Showing that he’s the dealmaker as advertised, 70-year-old Donald Trump met today in the Oval Office with 67-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to discuss Mideast peace. Trump asked Bibi to show some restraint on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, something Palestinians see as an obstacle to peace. Despite failure over the last 20 years in Mideast peacemaking, Trump changed the paradigm, insisting he wasn’t committed to either a two-state or one-state solution. Trump’s words echoed in the West Bank, where CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Timing the meetings almost to the minute in Washington and Ramallah, Trump wanted to give Abbas a chance to layout his demands for a two-state solution, regardless of Netanyahu’s White House meeting.
Trump signaled halfway across the globe that he was open to a two-state or one-state solution depending of what Israelis and Palestinians want. “I’m looking at a two-sate and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live with either one . . “ sending shockwaves in the Mideast and Euopre. Trump’s essentially telling Palestinians that if they chose armed conflict over peacemaking, he could live with no Palestinian State. Putting the onus of peacemaking on Israelis and Palestinians, Trump automatically pushes both sides to make concessions. “I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Bibi [Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netnayahu] and if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best,” Trump told a joint press conference.
Thirty years of Mideast peacemaking pressured Israel into making land-for-peace concessions on territory captured as spoils of the 1967 Six Day War. Generations of U.S. presidents, including former president’s Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all operated on Israel exchanging captured lands for peace. When Israel gave back the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 and Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel got no peace-for-land swaps. Palestinians have made a big deal over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With 55-year-old former Israeli prisoner hardliner Yahya Sinwar taking over Hamas in Gaza, the prospects for peace look bleak. Sinwar rejects all PLO-negotiated peace deals with Israel, seeking only destruction of Israel as a way of returning Palestinian land before Israel’s 1948 statehood.
Trump’s salvo fired off to Ramallah that he’s comfortable with either a one-or-two-state-solution threw Abbas for a loop. With Hamas at war with Israel and controlling the West Bank, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario for peace that doesn’t included Palestinians making a legally binding proclamation accepting Israel’s right-to-exist. “I thought for a while that two-state looked like the easier of the two . . . If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like best,” Trump said, signaling to the PLO and Hamas that a two-state solution isn’t automatic. Unlike former President Barack Obama or the European Union, Trump insists both parties must negotiate directly any peace deal. Showing a seamless relationship with Israel, Trump held a joint press conference with Netanyahu before the two leaders met privately to discuss real prospects for Mideast peace.
Mideast peacemaking has eluded every president since Jimmy Carter because Palestinians haven’t accepted Israel’s right to exist. Hamas makes no bones about its armed struggle against Israel, justifying the use of terror as appropriate “resistance” to what they call Israeli occupation. Hamas believes Israel occupies not just land seized during the 1967 War but the original 1948 British mandate. Ramallah-based PLO Chairman Abbas pretends that he holds different views than Hamas, when in reality Hamas calls the shots in Ramallah. Even when PLO Founder Yasser Arafat were alive, he would instruct Hamas to suicide bomb Israeli citizens until Israel agreed to more concessions. All that stopped after Sept. 11 when former President George W. Bush refused to deal with Palestinian terrorists.
Trump finds himself caught between a rock-and-a-hard-place trying to play neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump knows Israel is a seamless ally in the U.S. war against Islamic terrorists. As long as Palestinians keep digging tunnels, stockpiling missiles in Gaza and planning terror attacks against Israelis, it’s going to be difficult for Trump to back a two-state solution. Netanyahu knows that installing Sinwar in Gaza hints that Palestinians are gearing up for another war. “When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one,” Trump said during the campaign. Now that he’s in the Oval Office, Trump reminds Palestinians that the ball is in their court. Continuing Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli citizens won’t push Trump into making concessions, certainly not working on a two-state solution.