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March 14, 2017 3:13 pm

Middle East Expert: In Dramatic Shift From Obama, Trump Appears to Be Adopting ‘Bottom-Up’ Approach to Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

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ason Greenblatt meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO via Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

Jason Greenblatt meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO via Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

The Trump administration seems to be adopting a “bottom-up” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking that represents a dramatic shift from that held by the Obama administration over the past eight years, a former State Department Middle East negotiator told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

“I think it is too early to tell about the details, but if you look at the elements of what Trump is trying to do, they are fundamentally different from what Obama tried to do,” Aaron David Miller — a vice president at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, DC and a CNN global affairs analyst — said. “However, whether or not they end up in the same place is another matter.”

The Trump administration’s apparent goal, in Miller’s view, is not to reach a comprehensive peace deal now, but rather lay the groundwork for a potential future one — “by working with the Israelis on a set of confidence-builders on one hand, and trying to engage the Arabs states on the other, to get them to press the Palestinians and offer the Israelis incentives to go farther.”

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One difference between the Trump and Obama administrations, Miller noted, is that “there is no effort [by the Trump administration] to box the Israelis in and create a public frame of reference on settlement activity…[Instead] they are trying to reach some sort of private agreement with the Israelis on where and what kind of settlement building is permitted.”

Furthermore, Miller said, the Trump administration “seems to be less solicitous of Palestinian needs and requirements.”

“Yet,” he continued, “clearly the president’s phone call with [Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud] Abbas on Friday and Jason Greenblatt’s efforts to engage the Palestinians today in Ramallah suggests to me that at least they realize that this isn’t one hand clapping and they’ve got to somehow deal with both sides.”

On Monday, Greenblatt — Trump’s special representative for international negotiations — met for more than five hours with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. According to a statement released by Netanyahu’s office, the two “reaffirmed the joint commitment of both Israel and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel and enhances stability in the region.”

Netanyahu and Greenblatt, the statement said, also worked on reaching an understanding on settlement construction “that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security.”

At a joint White House press conference last month, Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” — a request that surprised Israel.

On this matter, Miller said, the first questions are: “What is Mr. Netanyahu able to do on settlements that will pass the political test in Israel? And what is he going to get for it that he can use to make sure his coalition survives?”

“And the even bigger questions,” he went on to say, “are will it [an US-Israel settlement understanding] accomplish anything? In other words, will the Palestinians and the Arabs buy it and in turn pay something for it?”

“Whatever they agree on settlements has got to be, in my judgment, part of a broader package,” he stated. “If you want to achieve anything, it’s got to somehow be pre-layered. You remember what happened with the 10-month [settlement construction] freeze [in 2009-10]? Nothing.”

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  • robert Davis

    The “settlements” is the Policy that has a chance to avoid a large war if not ww3 starting in ME. arabs and leftwing nazis want war and they will surely get it in particular if leftwing governments keep destroying europe.

  • Ilbert Phillips

    What I found disappointing in Obama’s approach, which was different only in degrees from prior administrations, was the refusal to make the Palestinians deal with the reality that the Arabs (along with the Palestinians) lost the wars with Israel and that they, the Arabs and the Palestinians, were suing for peace. In addition, there would be no peace if the Palestinians continued to attack and kill Israelis (whether by rockets, missiles, knives, underground tunnels, cars, trucks, rocks, etc.).

  • Peter

    Well it looks like a good start and for sure a far better beginning than it ever was under Obama who was one sided PA!!!

  • I was impressed with President Trump’s answer last month in the Netanyahu press conference when he said he would be happy with whatever the negotiating sides come up with, on the matter of two state/one state. Trump clearly gets the concept that outside parties saying what they want the negotiations to end up with, just UNDERMINES the negotiations.

    I would suggest that the cause of universal human rights is something that Israel has a great deal of credibility in, with respect to the record of Israel being the protector of minorities in Palestine at the time of Independence. The fact that the Arab Higher Committee boycotted all discussions with the UN Mandate for Palestine on sovereign rights for minorities – meant that Israel served a critically vital role – in the year 1948, when the original UN Charter signatories enunciated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR]. The Palestinian leadership in the intervening 69 years, has demonstrated nothing in any area of building good faith, and what it takes to eventually become an ally of Israel. Those Palestinians who are so aggrieved that Israel exists, need to be relocated to nations well away from the Middle East so that they are able to build a life that respects the 30 Articles of the UDHR and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rigths. As far as I’m concerned, it is a fruitless exercise to sentimentally hope that alienated Palestinians will be able to settle with Israel. Realism requires a common front of countries to participate in resettling all Palestinian Arabs who are even suspected of potential violent motives toward any other ethnic group.

    The Security Council would be wise to set up an enforcement structure that will enable the 1948 convention on genocide to deal with all threats that enable violence prone groups to seek to inflict injuries, and death on groups that they do not accept. Jihadists that seek to undermine any country in the Middle East have to be dealt with using the strictest resettlement methods. All countries that want freedom and security for their citizens should have a way of removing anti-Israel elements from their societies. There are remote areas in UN member countries where civilized customs may be learned.

  • TheGhostWriterTomes

    Get real; there can’t be an honorable or effective peace until every Muslim national entity, at least those immediately adjacent to Israel, provides equal rights and opportunity for Jews to live in their domains in an equivalent way that Muslims live as equal citizens in Israel. There is no peace in that area because Arab-Muslims have unequivocally dictated that Jews and Israel are neither legitimate or tolerable, and never will be. Treaties there are no better than the arms and military prowess that Israel has to enforce the treaty. That’s how it has always been, and will always be. All peace negotiations are a sham, there can only be a state of stalemate which might eventually morph into a semblance of peace after the passage of significant time and the establishment of an irrevocable status quo.

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