Trump U.N. speech signals disruptive Mideast peace plan to come

Trump's second speech to the international body only briefly touched on Middle East peace. But what he said was telling.

September 25, 2018 20:44
2 minute read.
Trump Jerusalem

With Vice President Mike Pence looking on, US President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, US, December 6, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)


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NEW YORK -- Months after the UN General Assembly voted to rebuke US President Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, on Tuesday he warned the world to brace for more policy changes that would rile the status quo of a conflict that has been frozen for decades.

Trump’s second speech to the international body only briefly touched on Middle East peace. But what he said was telling and reflective of recent comments from members of his peace team who are beginning to preview a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace that will buck conventional norms long governing the process.

The president was channeling Jared Kushner, his son-in-law leading the peace effort, who in an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, said the administration was intentionally slaughtering sacred cows of the conflict in order to disrupt the discussion.

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“There were too many false realities that were created – that people worship – that I think needed to be changed,” Kushner said on the anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Similarly, the president in his speech said the aim of peace “is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.

“America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again,” Trump told the gathering.

This is the administration’s main explanation and defense of Trump’s actions on Jerusalem, as well as its decision to defund the UN agency on Palestinian refugees which – according to the peace team – perpetuates a narrative on the status of refugees unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.

The Palestinians see in these statements tea leaves of a plan that will attempt to redefine the terms of their cause, in which they seek sovereignty and independence from Israel in a two-state solution – a term the administration has yet to use. They are already campaigning against the US proposals, which Trump aides note they have not seen.

While Trump’s comments on the peace plan were brief, they at the very least signal policy growth from a year ago, when he addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time. In that speech, he made no mention of the peace process.

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