White House time warp is an at­tempt to roll back Oslo deal

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

A FEEL­ING has emerged in re­cent days that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken to reen­act­ing the bat­tles of thirty years ago in the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict.

Its an­nounce­ment on Mon­day that it was clos­ing down the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (PLO) of­fice in Wash­ing­ton was an echo of a de­bate go­ing back to the days of the Carter and Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tions over whether the US should be talk­ing to the PLO at all. And if it should not, the de­bate went, should it en­gage with the Pales­tinian na­tional cause at all?

The feel­ing of a be­ing in a time­warp was com­pounded by the rev­e­la­tion that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives had pro­posed to Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas that, in­stead of a Pales­tinian state, he ex­plore the idea of a fed­er­a­tion with the King­dom of Jor­dan. That idea was last in vogue in the mid-1980s.

It has co­in­cided with the rue­ful 25-year an­niver­sary of the Oslo ac­cords and the feel­ing among many that noth­ing has moved for­ward for a quar­ter of a cen­tury and may now be go­ing back­wards.

Since his elec­tion, Mr Trump has spo­ken of his as­pi­ra­tion to de­liver the “ul­ti­mate deal” for Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans. In his first meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu at the White House in Fe­bru­ary 2017, he sig­naled that he was pre­pared to break with diplo­matic or­tho­dox­ies, say­ing that “I’m look­ing at two-state [so­lu­tions] and at one-state and I like the one that both par­ties like.”

Since then, Mr Trump does not seem to have come up with an idea of quite how to end the con­flict, but he is sur­rounded by aides and ad­vi­sors with ideas of their own. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, rep­re­sent­ing the Chris­tian Evan­gel­i­cals in the White House, was the main force be­hind last year’s de­ci­sion to move the US Em­bassy to Jerusalem. The trio of Amer­i­can-Jewish ad­vi­sors — Jared Kush­ner, Stan­ley Green­blatt and Am­bas­sador David Fried­man — were all part of the pro-set­tler camp be­fore tak­ing of­fice and are un­likely to have changed their views since. They are joined by the lat­est ad­di­tion, the new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton. One of the neo­con­ser­va­tive “hawks” of the Ge­orge W Bush era, Mr Bolton be­lieves that the Pales­tinian is­sue is a sideshow, which must be set aside so the US can fo­cus on con­fronting its real en­emy in the Mid­dle East, Iran.

While there are nu­ances be­tween the three ap­proaches, they all share a joint goal in try­ing to rewind his­tory to be­fore the Oslo ac­cords and, if pos­si­ble, even a cou­ple of decades ear­lier to be­fore the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion, which was the first to make a pri­or­ity of ad­dress­ing the Pales­tinian is­sue. On this they are all closely co­or­di­nated with Mr Ne­tanyahu, both di­rectly and though his con­fi­dant Ron Der­mer, Is­rael’s long-serv­ing am­bas­sador to the US.

Mr Ne­tanyahu of­fi­cially ac­cepted the two-state for­mu­la­tion in his Bar John Bolton, the new­est ap­pointee

Ilan speech of 2009, but has been spend­ing the past three years try­ing to walk back those re­marks. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, with its pro­pos­als and an­nounce­ments, in­clud­ing in re­cent weeks on cut­ting fi­nan­cial sup­port for the Pales­tini­ans, has helped him in do­ing this.

But whether or not a two-state so­lu­tion re­mains vi­able — and un­der the cur­rent lead­ers in Jerusalem, Ra­mal­lah and Wash­ing­ton, it clearly is not — does not change the fact that five mil­lion Pales­tini­ans live in the West Bank and Gaza un­der Pales­tinian Author­ity and Ha­mas con­trol.

Even if they are no longer to be re­garded as “refugees”, they are still there, un­der vary­ing de­grees of Is­raeli mil­i­tary rule.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, with Mr Ne­tanyahu cheer­ing it on, has al­most swept away all ves­tiges of the Oslo Process, but has yet to come up with any pro­pos­als for re­plac­ing it.

Bolton be­lieves the Pales­tinian is­sue is a sideshow


PLO of­fices in Wash­ing­ton, which are to be closed

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