Trump’s team thinking ‘out of the box’ on Israeli-Palestinian peace

“I don’t want to govern the Arabs in the West Bank, but I want to make sure that the territory is not used against Israel,” said the Israeli Prime Minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 30, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 30, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – US President Donald Trump’s team is taking a fresh approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that could offer hope of progress after two decades of stagnant attempts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during his visit to London.
There are those people who discount his administration’s efforts, Netanyahu added, speaking Friday at Chatham House, an independent policy institute.
“They [Trump’s team] are trying to think out of the box. They did a quick and intensive study and they will eventually come out with something,” Netanyahu told Chatham House director Robin Niblett, as the two discussed regional issues.
“Is there a moment [for peace]?” Niblett asked.
“I hope so,” Netanyahu responded.
The peace process has been “stuck in the trough for 20 years,” Netanyahu said, adding that a similar conversation probably took place at Chatham House in the 1990s.
The dramatic shift in regional Israeli-Arab relations could give Trump’s initiative a chance for success, Netanyahu said. While the bulk of the conversation focused on Iran, Netanyahu did address some elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the question of uprooting settlements.
Over the last few months, Netanyahu has repeatedly said he has no intention of evacuating settlements. Lately, he has also pledged not to uproot Arab ones.
Netanyahu told Niblett that it was hypocritical for the international community to demand that Israeli settlers leave their homes unless the same was demanded of Israeli- Arabs. “Do I have to take out the Arab citizens in Israel because there can’t be peace? That’s crazy.
“The whole notion that the international community bought [of evacuating settlers] so thoughtlessly goes against the whole notion of peace. You don’t apply it virtually anywhere else in the world, but you apply it to Jews who happen to live in a place where they have lived for 3,800 years?” There is an assumption that “of course, we have to take out the Jews,” he said.
Most people agree that the settlement blocs would be within Israel’s final borders in a peace agreement, so the conversation of uprooting people centers on the isolated settlements, he added.
There is an expectation that Palestinians would agree that these small communities could be part of their state, “but they don’t,” he explained.
“They insist on ethnic cleansing. This attitude that says no Jews, ethnic cleansing, no state, no homeland. This is it, this is the problem.”
Netanyahu repeated his message that the Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state is the root of the conflict between the two peoples.
Netanyahu also made an argument for a demilitarized Palestinian state, explaining that sovereignty does not have to include a military power.
“I think it is time that we reassess whether the model that we have of sovereignty and unfettered sovereignty is applicable all over the world,” he said.
When describing the situation to Trump during one of their meetings, Netanyahu said he showed him a map of how small the area of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley are, explaining that it was about the distance from the Trump Tower to the George Washington Bridge.
Israel should be in charge of security for that area, he said.