I’m not sure if the media will take time out from discussing Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians to focus on the very important foreign policy meetings he will have with Arab leaders, Israel’s prime minister and the Palestinian Authority president. Regardless of his personal political imbroglios, what Trump says during his visit to the Middle East could have a profound impact on the future of U.S. relations in the region and the prospects for advancing Arab-Israeli peace.
While a lot will be written about whether he goes to the Western Wall and who accompanies him, what he says at Yad Vashem and whether he gives a speech at Masada, the optics of the trip are far less important than the substance. For this trip to be successful, Trump must show the people of Israel they can take risks for peace because the United States has their back. He must make clear to the Palestinians that the United States will no longer exert or tolerate the one-sided pressure placed on Israel, and that they must make concessions if they hope to obtain American support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Toward those ends, Trump should make the following key points:
- The United States and Israel have an unshakeable alliance based on shared values and interests, and I intend to strengthen this special relationship.
- The United States is committed to a two-state solution.
- The United States calls for direct negotiations between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to begin immediately without any preconditions. The United States stands ready to facilitate and participate in these talks.
- The United States will not impose terms on Israel.
- The United States does not believe the 1949 Armistice Line should demarcate the borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state.
- The United States recognizes the change in the demography of the region and does not expect Israel to evacuate all the settlements in the West Bank.
- The United States supports the idea of a land swap that would involve the annexation of some Jewish settlements by Israel and Israel’s withdrawal from part of the West Bank.
- The United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel and will move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at the earliest practicable date.
- The United States recognizes the Western Wall as a holy site of the Jewish people and part of Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, and believes it should remain under the full control of Israel. The United States also recognizes the Al-Aksa Mosque is holy to the Muslims and should remain under the administration of the Waqf and the Christian holy sites should remain under the supervision of Christian authorities.
- The United States expects Israel to show restraint in settlement construction and to limit new building to the settlement blocs that we agree will be part of Israel in the future. We do not consider buildings in Jerusalem to be settlements and we do not expect Israel to freeze all construction in the West Bank as a condition for resuming peace negotiations.
- The United States believes that Palestinian refugees should be given the option of living in a future Palestinian state but do not have a right to live in Israel. If Palestinians are offered compensation, Jews who fled Arab countries should also be compensated.
- The United States insists that the Palestinian Authority immediately end its “pay for slay” policy of providing salaries to terrorists in Israeli jails and families of those terrorists or other “martyrs.”
- The United States also insists on an immediate end to all Palestinian incitement and a review of the educational system and Palestinian media to ensure that it does not promote hatred of Jews or violence against Israelis.
- The United States is prepared to provide generous aid directly to social and welfare programs benefitting the Palestinian people, but withhold or cut aid if the PA fails to meet the aforementioned demands.
- The United States will not negotiate with Hamas unless it meets the conditions set by the international community of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, ceasing terrorism and agreeing to abide by Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
- The United States expects the Gulf Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel as part of negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive peace agreement.
- The United States will oppose or veto anti-Israel resolutions proposed by any UN body, and will consider withdrawing and/or cutting funds from UN agencies that condemn Israel.
- The United States will oppose any Palestinian initiatives at the UN condemning Israel, seeking recognition as a state or undermining the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.
- The United States opposes any and all efforts to delegitimize Israel and will work with other countries to preempt and defeat boycott, divestment or sanction (BDS) campaigns against Israel.
- The United States will fight Islamic extremists, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, side by side with Israel and our Arab allies.
- The United States will ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and renegotiate the 10-year military aid deal signed by President Obama to provide additional funds, allow Israel to spend some of the aid in Israel and to eliminate the conditions penalizing Israel for seeking assistance from Congress.
- The United States will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, will ensure that it fulfills its obligations under the agreement negotiated by President Obama, and will impose additional sanctions to punish Iran if it continues to develop ballistic missiles, sponsor terrorism and destabilize the region.
It is unlikely Trump will express many of these sentiments, but the more he does, the more he will enhance his credibility in the region and lay the groundwork for a possible comprehensive peace agreement.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, The Arab Lobby, and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.