trump_western_wall

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump spoke openly about his desire to bring about a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once in office, he put in charge of the process people who pretty much insured it would never happen.

One of his first personnel moves was to nominate David Friedman, his onetime bankruptcy attorney, as ambassador to Israel. Friedman had zero diplomatic or foreign service experience, but he was a hard-right Zionist who believed in Israel's right to displace all the Palestinians it wants and annex the entire West Bank if it so chooses.

Then Trump handed responsibility for solving the conflict to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose family is friendly with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and who used to co-chair a family foundation that donated money to build more settlements on the West Bank, which is one of the most contentious issues standing in the way of any sort of peace deal.

While he was at it, Trump nominated a secretary of state who has gutted his own State Department, possibly depriving himself of the knowledge of career diplomats who have worked on this issue for years and could offer insight.

In short, with Trump in the Oval Office, the best-case scenario for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was that the two sides could muddle along for four or eight years without breaking out into open warfare.

The worst case — and because it's Trump, the worst case is always most likely — is what is likely about to happen.

On Wednesday, Trump is expected to announce he will officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus reversing decades of American policy.

It is a move he has been promising since the campaign, urged on by religious conservatives and conservative pro-Israel Republicans. He has also reportedly been counseled against the move by virtually every Arab and European leader he has spoken to in recent days, almost all of whom have warned him of the likelihood that this pronouncement will set off a third intifada, or uprising, by Palestinians.

Trump doesn't care about that because it isn't his problem. What he wants is a settlement that no president in the past 70 years has been able to deliver, which would make him look heroic. But to achieve it, he has not brought into the process anyone who can give him the Palestinian point of view. And since it takes two sides to negotiate a settlement, that was a fatal, if entirely foreseeable, mistake.

All of his moves — the appointment of a hard-right nationalist as his ambassador to Israel, ignoring the advice of Arab leaders in favor of repaying a bunch of Christian evangelicals for their support — show that Trump is concerned not with a diplomatic solution, but with forcing Palestinians to bow and bend to his will, which is pretty much how he approaches negotiations for anything and is one of the many reasons why he has almost no legislative accomplishments in his presidency.

Trump's raging contempt for Muslims and their concerns doomed any sort of peace process before it could even begin. It would be sad if it had not also been entirely predictable.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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