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The Trump team is only making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worse 

The actions of this White House have already exacerbated the conflict and imperiled the long-term future of both peoples
Screenshot of 'Axios on HBO' interview of Jared Kushner, June 3, 2019
Screenshot of 'Axios on HBO' interview of Jared Kushner, June 3, 2019

An incredible amount of ink has been spilled speculating about the Trump administration’s so-called “peace plan” to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet two and a half years into the administration, the plan still hasn’t been released.

And due to the events of last week, it may never be.

In mid-May, the White House announced that they would be unveiling an economic component of their plan at a conference in Bahrain this month — with other pieces to follow. But that was before Prime Minister Netanyahu stunningly failed to put together a new Israeli coalition government, and chose instead to plunge Israel immediately into an unprecedented new round of elections.

With the new election now set for September 17, it seems very likely that the Trump team will delay the plan once again — since they’re unwilling to risk any political complications for Netanyahu and their friends in the Likud party. And by the time the next Israeli government actually forms in October, we’ll be just a year away from our own US elections. With his re-election campaign getting under way, who knows whether the administration will decide to bother at all with the Middle East?

If this plan never sees the light of day, no one who cares about peace should shed any tears. Based on their actions and statements so far, it’s now 100 percent clear that the effort led by Jared Kushner and David Friedman is not a good-faith attempt to bring about a peaceful, lasting and viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it’s designed to punish and alienate the Palestinians while embracing the hardline positions of the settlement movement — helping the Israeli right to entrench the occupation and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Whether or not the world ever sees the details of their proposal, we know that everything this White House has already said and done has exacerbated the conflict and imperiled the long-term future of both peoples. From slashing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and unilaterally recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, to refusing to support the two-state solution or even recognize the existence of the occupation, the Trump administration has empowered creeping annexation in the West Bank and undercut the prospects for peace.

In an extremely revealing interview published this week, Kushner was grilled about these actions and their impact. The president’s son-in-law claimed that the administration’s policies were only intended to punish Palestinian leaders, not their people. Yet he couldn’t explain how slashing funds that pay for schools, hospitals, clothing and food helps average Palestinians.

When asked if the Palestinians deserve their own independent state alongside Israel, with its capital in East Jerusalem, Kushner implied that was something only “technocrats” cared about, while average Palestinians just “want the opportunity to live a better life” and to “pay their mortgage.” He indicated that the Palestinians are currently not capable of governing themselves.

This condescending attitude ignores the basic truth: Just like Israelis, Palestinians desire freedom and equality in a state of their own. It’s dangerous and delusional to imagine that even an extraordinary level of economic investment could make them surrender these aspirations — or to imagine that Israel can remain a democratic homeland for the Jewish people without a two-state solution.

Right now, that kind of dangerous thinking is driving policymaking in both the US and Israeli governments. That’s why it’s so important to see responsible leaders in Congress pushing back.

Over the past few weeks, over half of the House Democratic Caucus have added their names to House Resolution 326, which absolutely rejects any attempt by the Trump administration to encourage or accept Israeli annexations in the West Bank — and makes clear that only a two-state solution and an end to the occupation can ensure a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

In the weeks ahead, those who are committed to genuine diplomacy and Israeli-Palestinian peace need to keep up our drumbeat and our warnings. No matter what happens with the Kushner plan or what Netanyahu does in a desperate attempt to remain in office, the ongoing threat of creeping annexation will continue to imperil the prospects for a two-state solution — and imperil the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel.

About the Author
Jeremy Ben-Ami is president of J Street.
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