Washington insiders warn ‘anti-Semitic’ Trump administration could torpedo two-state solution
A new policy briefing published by a group of senior Washington insiders warns that president-elect Donald Trump may be about to kill all prospects for an independent, sovereign Palestinian state – ironically, with the approval of “radical right-wing anti-Semitic elements” of his support base.
The fact that a powerful network of Washington insiders are deeply concerned about the trajectory of Trump’s Middle East policy speaks volumes about how catastrophic it is likely to be
The briefing, which was released on Monday, is authored by Lara Friedman, a former US Foreign Service officer who has been involved in Track II negotiations in Israel-Palestine. It says that Trump is likely to rubber-stamp the ‘one-state-for-Israel’ solution favoured by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing administration.
Radicalisation of the establishment
Under a Trump administration, the briefing concludes: “US commitment, rhetorically at least, to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is now profoundly in doubt.”
The two-state solution has been enshrined in international law under UN Security Council resolution 242 since 1967. The resolution requires Israel to evacuate territories it captured at that time.
But as the Middle East peace process has gone into a stalemate, the briefing says, a new “zeitgeist” has emerged among Washington lobbyists, “favouring a fundamental change in US policy on settlements".
They are, in effect, calling for the US to support illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories:
“This zeitgeist will likely be welcomed and exploited by the new Trump administration, which by all indications will be more sympathetic to Israeli settlements than any US administration in history.”
Opportunity to change facts on the ground
The briefing, published by the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP), was released on the same day that Israeli MPs moved to support a controversial bill to legalise almost 4,000 unauthorised settlements in Palestine.
“Hardliners in the Israeli government clearly see the incoming Trump administration as an opportunity to enact changes on the ground of which they had previously only dreamed,” the briefing observes.
'Hardliners in the Israeli government clearly see the incoming Trump Administration as an opportunity to enact changes on the ground of which they had previously only dreamed'
- Lara Friedman, U.S./Middle East Project
USMEP was founded in 1994 by the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) before becoming an independent think tank in 2006. The group’s current chairman emeritus is Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to Bush senior, and its international board consists of a wide range of former US and Israeli government officials. Scowcroft also chaired Bush junior’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and helped President Obama choose his national security team.
The fact that a powerful network of Washington insiders are deeply concerned about the trajectory of Trump’s Middle East policy speaks volumes about how catastrophic it is likely to be.
According to the new USMEP briefing: “The DC Middle East policy establishment is also likely to see a new Trump administration as an opportunity to adjust US policy away from a range of Middle East peace policies effectively opposed by the government of Israel.”
They instead favour alternatives “to the two-state solution, consistent with the thinking of some on the Israeli right".
The shift would involve legitimising Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, and "normalising" relations between Israel and the Arab world without resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Anti-Semites and the Israeli far-right unite!
“Such views could be welcomed by a new Trump administration if populated by the kind of individuals who were associated with Trump’s campaign, many of whom publicly oppose the two-state solution,” writes briefing author Friedman.
The Israeli far-right is deluding itself, however, if they think enforcing a ‘one-state-for-Israel’ non-solution will work. It won’t
Indeed, there has been a bizarre convergence of interests between Trump’s white nationalist support base and the Israeli far-right, according to the document, which could be catastrophic not just for Palestinians, but for American Jews.
Trump’s campaign cynically exploited “a surge of anti-Semitism in the US”, the briefing remarks. It is, therefore, no coincidence that, to date, Trump has failed to “clearly distance himself from the radical right-wing anti-Semitic elements among his most fervent supporters".
Friedman warns that “the illiberalism that defined Trump’s campaign – and that is a defining characteristic of those tapped early on for leading roles in his administration – finds itself unambiguously at odds with American Jewish liberalism".
As a result, the 2016 Republican platform for the first time rejected the description of Israel as “an occupier”, omitted any mention of a two-state solution and conflated settlements with Israel itself.
The Israeli far-right is deluding itself, however, if they think enforcing a "one-state-for-Israel" non-solution will work. It won’t.
It would, instead, prove to Palestinians that the "peace process" has always been dead on arrival, most likely triggering a Palestinian uprising and permanently extinguishing whatever security Israel has today.
No wonder Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called the new bill an act of "national suicide".
- Nafeez Ahmed PhD is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author, who tracks what he calls the "crisis of civilisation". He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde Diplomatique and New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Trump placards in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on 3 November 2016 (AFP)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.