A team of White House officials, including Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, traveled to the Middle East this week for a trip that will include stops in Israel and the Palestinian territory. This trip must be used to finally make absolutely clear to all parties that the Trump administration supports a two-state solution as the end goal of any Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The administration’s ongoing failure to provide even this basic commitment has led to growing frustration throughout the region. It has called into question whether this president and his team are serious about playing a constructive role in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A president who has failed in so many ways to live up to the basic responsibilities of his office, and whose tenure has been marked by constant turmoil, will not receive the benefit of the doubt.
During the administration’s first six months in office, its envoys have met with Israeli, Palestinian and other regional leaders countless times. J Street has welcomed the president’s stated commitment to pursuing a comprehensive regional peace process. Yet at this point, the administration should understand the players and core issues involved – and should be prepared to move forward.
Support for the two-state solution has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations for more than 15 years, while all of President Trump’s predecessors since Lyndon Johnson have opposed Israeli settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace. It should not be difficult or controversial for the current administration to embrace and act on these vital policies.
Meetings and aspirational statements about peace cannot be an end in themselves. The United States has a vital role to play in helping to secure Israel’s future, create a Palestinian state and forge a more stable and peaceful Middle East. But to do so our government must make clear its substantive goals – and must strongly object to destructive steps, like settlement expansion, that make a peaceful solution significantly more difficult to achieve. Indeed, while the administration has equivocated, settlement expansion in the West Bank has continued to move forward at record pace – undermining trust and the prospects for any meaningful progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
The recent crisis on the Temple Mount and the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Gaza show us that the current status quo is unsustainable, and that inaction has a price. We need serious American vision and leadership to help resolve this conflict – and we need it now.