US sends mixed signals on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Donald Trump
Updated 17 February 2017
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US sends mixed signals on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s comments that his administration is open to both a two-state and one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has drawn mixed signals from other officials.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said that Washington “absolutely” supports a two-state solution, according to Agence France Presse.
That’s a direct contradiction to the stance of her boss at the White House, who on Wednesday declared in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it might be the easier of the two, but ... if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
Adding to the controversy was the hearing at the Senate foreign relations committee for Trump’s nominee David Friedman to be ambassador to Israel.
Friedman told the lawmakers that “if Israelis and Palestinians were able to achieve a two-state solution, I’d be delighted.” He added that his past skepticism was “based solely on my view that Palestinians are unwilling to accept Israel (as a Jewish state) and reject terrorism... but I hope it can be remedied.”
Friedman was a controversial figure for the post given his past comments where he accused former President Barack Obama of being an “anti-Semite” and lambasted Jewish groups who oppose settlements expansion.
But he walked back these statements and apologized in front of the committee. In the hope of a swift confirmation and in striking a more diplomatic tone, Friedman said: “I regret the use of such language and I want to assure you that I understand the important difference between a political contest and a diplomatic mission. Partisan rhetoric is rarely if ever appropriate in achieving diplomatic progress, especially in a sensitive and strife-torn region like the Middle East.”
He later added: “I tried to criticize the words, rather than the people,” pledging to work as a diplomat where “progress will be through private diplomacy behind the scenes.”
This back-and-forth on the two-state solution issue could have different policy objectives, said David Makovsky, a fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process.
Trump “may have been more motivated by his desire to help Netanyahu with a short-term political problem, but his statement may interpreted by Arabs in the Middle East as a major policy shift in the direction of the settlers even if he actually called on Israel to curb settlement activity,” Makovsky said.
While Trump promised working towards a “big peace deal,” his comment about a one-state outcome “was probably meant to be closer along the traditional US line used by many US presidents that the US cannot want peace more than the parties themselves,” Makovsky said.
Given the realities on the ground, however, “the parties are not on the verge of a two-state deal anyway, due to leadership constraints,” the expert added.
“The US tried three times since 2000 to end the entire conflict, yet we cannot hit a home run in resolving this conflict now,” Makovsky said.


Syrian Democratic Forces leader: We are ready to cooperate with Arab armies

Updated 6 min 22 sec ago
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Syrian Democratic Forces leader: We are ready to cooperate with Arab armies

  • Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF): We have no problem if Arab forces joined the alliance and we will cooperate with them.
  • President Trump previously proposed the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, but a final decision has not been made.

LONDON: Mazloum Abdi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and head of a force of 60,000 troops, recently held a lengthy meeting with Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
Originally from the town of Ain Al-Arab (Kobani) in northern Syria, Abdi said the meeting discussed US President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria and the SDF’s willingness to cooperate with Arab countries that might send troops to fight within the Coalition, in case the US withdraws from it.
“Officially, there is no decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, but President Trump proposed the matter to members of his government for discussion. We have information that the administration is discussing his proposal and the possibility of withdrawing troops or not,” Abdi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Talking about the possibility of deploying other forces in case of US withdrawal, Abdi replied: “There is nothing official to date, but countries have shown initial approval for sending their forces to Syria as part of the international Coalition.”
He continued by saying: “We are working with the Coalition to expel terrorism from Syria. We have no problem if Arab forces joined the alliance and we will cooperate with them.”