A Call to President Trump

The Palestinians do not have the luxury to confront the U.S., and the U.S. should not target the Palestinians as enemies, because they are not. On the contrary, since 1987, the Palestinian leadership did all that it could to gain the confidence of the U.S. and work together with successive administrations to achieve a political settlement with Israel to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land and establish a permanent peace between the two peoples within two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and harmony along the June 4, 1967, lines with minimal, mutually agreed-upon land swaps.

The Palestinians admit that without the U.S. there will be no solution, since the U.S. is the only country in the world that has influence on Israel and can make it move forward and take the needed steps to resolve the conflict. But they need the U.S. administration under President Trump to realize that any Palestinian leadership has limits on concessions, and that no Palestinian leader can go beyond these lines. The Palestinian people believe that they made the maximal possible concession by giving up on 78% of their country, Mandatory Palestine, and recognized it as the State of Israel, in return for a mini-state on 22% alongside Israel.

The Sensitivity of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the most sensitive nerve in the conflict. And President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem touched this nerve and caused the furious Palestinian reaction which angered the US and was met by threats and actions of cutting aid to the UNRWA and to the PA; this language of threats and blackmail is counterproductive.

However, it’s not only the decision on Jerusalem that caused the outrage and dismay on the Palestinian side, but also the environment which was created during Trump’s election campaign and afterward. Speeches and statements made by Vice President Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the nomination of fanatic settlements-supportive David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel and his statements in support of the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories all together created this environment.

Continuing along this path is not in the interest of the Palestinian people, Israel, and the U.S., Palestinians and Americans have to stop and reconsider their moves and try to change the tone and direction.

Fears Must be Dispersed

A careful reading of President Trump’s statement about recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel shows that he left the door open for negotiations on Jerusalem by emphasizing that the borders within the city will be decided by negotiations, and that his recognition will not affect the outcome of negotiations on final-status issues, and his call to respect and observe the status quo of the holy places in the city. But on the other hand, President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem was misinterpreted by the right wing in Israel and understood as a signal to enhance settlements activities and the Judaization of Jerusalem.

The current political environment and the leaks by some Israeli and Arab sources about the expected American peace plan raised the volume of suspicion and fears on the Palestinian side.

What is badly needed now is to disperse these fears and try to bring all parties to the table.

Create a Balance between Israelis and Palestinians on Jerusalem

PRESIDENT TRUMP, from a position of strength, can take the initiative and turn the environment in a positive direction. This requires parallel symmetrical move in the same direction which raised fear and anger on the Palestinian side, by showing that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was intended to move the still water in the path to reviving the peace process.

I call upon President Trump to strike this balance by announcing his recognition of the Palestinian right to a state, recognizing east Jerusalem as its capital, and inviting the two sides to resume talks to define the borders between the two states, including in Jerusalem, and the security needs and arrangements for the two sides.

Such a decision will put the issue in its proper frame, go along with the will and wishes of the international community, prove the American fairness in mediation between the two parties, and make history.

Two States for Two Peoples, the Only Realistic Option

The two-state option remains the only realistic option to resolve the conflict and fulfill the basic demands of the two sides; a Jewish state for the Jews, and ending the occupation and enabling the Palestinians to live in peace and dignity in their state for the Palestinians. The formula is known to all: two states, Israel and Palestine along the June 4, 1967, lines with minimal, mutually agreed-upon land swaps and Jerusalem as two capitals for the two states, and an agreed-upon resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

Peace should be made out of conviction, of free will, mutually agreed-upon satisfaction, not imposed, a fair, win-win game not a zero-sum game. Solutions imposed by a conqueror fall apart at the first possible moment. And history provides many examples.

A permanent peace between Israel and Palestine requires international involvement to complement the US role, not to replace it, because peace should be in the form of a package deal resolving the conflict in all its aspects, including the refugees issue and the conflict on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. This is what is meant by comprehensive peace. And this is the only way to show that America is great and America is making the deal of the century and resolving the conflict that no other country or administration could resolve.

This article originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on February 4, 2018: