Analysis: Upending the Middle East applecart

Along comes Trump, the most untraditional and nonconformist of all US presidents, and says “enough is enough.” What has been tried didn’t work, so it’s time to try something new.

By
December 7, 2017 01:31
2 minute read.
PEOPLE WATCH US President Donald Trump on TV at Mike’s Place in Jerusalem yesterday.

PEOPLE WATCH US President Donald Trump on TV at Mike’s Place in Jerusalem yesterday.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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In a brief speech of 1,240 words, US President Donald Trump did more on Wednesday than “just” recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv. He also upended the orthodoxy that has dominated the approach to Middle East peacemaking for a quarter century.

Over the last 24 years, since the beginning of the Oslo peace process, certain tenets have come to be accepted as truths: that the only solution is a two-state solution; that there can be no long-term interim agreements; that dozens of settlements will have to be removed; that a future Palestinian state must be free of Jews; and that Washington cannot recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until there is a final peace deal.

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On and off over this period, a lot of intelligent people have devoted a great deal of time and energy towards trying to bridge the chasm between the most Israel would offer and the minimum the Palestinians were willing to accept. And despite their best efforts, they couldn’t bridge the gap.

Along comes Trump, the most untraditional and nonconformist of all US presidents, and says “enough is enough.” What has been tried didn’t work, so it’s time to try something new.

“When I came into office, I promised to look at the world’s challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking,” Trump said. “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches.”

Every US president for the last 20 years has signed the presidential waiver keeping the embassy out of Jerusalem, but it did nothing to promote peace, he said. “It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”

In other words, the US kept its embassy out of Jerusalem for all these years, but how did that work out for everyone?

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So Trump ditches the formula, and by doing so, places all on notice that what was is not what will be, and that if one sincerely wants to move the diplomatic process, it is necessary to try a different approach.

Trump will have woken up this morning to editorial writers and pundits excoriating him for having the nerve to do something different, for having the temerity to attempt a different approach. Some of those doing the hollering will surely be those who have been involved in the diplomatic process in the past, aghast that Trump is not following the well-worn path – not abiding by the same rules.

Many will bewail “the impact this move will have on the peace process” – except that the peace process has been stuck for years. And one of the reasons it has failed is because the same assumptions have been posited time after time after time.

Beyond righting a historical wrong in denying the Jews the right to determine where their capital is, Trump’s announcement about recognizing Jerusalem could also give the diplomatic process a badly needed jolt by forcing people to rethink long-held assumptions that have led nowhere.

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