At his speech to the UN last week, the president made an unusual omission: there was no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, hitherto a mainstay of the annual addresses by American presidents. This, writes Evelyn Gordon, may be indicative of a novel approach to the issue:
[Donald Trump] appears to be trying to apply serious pressure to the Palestinians rather than only to Israel. Take, for instance, his administration’s consistent refusal to say that the goal of the peace process is a two-state solution. Since efforts to achieve a two-state solution have repeatedly failed for almost 25 years now, it makes obvious sense for anyone who’s serious about trying to solve the conflict to at least consider whether this is really the most workable option. But even if, as seems likely, the administration actually does believe in the two-state solution, refusing to commit to it publicly serves an important purpose.
[Merely] insisting that the end goal be a Palestinian state is a major concession to the Palestinians—something that has unfortunately been forgotten over the last quarter-century. After all, throughout Israel’s first 45 years of existence, there was almost wall-to-wall consensus among Israelis that a Palestinian state would endanger their country. . . . [U]ntil Trump came along, the Palestinians won this major concession for free. Now, by refusing to declare a two-state solution as his goal, he has essentially told the Palestinians, for the first time in the history of the peace process, that every concession they previously pocketed is reversible unless and until they actually sign a deal.
In other words, again for the first time in the history of the peace process, he has told the Palestinians they have something to lose by intransigence. And if they want to reinstate America’s commitment to a Palestinian state, they will have to give something in exchange.
The same goes for Trump’s refusal even to mention the Palestinians in his UN speech. When former Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly insisted that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was the world’s most important foreign-policy problem (a message routinely echoed by European diplomats), that gave the Palestinians tremendous leverage. . . .
There are ample grounds for skepticism about whether Trump’s approach will work; based on the accumulated evidence of the last quarter-century, I consider it far more likely that the Palestinians simply aren’t interested in signing a deal on any terms. . . . [But] whether he succeeds or fails, Trump deserves credit for trying something new.