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The Trump administration is trashing Middle East peace negotiations: Three recent statements reveal deep bias in … – New York Daily News

Remember the two-state solution as a means to achieve Middle East peace? It has been a pillar of American foreign policy, certainly since President George W. Bush announced U.S. support in 2002. But in three quick strokes over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has demonstrated it really is not very serious about pursuing a two-state solution.

The first shoe dropped when a team of presidential emissaries, led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, visited the Middle East to talk to the Israelis and Palestinians. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert was asked whether the Trump administration supports a two-state solution. Her response was shocking:

“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it. It’s been many, many decades, as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work that through.”

Nauert was following the Trump script, as he stated months earlier: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”

Nauert’s use of the word “bias” is highly misleading. She is hardly calling for a neutral, non-biased approach to the Middle East conflict. In fact, her words indicate that the Trump administration itself is extremely biased — in favor of hardliners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition who want the United States and Israel to abandon the two state outcome. These radicals cheered Trump’s comments in February and probably celebrated Nauert’s recent non-answer answer.

The second shoe, amplifying this farce, dropped when Nauert was asked about a report that Israel had destroyed a girls’ school in Bethlehem. In response to a reporter’s question, Nauert said:

“So with so many of the incidents like that that you mention, and you’ll bring to me often various cases that are upsetting to folks there, we would say the same thing: We encourage both sides to work together to take appropriate actions to ease tensions and to try to build an environment where both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, can conclude so that they could work together on a mutually agreeable, peaceful solution.”

How can U.S. policy be taken seriously when that is an official reaction to the reported destruction of a school? Is the United States uninterested in whether this happened?

The third shoe dropped during an interview in The Jerusalem Post by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. While noting that his rhetoric has changed but not his personal right-wing views about settlements, Friedman went on to refer to the “alleged occupation” of the territories Israel has in fact occupied since the 1967 war. Friedman’s comment was neither a slip of the tongue nor a casual remark; it echoes the right-wing narrative in Israel that has argued that the territories are “disputed,” not occupied.

Any observer can read between the lines of the Trump, Nauert and Friedman statements: The administration doesn’t think that a two-state solution is necessarily desirable or feasible and they thus are comfortable with and intend to support Israeli policy in the occupied territories. The fact that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians continue to support the two-state outcome is apparently of little interest to this administration. Under these circumstances, Israelis and Palestinians would be much better off if Trump, his ambassador and his spokespeople took their self-described deal-making elsewhere, lest they continue to cause damage to the already-slim prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Kurtzer is former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt and professor of Middle East policy studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

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