By Aaron Kassraie
WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (KUNA) -- While meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN this past week President Donald Trump voiced his support for a "two-state solution" between the Palestinians and Israelis for the first time since taking office.
Although the opinion was vocalized on the UN stage, Trump's intentions may not be as significant as the moment would hold it to be, experts told KUNA.
"I personally don't think it is significant yet. Usually when the president speaks it is coordinated" with other departments in government, said Executive Director of the Arab Center in Washington DC, Khalil Jahshan. But President Trump "speaks off the top of his head and he doesn't coordinate with anybody." Trump first dabbled with the issue back during his presidential campaign in February 2017 when he said he was open to a one state or two state peace deal.
Jahshan said this initial stance raised a lot of concerns with both parties in the Middle East. Palestinians wanted clear commitment to statehood. For the Israelis, it meant Trump doesn't understand the word "one state," it frightens them.
With regard to Trump's recent iteration of proposing a two-state plan, Jahshan said, "As a long time observer of US policy I cannot confirm it (Trump's intentions) on a significant scale. He has said things that didn't account or amount for anything in the past and I would rather wait till I hear it from the State Department and from his staff at the White House. If they do that as a follow-up then it would be significant." When KUNA asked the State Department if there was going to be a policy change, they referred us to the president's remarks.
Jahshan highlighted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to Trump's statement which when translated from Hebrew read, "It is not clear to me what he means by state." "Netanyahu explains there are many different renditions of state .. is he talking about Costa Rica or Iran," Jahshan said.
Nethanyahu explained to the Israeli media that two-state means a Palestinian state that is demilitarized and under Israeli defense control. The Palestinian state must also recognize "Israel as a Jewish state." A recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said, "The goal of a two-state solution is under serious challenge today. The number of settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has exceeded 650,000, putting in major doubt the prospect of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state. US diplomatic efforts under Donald Trump's administration appear to be aimed at redefining key issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and Gaza in ways that alienate Palestinians as well as European allies." Nathan Brown, who co-authored the report told KUNA that Trump's remarks at the UN do not change the track towards peace in the Middle East.
"There was no viable two state diplomatic initiative on the table, and a single statement by President Trump does not change that. Nor does the administration's diplomacy seem to be predicated on a two-state solution as the term has been used in the past. It seems instead based on a resolution of what had been termed 'final status issues'-refugees, board, Jerusalem-in a manner that rejects the Palestinian position completely," Brown said.
Trump touted at the UN that he believes there will be a peace deal in the next "two to three to four months" and that the Israelis will have something to offer in discussions since he "took the biggest chip off the table," with moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Daniel Serwer, a Scholar at the Middle East Institute, responded to KUNA, "This is his umpteenth promise of a peace deal in one time frame or another. I don't think there is any deal to be had before (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas is replaced, Netanyahu is gone, and Trump is history." Serwer added, "They (the Palestinians) are unlikely to react warmly after the better part of two years of his doing everything he can to make a Palestinian state impossible." Jahshan of the Arab Center extended that "Even Netanyahu who just finished negotiating with him (Trump) doesn't understand or seems to be bluffing or the two of them have an agreement to bluff world community." He summed up that at this state in time Trump's intentions are "absolutely PR (public relations) with no legal or diplomatic value." (end) ak.rk