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Sunday’s speech by President Abbas no doubt reflected his own and the Palestinian people’s deep despair at the ever-deepening occupation and the lack of diplomatic progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That frustration, however, is no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel – or for language and proposals that are justifiably earning widespread condemnation.
This speech – and the undercutting of America’s role as a mediator in this conflict – would not have come about if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By appointing a settlement movement ally as Ambassador to Israel, refusing to endorse the two-state solution and upending longstanding US policy on Jerusalem, the president and his team have taken one step after another to destroy the chances of peaceful resolution of the conflict.
None of this was inevitable. The president’s stated desire was to reach “the ultimate deal” in the Middle East, and it was met initially with enthusiasm and praise by Abbas.
Yet, over the past year, the administration made clear that it was more interested in pandering to its right-wing political base than seriously mediating the conflict. In doing so, it bears full responsibility for bringing us to the tragic juncture we’ve reached today – with Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank accelerating, the two-state solution on ice and moderate Palestinian leadership throwing up its hands in despair.
Though the Trump administration has thoroughly discredited itself, future US leaders can and will change course. The United States will again re-join the international consensus that there is no other way to end decades of violence, oppression and occupation than through two states for two peoples.
Now, however, in the absence of responsible American leadership, the international community must do everything in its power to prevent further backsliding and destructive measures by all parties. We urge Israelis and Palestinians of goodwill to do the same, and to avoid words and deeds rooted in frustration that lead toward deepening, rather than resolving, the conflict.