Trump Can Still Make Lemonade From Jerusalem Lemons
The Israeli press is reporting that the Trump Administration is in disarray about its plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The plan itself is complete and the authors think it's great. What they fear is that the Palestinians will not even take it seriously. To avoid dead-on- arrival, they are postponing release, possibly until the fall, but they have no strategy for turning around the consequences of their error in pushing forward with Jerusalem recognition, outside the negotiations process.
As impossible as it may seem, there remains a way that President Trump can turn the Jerusalem-recognition fiasco around and actually emerge as a statesman, unorthodox for sure, but perhaps onto something that others have missed. The key here is for the Administration to build on a widely ignored sentence in the President's Jerusalem recognition statement. In leading up to recognition the President said that the step he was taking, "marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."
If we pull back from the specific substance of the President's Jerusalem statement, and ask what it represents by way of "a new approach," it appears to represent a judgment that in the absence of negotiations, there may be constructive steps that third parties can take that will increase the likelihood of successful negotiations, if and when they resume.
Regardless of whether or not the step the US took will have this effect, and it clearly did not, the question that emerges is whether there are issues are there that might be usefully addressed by third parties, outside the context of negotiations.
One big possibility exists, and it would be a win-win for both Israel and the Palestinians. Further, it is eminently doable. There exists a way to make substantial progress on two very big issues: Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, and international recognition of the State of Palestine. This latter would both nail down the two-state solution as the only option, and could be the key to a transfer of power in Gaza, from Hamas, not to Fatah, but to the State of Palestine.
The key to achieving this is the pending application of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations, an application that will only be acted on by the General Assembly, if it is given a favorable recommendation from the Security Council. In the past, the United States (and Senator Cardin) worked very hard to prevent such recommendation. Why might it be different this time?
The key to all this is something Secretary of State John Kerry noted in his final speech on the conflict. Kerry called attention to a little known fact, that the 1947 Partition Resolution that called for the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, is cited not only in the Israeli Declaration of Independence by also in the Palestinian Declaration of 1988. Specifically, the Palestinian Declaration reads:
"Despite the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian Arab people following upon . . . U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, yet it is this Resolution that still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensure the right of the Palestinian Arab people to sovereignty."
Thus, the Palestinians, while still holding true to the central element of their narrative, that the establishment of Israel was unjust, reversed the PLO Covenant position on "international legitimacy" and now linked the international legitimacy of Palestine to that of the Jewish state. Yes, the words "Jewish State" actually appear in the Palestinian declaration!
Thus, in the face of an expected application for membership of Palestine in the United Nations, the Trump administration could advance a UN Security Council Resolution that says:
"If the State of Palestine, in an application for membership to the United Nations, affirms that the State seeking admission is the State proclaimed in the 1988 Declaration, and again acknowledges the international legitimacy of the Partition Resolution of 1947, noting again that said Resolution called for both an Arab and a Jewish state, the Council will recommend to the General Assembly, admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a full member state, with its border with Israel and questions of lines of sovereignty with respect to Jerusalem, to be decided by the two states within a process of negotiations."
Given that Prime Minister Netanyahu has, more than anyone else in the world, emphasized that the key to ending the conflict is Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, it is untenable that he could dismiss such movement; yet for President Abbas, satisfying these conditions, though presently difficult, in truth represents simply re-affirming the, largely unknown, positive legacy of Yasser Arafat who proclaimed the Declaration and of Palestinian national poet, Mahmoud Darwish, who penned it. President Trump's "new approach" offers a way for the Trump Administration to reconcile with the United Nations, to address the issue viewed by the Israeli government as most essential, to move future negotiations to a more balanced state-to-state framework, while at the same time laying the basis for Hamas to gradually transfer de facto sovereignty in Gaza to the State of Palestine.