Sept. 21, 2018
Reinventing the U.S. Approach to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – Robert Malley and Aaron David Miller (Atlantic)
- The objective of the Trump administration is to fundamentally reframe the U.S. understanding of, and policy toward, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shifting the focus toward Palestinians’ material, economic concerns while downplaying their political and national ones.
- The Palestinian state the U.S. has been ready to contemplate always came with caveats galore, so that its attributes were significantly less than those habitually associated with statehood. Limitations on its sovereignty tended to include lack of control over its airspace, demilitarization, restrictions on the parties with which it could enter into alliances, and acceptance of Israel’s right to intervene when it deemed it necessary. As for the return of refugees, the U.S. viewed it more as a matter of paying lip service than of implementing a right.
- The Trump team believes that past U.S. administrations inflicted grievous harm by humoring Palestinian mythologies, refraining from calling out the Palestinian leadership, and displaying boundless (albeit fruitless) creativity in seeking to accommodate their political demands, and that those illusory ideological constructs have stood in the way of a realistic, practical resolution to the conflict.
- Yet the administration’s view is predicated on illusory notions – that the Palestinian people are more moderate than their leaders, and that their true preoccupations are bread, butter, and normalcy, as opposed to statehood, Jerusalem, or the fate of the refugees.
- The current Palestinian leadership focuses on historical grievances not in spite of popular opinion, but because of it. Abbas lost legitimacy with his people largely because he is viewed as overly compliant, not excessively militant.
Robert Malley is President of the International Crisis Group. Aaron David Miller, Vice-President of the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as a State Department analyst, adviser and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations.