Pales­tini­ans believe Trump em­bassy move has de­stroyed vi­a­bil­ity of a 2-state so­lu­tion

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Mark Landler, David M. Halbfin­ter and Is­abel Ker­sh­ner NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON – Pres­i­dent Trump, in for­mally rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael on Wed­nes­day, de­clared that the United States still sup­ported a two-state so­lu­tion to set­tle the con­flict be­tween the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, pro­vided it was “agreed to by both sides.”

For the first time in his 26 years as a peace­maker, the chief ne­go­tia­tor for the Pales­tini­ans did not agree.

Saeb Erekat, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion and a stead­fast ad­vo­cate for a Pales­tinian state, said in an interview Thurs­day that Trump and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu of Is­rael “have man­aged to de­stroy that hope.” He em­braced a rad­i­cal shift in the PLO’s goals – to a sin­gle state, but with Pales­tini­ans en­joy­ing the same civil rights as Is­raelis, in­clud­ing the vote.

“They’ve left us with no op­tion,” he said. “This is the re­al­ity. We live here. Our strug­gle should fo­cus on one thing: equal rights.”

Erekat’s change of heart is un­likely to change Pales­tinian pol­icy. The dream of a Pales­tinian state is too deeply in­grained in a gen­er­a­tion of its lead­ers for the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to aban­don it now. Is­rael would be un­likely to ac­cede to equal rights, be­cause grant­ing a vote to mil­lions of Pales­tini­ans would even­tu­ally lead to the end of Is­rael as a Jewish state.

But the fact that Erekat is speak­ing openly about it attests to the tur­moil caused in the Mid­dle East by Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem. More so than the protests that erupted in the West Bank, which in­jured dozens of peo­ple but were less in­tense than ex­pected, the com­ments of se­nior Pales­tini­ans like Erekat cap­tured the pro­found sense of de­spair.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials stren­u­ously re­ject the ar­gu­ment that Trump has fore­closed a two-state so­lu­tion. He recom­mit­ted him­self to bro­ker­ing what he has called the “ul­ti­mate deal” be­tween the two sides, they said. He stu­diously avoided tak­ing a po­si­tion on the even­tual bor­ders or sovereignty of Jerusalem. And he called for sta­tus quo in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Jewish and Mus­lim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“We want an agree­ment that is a great deal for the Is­raelis and a great deal for the Pales­tini­ans,” Trump said.

Be­yond the pres­i­dent’s words, there were other signs he is se­ri­ous about his in­ten­tions. On the same day that he signed his name with a John Han­cock­like flour­ish to a procla­ma­tion rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal, he qui­etly signed an­other doc­u­ment that will de­lay the move of the U.S. Em­bassy to the city for at least six months – and prob­a­bly much longer.

White House of­fi­cials in­sist that Trump’s de­ci­sion was driven by prac­ti­cal and lo­gis­ti­cal, not po­lit­i­cal, con­sid­er­a­tions. The State Depart­ment, they said, can­not open a func­tion­ing em­bassy in Jerusalem on the timetable stip­u­lated un­der a 1995 law that re­quires the pres­i­dent to sign a na­tional-se­cu­rity waiver ev­ery six months to keep the em­bassy in Tel Aviv.

But putting off the move avoids a tan­gi­ble sym­bol of a new U.S. pol­icy and spares the White House a se­ries of de­ci­sions – like where in the city to place the em­bassy – that would be­gin to de­fine the ge­og­ra­phy of Trump’s de­lib­er­ately gen­eral state­ment about Jerusalem.

“Avoid­ing a move of the em­bassy is a way of avoid­ing ge­o­graphic def­i­ni­tion,” said Martin S. Indyk, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Is­rael.

“Avoid­ing any ge­o­graphic def­i­ni­tion of their recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem looks like their ef­fort to keep the peace process alive.”

Le­gal ex­perts said there was noth­ing in the 1995 law that would pre­vent the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from sim­ply hang­ing a sign out­side the ex­ist­ing U.S. con­sulate in Jerusalem and call­ing it the em­bassy.

Af­ter the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States hastily set up em­bassies in tem­po­rary quar­ters in the cap­i­tals of newly in­de­pen­dent re­publics.

“I would be sur­prised if the State Depart­ment in­ter­preted the Jerusalem Em­bassy Act as re­quir­ing it to break ground on a new em­bassy fa­cil­ity or take other such steps,” said Scott R. Anderson, a David M. Ruben­stein fel­low in gover­nance stud­ies at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

“The plain language of the statute only re­quires that the sec­re­tary of state de­ter­mine and re­port to Congress that the U.S. Em­bassy in Jerusalem has of­fi­cially opened,” he said.

Other for­mer Mid­dle East diplo­mats said the de­ci­sion to de­lay the em­bassy move was far less im­por­tant than the sym­bolic weight of Trump’s state­ment on Jerusalem.

“This was try­ing to be too clever by half,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a Prince­ton pro­fes­sor and for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Is­rael and Egypt. “If they think that any­body is go­ing to be fooled into think­ing this makes their diplo­macy cred­i­ble, they’re kid­ding them­selves.”

New York Times

Pales­tini­ans demon­strate Thurs­day at the Da­m­as­cus Gate out­side the Old City of Jerusalem. Wide­spread pre­dic­tions of un­rest were re­al­ized in the re­gion a day af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump took the high-risk move of rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

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