J Street Responds to Abbas Speech in the Wake of Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement

December 14, 2017

J Street rejects the divisive and inflammatory rhetoric used by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his recent speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including his call on the international community to reconsider its recognition of the state of Israel and his unacceptable failure to acknowledge any historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

We recognize that this speech comes at a time when Abbas, the Palestinian leadership and much of the international community feel understandable frustration over the Trump administration’s reckless and provocative decision to alter long-standing US policy on Jerusalem. That sudden move showed a complete lack of concern for the complexity of Jerusalem as a final status issue or for the Palestinian position. With that decision, the administration has drastically undercut its own diplomatic credibility and ability to serve as an effective, trusted mediator, at least for the foreseeable future.

In the long run, however, the US can and must play a vital and productive role in facilitating negotiations toward a comprehensive two-state solution. The harmful actions of President Trump can be overturned by future administrations and leaders who understand the value of serious diplomacy and the urgent necessity of resolving this conflict. Palestinian leaders should continue to advocate for pragmatic and effective American involvement – and not dismiss the unparalleled diplomatic potential of the United States.

It is important to note that amidst this diplomatic crisis, Abbas and the entire OIC re-affirmed support for the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Those who are insisting that the Palestinian leadership has now abandoned the two-state solution or the possibility of serious peace negotiations are acting in bad faith to advance their own familiar narrative.

These right-wing voices in the pro-Israel community must reckon with their own role in provoking this crisis. For years, they have refused to show any meaningful support for the Palestinian right to self-determination. They have staunchly defended endless settlement expansion, creeping annexation and other unilateral Israeli actions that undermine negotiations and obstruct the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state. And they have championed the deeply unhelpful change of long-standing, bipartisan US policy on Jerusalem which the Trump administration has now carried out. Their cynical rush to heap blame on the Palestinians for the current impasse is grossly hypocritical.

There is a serious risk that this already destructive conflict will continue to deteriorate into further violence and recrimination – and could morph from a solvable, political conflict over national rights and borders into a religious conflagration. All parties must act responsibly to prevent this from happening. In the long run, only strong diplomacy by the international community and serious compromises from both Israelis and Palestinians can bring about a comprehensive two-state solution and a better future for both peoples. We must do everything we can to empower leaders ready and willing to pursue that path.  

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