where Arabs constitute close to half of the population.
I doubt if Trump seriously understands the difference between these two options. When Netanyahu visited Washington last February, Trump, in the joint press conference, said in his carefree manner: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
His predecessor, on the other hand, understood perfectly well the disastrous ramifications of a one-state scenario. Just two days before Trump took office, President Obama warned: “I don’t see how this issue gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because … you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupants, or residents. You can’t even call them citizens necessarily.”
Israelis and Palestinians, by the way, are the first to understand that in order to be able to live next to each other peacefully, both must have their own respective sovereign political entities. The alternative is a Yugoslavia-like mayhem, where majorities and minorities massacre each other over the exclusive rule of the same piece of land.
No wonder, then, that in the Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, a public opinion poll conducted jointly in August by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and the Israeli Democracy Institute, a majority of both Israelis (53 percent) and Palestinians (52 percent) supported the two-state solution. However, almost half of those opposing that option said that they would change their minds if there were mutual trust-building initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians.
This is exactly where the role of the American broker becomes so crucially important: To create the right atmosphere that will help Israelis and Palestinians reach out to each other and start rebuilding trust. America can do it by helping both parties gain what they want most: security for the Israelis; sovereignty for the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, Trump, by his unilateral Jerusalem declaration, convinced the Palestinians that their path to statehood doesn’t go through Washington. Their alternative, as shown in the polls, is violence. To make things even worse, the threats of the Trump administration to punish the Palestinians by cutting financial aid will only drive more people into the hands of Hamas. Contrary to its primary role, then, America is neither advancing Palestinian sovereignty nor Israeli security.