The Danger of a One-Sided Strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Louis Kriesberg

(Re-published from The Hill | Feb. 15, 2018) The increasingly dominant role of the president, relative to Congress, has been troubling for many years. The dire consequences are evident with Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s policies relating to Iran, North Korea, and many other countries harm American interests and threaten to be disastrous. In particular, I believe Trump’s current strategy to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is misguided.

“Bad consequences for America are already evident and more will appear as this unilateral policy is pursued.”

Last December, President Trump began to force the Palestinian Authority to accept the “peace” terms dictated by the current Israeli government. This strategy is likely to have many unfortunate consequences for the Israelis as well for the Palestinians. But it will also have many bad effects for America and could unleash news dangers.

The strategy began ambiguously, when Trump announced his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Initially, he slightly moderated the significance of the decision by declaring that final Israeli borders should be determined by Israeli and Palestinian negotiations. But soon thereafter, he said he had taken Jerusalem off the negotiation table.

Furthermore, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence made clear that the embassy move would be swift. He also reduced by about half the usual U.S. contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the major program supporting Palestinian refugees. He announced he was considering closing the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s office in Washington. Clearly, Trump is trying to impose a one-sided settlement on the Palestinians.

As in other Trump foreign policy decisions, this approach does not follow a comprehensive consideration of U.S. objectives, widely-sourced information about developments in the region, and review of alternative strategies. Instead, it seems Trump is pandering to some people among his base, particularly in this instance, some Christian Evangelicals and some supporters of right-wing Israeli policies. Moreover, as in other instances, he seems to insist upon acting contrary to whatever former President Obama did.

These are poor grounds on which to base foreign policy choices. Bad consequences for America are already evident and more will appear as this unilateral policy is pursued. The actions destroyed U.S. mediation efforts that were underway. He took an action that was decried by nearly all governments in the world, as demonstrated by the overwhelming votes against it in the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly.

This harms American standing and influence in the world. Furthermore, the policy increases the chances that fanatics in many parts of the world will undertake terror attacks against Americans. Indeed, organizations that wish to limit or counter U.S. influence and presence in the Middle East would be more able to recruit, mobilize and support such fanatics.

An imposed one-sided solution will have other grave consequences for America. There has been considerable security and other realms of cooperation between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, which the U.S. government has aided. President Trump’s moves to impose a settlement will undermine such cooperation …

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