The visit to the Middle East of a delegation from Washington, led by U.S. President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was met by complete apathy in Israel, from both the political establishment and from the public and the media. So, too, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Kushner. After the meeting on Thursday, the two men thanked each other for the “effort” and reiterated the mutual American and Israeli “commitment” to “peace.”
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This indifference to the visit by both right and left is understandable. After all, “efforts,” “commitment” and “peace” are nice words, but they aren’t enough to convince anyone that there’s something substantial on the negotiating table.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also frustrated by America’s behavior. “I’ve met with [Donald] Trump’s envoys around 20 times since the beginning of his term as U.S. president,” said Abbas. “Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me.”
Abbas’ frustration is also understandable. Another round of pointless visits and empty words that we’ve heard endless times before will not resolve the conflict. It may be fine for those who want to merely manage the conflict and are satisfied with just preserving the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but it’s not enough for anyone seeking a peace agreement or who dreams of two states for two peoples.
Anyone who follows Netanyahu’s declarations can discern that even he has stopped believing in Trump’s commitment to a political agreement. Otherwise he wouldn’t have allowed himself to express his hawkish views on the Palestinian issue as he did at a rally two weeks ago, at which he declared his opposition to a Palestinian state and to any withdrawal from the West Bank.
If Trump is indeed interested in advancing “the ultimate deal” or a “peace deal” in the Middle East, as he claimed immediately upon being elected, he must back this declaration of intent with real demands from both sides and with a public presentation of an outline agreement, including a map.
Meanwhile, the U.S. administration hasn’t even expressed public support for a settlement freeze. Trump has been president for less than a year, but the conflict is old, as is the peace “process.” The time for processes is over. It’s time to act. If Trump isn’t capable of doing so, he shouldn’t waste his envoys’ time.