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Whatever His Intentions, Trump’s Endorsement of Two-state Solution Changes Reality

Trump’s ego wouldn’t allow him to refrain from boasting about the very steps that pushed the Palestinians away from negotiations in the first place

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 26, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 26, 2018.Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

Most of the world is likely to be skeptical about the sudden resuscitation of the two-state solution carried out on Wednesday by Donald Trump, with assistance provided by his sidekick, Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump’s record on the Palestinians, on which Netanyahu has also left his indelible mark, justifies a cautious presumption that his words are nothing more than an empty gesture, a standard PR ploy. The distrust that Trump engenders in the international arena, especially on the Palestinian issue, is likely to spark the same kind of reaction given his speech to the General Assembly this week: Spontaneous laughter.

Even though with Trump you can never know, it’s quite clear that his repeated assertion that he now “likes” the two-state solution wasn’t simply a random slip of the tongue or a flash of his stream of consciousness that often makes its way, unfiltered, to his Twitter account or impromptu public statements. Trump announced that his long awaited and already pronounced dead on arrival “ultimate peace plan” would be upcoming shortly, within 2-3 months. He didn’t specify whether the pursuit of a two-state solution would be part and parcel of the plan, but did break old/new ground by finally accepting the U.S. position that a final settlement should be of two states, first formulated in 2005 by that famous pinko-leftie, George W. Bush.

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But within the same breath that Trump confessed to his belated infatuation with the two states, to throw the Palestinians a bone, ostensibly, he couldn’t resist boasting about the very same decisions that pushed them away from the negotiating table in the first place. Even while making a gesture toward the Palestinians - to calm the atmosphere in advance of Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations and/or to coax him to drop his boycott of Trump’s people - Trump’s ego won’t allow him to refrain from patting himself on the back, even if by doing so he sullies his own intended message.

So he once again bragged about “taking Jerusalem off the table,” presto-chango, and he once again crowed about hitting the Palestinians where it hurts, in their pockets, until they get down on their knees and beg to rejoin talks. When the commander of the British forces in Mandatory Palestine, Evelyn Barker, said something similar about the Jews following the attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, he was branded an anti-Semite and earmarked for assassination by the pre-State underground movements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. President Donald Trump during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2018.Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Netanyahu had no intention of spoiling his American benefactor’s show. He indicated that he was willing to go with Trump’s flow, even if he’ll a little bit of hell to pay on his right wing flanks when he comes home. Netanyahu does not object to using the term “state,” if by “state” you mean an entity that agrees to a foreign army invading its territory, patrolling its streets and detaining its citizens whenever it sees fit. This is the essence of the precondition that Israel retain complete security control “west of the Jordan,” which Netanyahu reiterated in New York in a briefing to Israeli reporters.

The Palestinians will also have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, relinquish the right of return - to their Palestinian state as well - and forget about having a capital in Jerusalem, but there’s no need to be bothered by these issues now, since the demand for total and indefinite Israeli security control is a non-starter for the Palestinians anyway.

The conundrum that Netanyahu presented to the reporters - are we talking “state” like Iran or “state” like Costa Rica - is one of his standard gambits, which the prime minister boasted about in a February 2017 briefing to the Likud on his talks with Australian leaders. Netanyahu dispenses a dust of hope that if the so-called Palestinian state will follow in the footsteps of Costa Rica, which has no army whatsoever other than a local police force, he might be tempted to weigh the option of using the explicit word “state.” When you put one and one together, however, it’s clear that Netanyahu doesn’t really mean it: Costa Rica enjoys the de-facto protection of the United States and the Organization of American States. The last time a foreign army crossed the Costa Rican border in pursuit of its security interests - Nicaragua, 63 years ago - it was quickly compelled to withdraw. Obviously, that’s not what Netanyahu has in mind.

Nonetheless, even when one takes into account that the president probably can’t find Israel on the map and that the Prime Minister has decades of experience in acrobatic manipulations meant to push the Palestinians into a corner and to kick the proverbial peace can down the road, words have meaning. Trump threw a stone engraved with the words “two states” in the well, and a thousand right wing wisenheimers, in Israel and the U.S., for all their efforts in the coming few days to explain, excuse, distort and grind it to dust, won’t be able to extract it.

Even if doesn’t lead to any breakthrough, Trump’s willingness to say the words “two-state solution” brings peace efforts back to reality, to the only possible solution, the one accepted by 99 percent of the international community. The same hands that derailed the peace train have now ever so slightly put it back on track. Their words will, at the very least, dampen the growing enthusiasm for hare-brained solutions such as one state, which will destroy Israel’s Jewish character, or de-facto annexation under the guise of permanent Palestinian “autonomy,” which will demolish its democracy.

In the depth of the dark days that now envelop leftists, liberals and other two-staters everywhere, Trump and Netanyahu supplied an unexpected ray of light, sparking a rare smile among their political opponents. But don’t worry; the dynamic duo is sure to do something within the next few days that will wipe the leftie smiles off their faces.

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