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Trump: 'Close the open hand out of love'

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Monday, 16 January 2017


President-elect Trump's appointment of David Friedman (known for his support of the settlements) to be the US ambassador to Israel, his appointment of Walid Phares (a Maronite Christian known for his pro-Israel track record and distaste for the Palestinians) as his Middle East advisor, and charging his son-in-law Jared Kushner (who is a staunch supporter of Israel and was recently appointed as Senior Advisor to the President) to take the lead in the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all suggest there could be a major change in US policy toward the conflict.

These appointments, coupled with Trump's campaign promise to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, may well translate to unfettered support for settlements and the annexation of more Palestinian territory. Should this come to pass, it will jeopardize the prospect of a two-state solution and the future of Israel as a viable Jewish state, not to mention the endless violence that would ensue.

We are already hearing the alarm bells from various Arab capitals. The victory of the Palestinians on the passage of UN Resolution 2334 that condemns the Israeli settlements has now been overshadowed by a sense of deep trepidation, while stirring major concerns among moderate Israelis and Europeans who don't know what to expect and how troublesome the situation may become.

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Many members of the Israeli government feel emboldened by these developments. Education Minister Naftali Bennett has called for the annexation of the third largest settlement Ma'ale Adumim, a few minutes' drive from East Jerusalem, which would virtually cut the West Bank in half and prevent the rise of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. He further implored Netanyahu to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state during his first meeting with President Trump, stating "The next few weeks present a unique window of opportunity for Israel."

For Netanyahu, Trump as president is simply heaven-sent. He believes that even though he won't succeed in convincing Trump to shred the Iran deal because of the international repercussions which Trump cannot dismiss, the Trump administration will leave him to his own devices to expand the settlements and gradually render the prospect of a Palestinian state unfeasible by creating irreversible facts on the ground.

The irony here is that many of those who claim to care about Israel's future security and wellbeing do not want to acknowledge that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not a fading phenomenon. Yes, Israel can build another 100 settlements and annex much of the West Bank, but what then? Will the Palestinians, the Arab world, and the international community simply sit on their hands and do nothing?

Those unflinching supporters of Israel should be true to themselves and answer-where will Israel be in 10 or 15 years? Will it be a Jewish state? A democratic state? An apartheid state? A bi-national state? What legal system will be in place to govern the West Bank? Will it be civilian or military? Will there be two different laws, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers?

What is the vision of the detractors who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state about the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians? What does Netanyahu mean when he repeatedly invokes the Jews' claim to the entire "land of Israel?" Does Bennett have any clue what will happen following the annexation of Ma'ale Adumim, or the annexation of Area C which represents 61 percent of the West Bank?

What will be the reaction of the Arab states? Can Netanyahu count on their cooperation during the next Palestinian uprising, which is bound to erupt once their hope for a state is dashed completely? What will be the outcome of the next Gaza war, and what will be the extent of the collateral damage?

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Yes, Israel can reoccupy Gaza and decapitate Hamas' leaders (as Israel's Defense Minister Lieberman recently retorted), but is Israel willing to govern over 1.8 million Palestinians? At what cost, in both blood and treasure? If not, what happens when the next round of rockets rains down daily, terrifying every Israeli?

Can Israeli technology and anti-terror capabilities that Netanyahu boasts about bring peace? How, one might ask? Will the Arab states simply forget about the Palestinians' plight only because they are currently collaborating with Israel on matters of security and intelligence-sharing to lessen Iranian threats?

Finally, have Netanyahu, Bennett, and their like considered the international outcry, condemnation, and sanctions that would ensue, and how isolated Israel will be? Have they thought about what Jews around the world would be subjected to? Anti-Semitism will intensify and Jewish businesses and organizations will be seen as 'fair targets' for terrorism.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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