U.S. official dismisses the importance of Washington serving as an ‘honest broker’ between Israel and the Palestinians
The Trump administration does not seem to shy away from being different in how it handles many issues and its policy on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute certainly proves that point.
The most recent example of this is a Times of Israel article, in which a senior U.S. official says that the current White House is not interested in being considered an ‘honest broker’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The U.S. is a strong ally of Israel. The administration, from the president on down, is not embarrassed to defend Israel where Israel needs to be defended, whether it’s on the Gaza border, on the Hezbollah tunnels, the Syrian border, wherever it is,” the senior official said.
He dismissed the concept of an honest broker as “a vestige of talking points from decades ago.”
The current U.S. leadership has already broken the mold of previous administrations by moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem. It used the changed geopolitical situation in the Middle East, an Arab world nervous about Iran, and took advantage of various circumstances last May to move the U.S. Embassy right after President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
The result was a relative silence from the Arab world over U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital amid a predominant round of applause over Washington’s action against Tehran.
The Trump team’s read of the Arab states’ stance on the Palestinian situation is that they don’t consider it a priority, but instead as a messy situation that must be fixed.
Washington also sees Arab leaders as being less than enamored with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The lack of confidence in PA leaders partly explains the Trump administration’s view that it’s premature to speak of a full diplomatic solution and that emphasis should be placed instead on the economic plight of many of the people living in PA territory, and when dealing with the situation on the ground in those areas, talk to the people.
The U.S. view is represented in a quote from the unnamed senior American official cited in the Times of Israel who says that Washington holds regular contacts with “ordinary Palestinians” who “express deep frustration with their leadership.
“They believe that their leadership has eroded their standing in the world, not just in the U.S., but around the world,” added the American official. “They want to engage with us and they want to see what is in the plan. They want a better future, and they know the key to that involves the U.S.”
U.S. officials have said that they will announce their Israeli-Palestinian plan in the immediate aftermath of the April 9th Knesset election.
In making the December 2017 declaration on the status of Jerusalem, Trump tried to sugarcoat it for the Arab world by saying that “We are not taking a position… [on] the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
In January 2018, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat reported that the PA had retained some contact with the Trump administration, despite vowing to cut off all contacts with the U.S. leadership to protest the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In August 2018, Trump said Israel would pay “a higher price” in peace talks with the Palestinians due to his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital. Trump said the Palestinians “will get something very good” in any future negotiations.
However, the current administration is saying again that it does not believe in the concept of serving as an honest broker.
It has been a catchphrase during the many years of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, with Palestinian officials sometimes questioning U.S. objectivity, accusing Washington of showing favoritism towards Israel, and the Israeli government at other times at loggerheads with the U.S., but still generally preferring the Americans over the Europeans and the U.N. (WIN)
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