Analysis by Daniel Azaria.
Trump has overturned decades of US policy and statements on Israel. For most people, this is just another example of how he once again is like an elephant stumbling around in a porcelain shop. Usually I would think that that is the case, however, this might just be something he is doing right.
Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, opening up to new ideas other than the ‘two state solution’ and changing the dynamic of the UN are all points where Trump could succeed. It is obvious that the US policy until now has not worked and that this new approach might have remarkable positive consequences.
First off, with regards to moving the embassy. It is fully possible that actually moving it is a tremendous mistake that would cause an outbreak of violence not seen since ‘Arafats war of 2002′, or the Intifada in the ‘80s. But the positives that even the talk of moving the embassy to Jerusalem brings with it, is a return to reality. For many years the discussions on resolving the conflict have hovered on armistice lines from the 40s and Israeli military advancements in the ‘60s. For some reason, any discussion on the conflict is done without realizing the geopolitical realities of today. The US moving an embassy to western Jerusalem, or even just talking about it, is actually making clear that western Jerusalem is not up for negotiation. Not even discussing placing the new embassy in eastern Jerusalem acknowledges that Israel is not the recognized sovereign over that area. Just the talk of the embassy acknowledges the real realities and enables talk to actually be based on what the world looks like now, instead of our disagreement on what it looked like in 1967.
Secondly, opening up to new ideas other than the ‘two state solution’, is also something truly required. Partition of Israel is the strategy that has not worked for 80 years. Now I don’t think there is a different solution, but putting other suggestions on the table forces parties to once again acknowledge that no other viable options remain. Israel cannot be one great state, keep on lording it over the Arabs in the West Bank, and remain a liberal democracy all at the same time.
A one state solution that creates the danger of Jews not being their own sovereigns and at risk of losing their self-determination is also of course not an option. So where we will end up is some form of partition or separation. Both parties will at one point have to reaffirm and show that they are committed to the two-state solution. Thus by mentioning his openness to new ideas, Trump may actually have resuscitated the idea that everyone for years has said they are committed to.
Isaac Herzog, the head of Opposition, has put on the table a 10-year plan, which aims at creating a reality by which real negotiations can start again. Once again, we are returning to reality and leaving the imagination that this conflict has a simple solution ‘if the parties can just be grown up and sit down and talk’.
Last point is the role of the UN. The UN is nothing more than the sum of its members. It is the design of the organization that actually creates its problems. Still, it is a hugely important body. But along with many other countries, it has lost all credibility on the issue of Israel. The magnitude of negative resolutions on Israel and the cosseting of the Palestinians have rendered a situation where the pale imitation of national self-determination that the PA represents is nothing short of a cleptocracy.
The Hamas-run entity in Gaza is fated not to ever progress since the organization is committed to the death of Israel, and the religious oppression of its subjects. The west bank and Gaza are completely dependent on rivers of money channeled in from outside, which makes it a nation that is on welfare. This status quo is protected by various institutions that teach its young population to hate Israel more and more and maintain a low fire of resistance constantly.
Like former heads of Shin Bet (Israel’s Internal Security Service) made clear years ago, the Palestinians are not in a position to force Israel to anything, but Israel has the power to force the Palestinians to things. Trump’s arm around Netanyahu might provide the international support necessary to enable this. The Oslo process was after all initiated when Israel had tremendous support from Clinton, and Arafat was under immense pressure. Whether it succeeded or not, it was the closest we ever got to slowly resolving the situation.
This time, with Arafat out of the picture and with Israel’s changing diplomatic stance vis a vis the Arab world, perhaps real progress could be made. We shouldn’t get too excited, but in this area, I think it’s possible that the US elephant is balancing a very narrow line. At least we have cause to be cautiously optimistic.
Daniel Azaria has an MA from Tel Aviv University in Political Science and Political Communications, and a BA in Business Administration from IDC Herzliyah. His writing has been published by Jerusalem Post and he has been interviewed by several Swedish publication such as Aftonbladet and Swedish Radio to comment on current events in Israel and the Zionist movement. He is originally Swedish, but has been stationed mainly in Tel Aviv for the past 10 years.