A discernible strategy for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is starting to emerge from the Trump administration.
That strategy is to apply more pressure to the Palestinian side in hopes of persuading Palestinian leadership to surrender the rights of its people.
The latest steps in this strategy were announced by the State Department this past week. On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert the U.S. plans to withhold $65 million of the $125 million that was pledged to donate to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in early 2018. On Thursday, Nauert the U.S. will also withhold a separate $45 million in food aid that was to UNRWA’s West Bank/Gaza Emergency Appeal.
Nauert said there is still a chance either payment will be made in the future, but only if UNRWA makes reforms. She would not specify what these reforms should entail.
The Trump administration’s most significant blow to the Palestinians was the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, despite the that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory that should go to the Palestinians in a two-state solution.
The U.S. is sending a clear message to the Palestinians: relinquish your rights or face punishment.
Pressuring the Palestinians is the opposite of what is needed to achieve a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. The reason why peace efforts have failed for so many years, as International Crisis Group analyst Nathan Thrall has , is the lack of pressure on Israel.
Any Israeli prime minister who agrees to the — a truly sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem, and a resolution of the refugee problem that a Palestinian leader could realistically agree to — would be committing political suicide.
Such a solution would involve uprooting hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories. It would involve dividing Jerusalem when even the leader of the liberal-centrist opposition party Yesh Atid has .
Israel, by far the more powerful party, currently controls every part of historic Palestine to some degree. Israelis live in relative comfort and security. The only thing that can persuade Israel to create a Palestinian state is massive external pressure.
Many Palestinians live under military occupation, in refugee camps or in extreme poverty. The idea of putting them, rather than Israel, under further pressure is ludicrous.
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