The administration takes another huge step backward

Jeremy Ben-Ami Image
Jeremy Ben-Ami
on August 28, 2017

We wanted to share some thoughts today on the administration’s handling of its effort to renew negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. But we’re also thinking of all those in Texas affected by Harvey. Today we’re redirecting all our donate pages to the National Association of Organizations Active in Disaster, and we’re asking supporters to visit their website and support disaster relief efforts.

For decades, those seeking to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have come to the same core conclusion: There’s only one viable resolution — partition of the land into two states for the two peoples.

That’s long been understood by responsible Israeli and Palestinian leaders, virtually the entire international community and US presidents of both parties.

Until now.

As Trump administration envoys headed to the Middle East last week, a State Department spokesperson explained that the US — under this administration — would not express support for the two-state solution because of concerns about “bias[ing] one side over another.”

Give me a break.

The two-state solution isn’t about bias, it’s about finding a compromise to a nearly century-old, bloody conflict that meets the needs of both parties.

Calling the two-state solution “biased” and reneging on decades of established policy is irresponsible and sadly demonstrates that this administration has no serious policy on yet another critical policy issue.

Let’s start by acknowledging that this is far from the worst thing this administration has said or done in seven months. We’re in uncharted territory for the nation after nearly 250 years; the very institutions and fabric of our democracy are being tested as never before.

But if you’re reading this email, you care about peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians and you may — like me — have hoped that this president and this administration might surprise us in this one arena.

In his latest meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner said that President Trump is “committed to finding a solution that will bring prosperity and peace.”

But we already know the solution. It’s the one that’s supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians, and by leaders throughout the region — leaders that the president hopes to engage in a comprehensive peace process.

By abandoning long-standing American support for the two-state solution, this administration IS actually showing bias — bias toward the extreme positions of both Israeli and Palestinian rejectionists who are determined to undermine any serious peace efforts.

When President Trump first began to speak of brokering the “ultimate deal” in the Middle East, J Street said that, on this issue, we could support even an administration we bitterly oppose on nearly all other matters if it helps achieve this major foreign policy priority. We recognized that there really is an historic strategic opportunity to work with Arab nations, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to help Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement.

Yet in the months since, the US has put forward no substantive vision for reaching that goal — and patience is running out across the region. Meetings and photo ops are no substitute for an actual policy — and for now the administration’s effort has been exposed as little more than empty rhetoric.

As the Trump administration abdicates responsibility, the status quo continues to deteriorate. Settlement expansion continues, and the threat of further violence and unrest grows.

The Palestinian people are increasingly frustrated that diplomacy appears to be leading nowhere. Without US leadership and meaningful progress through negotiations, the Palestinians are likely to turn again to international institutions or other global powers for assistance. And an extreme minority in Palestinian society could turn increasingly to violence.

It’s not too late for this administration to reverse course.

Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt has been praised for listening well to disparate voices on both sides. What he’s hearing from Israel’s intelligence establishment, security experts and our allies regionally and globally is undoubtedly a near-universal consensus: The two-state solution is essential to any hope this administration has of securing Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, improving relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors and bringing the occupation of the Palestinian territory to an end.

The Trump administration has taken a huge step backward — on this issue as on so many others.

But their missteps don’t change the work ahead for us: fighting for the only solution that can create a better future for both peoples and for the kind of US leadership that we need to help make it a reality.

Thank you for your continued engagement in our important work.

From the J Street Blog