President Trump has now delivered the missing piece in his plan to end the 100 years old Jewish-Arab conflict – providing the incentive necessary for Israel’s warring political parties to bury their hatchets and form a new Israeli Government within the next 21 days.
This unique opportunity for peace trumps the domestic differences that have prevented Israel’s political parties forming that new Government following the elections in April and September 2019.
Trump has been progressively signposting his roadmap for the last two years:
• Moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
• Declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
• Closing down the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Offices in Washington
• Withdrawing American funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
• Giving a substantial aid package to Jordan
• Recognising Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights
• Having Bahrain host the "Peace to Prosperity"workshop to discuss the economic part of Trump’s "deal of the century"
• Flagging Israel’s right to retain at least some but – “unlikely all” – of the West Bank,.Now Trump has made the end goal of his “deal of the century” very clear with the following statement issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:
“Turning now to Israel, the Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements.
US public statements on settlement activities in the West Bank have been inconsistent over decades. In 1978, the Carter administration categorically concluded that Israel’s establishment of civilian settlements was inconsistent with international law. However, in 1981, President Reagan disagreed with that conclusion and stated that he didn’t believe that the settlements were inherently illegal.
Subsequent administrations recognized that unrestrained settlement activity could be an obstacle to peace, but they wisely and prudently recognized that dwelling on legal positions didn’t advance peace. However, in December 2016, at the very end of the previous administration, Secretary Kerry changed decades of this careful, bipartisan approach by publicly reaffirming the supposed illegality of settlements.
After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.”The right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) for the purposes of reconstituting the Jewish National Home there has been enshrined in international law under article 6 of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the 1945 United Nations Charter.
The United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation have denied the legitimacy of these Jewish claims – emboldening the Arabs to claim 100% of these territories. Pompeo’s statement has quashed the Arabs’ claims.
One roadblock still remaining requires Trump to identify the Arab interlocutors prepared to stand up and negotiate with Israel on Trump’s plan. Pompeo has given the PLO one last opportunity to join the negotiations with Israel.
“The United States encourages the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in any final status negotiations.”The PLO had already unequivocally refused to negotiate on Trump’s plan – and will continue to do so.Trump should focus on Jordan and Egypt -the last two Arab States to have occupied Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza respectively between 1948 and 1967 – to fill the void.
Israel needs a new Government within the next 21 days or face another expensive and debilitating election in March 2020 – just as Trump is bidding for re-election - when he might consider it inopportune to release his plan.
Israel, Jordan and Egypt must hop on the Trump bandwagon now.
Author’s note:The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones” — one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog