Trump must try to get Israel’s acceptance of a two-state solution

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 6:48pm

Notwithstanding the post-election trauma that many Americans are experiencing and the time the Trump administration will need to sort out a host of domestic and foreign policy issues, the US faces numerous foreign crises and it does not have the luxury of time to pause in dealing with them.

America’s leadership role and responsibility remain pivotal to mitigate, if not end, many of these violent conflicts sweeping the Middle East in particular. Although President-elect Donald Trump is inexperienced, lacking the nuanced knowledge of the complex crises confronting America, he must develop new strategies, particularly in an area where President Barack Obama fell short – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Undoubtedly, Obama has made supreme efforts to solve this seven-decade-old conflict. However admirable his efforts were, the president and his chief mediator, Secretary of State John Kerry, failed to take into account the psychological dimension of the conflict, which has been and remains the core impediment to resolving it, especially from religious, historical and ideological perspectives.

At this juncture, the gulf between the two sides has become even deeper and wider, and no amount of mediation, compensation or coercion can persuade either side to make the significant concessions needed to make peace possible.

The Trump administration must first focus on a process of reconciliation (people-to-people activity) that would mitigate the profound mutual distrust, instil a sense of mutual security, and disabuse the strong constituencies on both sides that they can have it all.

During this process of reconciliation between the two sides, which should last for about two years, the US, with the support of the EU (led by France), should promote the Arab Peace Initiative to provide the overall framework for peace based on a two-state solution.

Although many Israelis celebrated the election of Trump, believing that he would not pressure Israel to accept a two-state solution, the Trump administration will make a mistake of historical proportions if it leaves Israelis and Palestinians to their own devices.

The current relative calm should not be taken for granted as the simmering tension can explode any time if the Palestinians see no prospect of ending the occupation in the foreseeable future.

If Trump is concerned about Israel’s future security and political integrity, he must not hesitate to pressure Israel now to seek a solution and save it from its own destructive path.

Alon Ben-Meir, professor, international relations, centre for global affairs, New York University