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Israel-US Relations - Palestine

Candidate Trump told the British Daily Mail 03 May 2016 that he supported unlimited expansion of Israeli settlements. Donald Trump came down foursquare in favor of new construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, telling Dailymail.com that the controversial practice has to 'keep going' and 'keep moving forward.'

In interview with Haaretz 23 June 2016, David Friedman, the candidate’s co-adviser on Israeli affairs, said Trump didn't believe Palestinian state is 'an American imperative.' He's also not concerned over possibility of binational state: 'Nobody really knows how many Palestinians live there.' If elected U.S. president in November, Donald Trump would support Israel’s annexing parts of the West Bank. Asked about his relationship with Netanyahu, Trump called him 'a very good guy' for whom he had made a campaign ad in 2013. 'I don't know him that well, but I think I'd have a very good relationship with him,' Trump said. 'I think that President Obama has been extremely bad to Israel.'

American presidents of both parties had supported the creation of a Palestinian state for the past five decades. As president, Trump would be unlikely to adopt the policies of President Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, that a Palestinian state is a US security interest. A profile of Friedman published by Makor Rishon described him as the lead candidate for the job of ambassador to Israel if Trump won the election.

Friedman said “This is an issue that Israel has to deal with on its own because it will have to deal with the consequences. His feeling about Israel is that it is a robust democracy. The Israelis have to make the decision on whether or not to give up land to create a Palestinian state. If the Israelis don’t want to do it, so he doesn’t think they should do it. It is their choice..."

During Trump’s candidacy, pro-Israel activists rewrote the Republican party’s platform to become much more deferential to Israel, deleting the party’s former support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In Jerusalem, however, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely welcomed the announcement of Friedman as ambassador. "The expressed intention to appoint Friedman is very welcome news for Israel. His positions reflect the desire to strengthen the standing of Israel's capital Jerusalem at this time and to underscore that the settlements have never been the true problem in the area," a statement from Hotovely said.

The U.S. embassy has been located in Tel Aviv for more than 68 years but during the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to move it to Jerusalem, a move almost certain to provoke a reaction from Muslims around the world. The United States and other world powers do not regard Jerusalem as Israel's capital and in addition to the U.S. embassy, other nations' embassies are in Tel Aviv, as they do not recognize Israel's annexation of Arab East Jerusalem following its capture in the 1967 Middle East war.

Background

The main area of friction between the United States and Israel had concerned Washington's efforts to balance its special ties to Jerusalem with its overall Middle Eastern interests and the need to negotiate an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which the United States has played a major mediating role. In 1948 the United States hoped that peace could be achieved between Israel and the Arab states, but this expectation was quickly dashed when Arab nations refused to recognize Israel's independence. American hopes were dashed again when in 1951 Jordan's King Abdullah, with whom some form of settlement seemed possible, was assassinated and in 1953 when the Johnston Plan, a proposal for neighboring states to share the water of the Jordan River, was rejected.

The June 1967 War provided a major opportunity for the United States to serve as a mediator in the conflict; working with Israel and the Arab states the United States persuaded the United Nations (UN) Security Council to pass Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967. The resolution was designed to serve as the basis for a peace settlement involving an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the June 1967 War in exchange for peace and Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist. Many disputes over the correct interpretation of a clause concerning an Israeli withdrawal followed the passage of the UN resolution, which was accepted by Israel. The resolution lacked any explicit provision for direct negotiations between the parties. Although the Arab states and the Palestinians did not accept the resolution, it has remained the basis of United States policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In December 1969, the Rogers Plan, named after United States Secretary of State William P. Rogers, although unsuccessful in producing peace negotiations, succeeded in ending the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt that followed the June 1967 War and established a cease-fire along the Suez Canal. In 1971 United States Assistant Secretary of State Joseph P. Sisco proposed an "interim Suez Canal agreement" to bring about a limited Israeli withdrawal from the canal, hoping that such an action would lead to a peace settlement. The proposal failed when neither Israel nor Egypt would agree to the other's conditions.

In October 1973, at the height of the Arab-Israeli war, United States-Soviet negotiations paved the way for UN Security Council Resolution 338. In addition to calling for an immediate cease-fire and opening negotiations aimed at implementing Resolution 242, this resolution inserted a requirement that future talk be conducted "between the parties concerned," that is, between the Arab and the Israelis themselves.

In September 1975, United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy" achieved the Second Sinai Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Egypt, laying the groundwork for later negotiations between the two nations. The United States also pledged, as part of a memorandum of understanding with Israel, not to negotiate with the PLO until it was prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist and to renounce terrorism.

By 2016 the national aspirations of the Palestinians were in difficulty for at least two reasons: animosity and division between Abbas's Fatah party and the Islamist group Hamas, which has shattered political unity, and the extent of Israel's settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is slowly eating away at the land left for a state of Palestine. Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. There were 350,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and 250,000 in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian population of the West Bank is about 2.8 million, while around 300,000 live in East Jerusalem.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a right-wing party leader who backs Israeli settlement building and opposes a Palestinian state, made the implications of Trump's 2016 win very clear in a rapidly released statement. "The era of a Palestinian state is over," Bennett said. Under President Trump, Israeli analysts expect there to be less pressure from the United States to halt settlement building, meaning the settler population will grow unchecked, pushing the faint possibility of a two-state solution - the aim of diplomacy for decades - further out of reach. "The Palestinian people hold no hope that the change of American president will mean a change in policy towards the Palestinian cause," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "That policy is constant and biased in favor of Israel's occupation."




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Page last modified: 16-12-2016 19:22:43 ZULU