Trump’s great gamble on Mideast peace
Invitations have gone out to the foreign ministers of the EU, the Arab League and the members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to rally international support for the Palestinian cause and for the urgent need to secure a two-state solution.
The meeting comes at a time of continuing dismay over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the cut in US funding for UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees.
While political leaders in Israel and Palestine await US President Donald Trump’s new peace plan, the purpose of the ADLC meeting will be twofold: To recommit international support for a two state-solution, including by the parties themselves, and to recommit to the need to enable the Palestinian Authority to execute full control over Gaza.
The new US National Security Strategy names Iran as its principal regional adversary and lists Washington’s Arab allies, along with Israel, as equal pillars in the implementation of its regional agenda. In this context, Trump wants to use the peace process as a glue to officially bind them together.
The EU’s strategic vision, meanwhile, is to narrow Palestinian-Israeli differences so that direct negotiations can take place.
Building on Trump’s disruptive approach by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a logical next step will be for the EU — with US support — to recognize the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital as part of an effort to strengthen the Palestinian position.
By giving both Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu what they need to satisfy their domestic constituencies, the US president may enable both leaders to make the compromises necessary to resolve the conflict.
By giving each party what they want, Washington’s gamble may be that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s domestic standings are strengthened, so that they can carry out the necessary compromises for peace talks to succeed.
The timing of the ADLC meeting is not coincidental. The following day, Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo, where they will discuss the outcome and how to proceed.
Trump may also be gambling that Abbas — with European and Arab support — will engage with Israel. In return, the Arab states can expect Washington to keep the heat on Iran by using the 2015 nuclear deal as leverage to pressure Tehran to roll back on its malign regional activity.
• Sigurd Neubauer is a Middle East analyst in Washington. Twitter: @SigiMideast
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