Trump and the Middle East: Peace Maker or Power Mad?

Fire and fury. This is a saying that could certainly be attributed to the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Decades in the making, with a potent mix of open and covert warfare, religious animosity and ancient rivalries are the fundamental issues over the biblical land. Add to this toxic environment the new era of Trumpian geopolitics and you get an extraordinarily unstable situation. In contrast, this conflict resurges with a predictability about it every few years; with such a stagnant peace process, an argument could be made that more unpredictability is exactly what is needed in these times, as contrary as this may seem.

This is not to say in any way that Trump is the great statesman or ‘dealmaker’ that he likes to portray himself as. In moving the US embassy to Israel, from certain perspectives it could be seen as a move toward shaking up the peace process that has lain stagnant for so long. From Trump However, his Actions are almost purely to satisfy the demands of his evangelical base, aided by the powerful Israeli lobby in the United States.  Therefore, this move speaks more of his lack of care or understanding of contemporary geopolitics and the consequences his actions have. This idea of his true motives is further supported by Trump’s abandonment of the ‘5-power’ accord with Iran. This action will have altogether significantly more damaging effects in the general conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is still relatively new and ever-changing. Furthermore, this unpredictability seriously overshadowed the summit between Trump and Kim-Jong-Un in Singapore.

In the short term, Trump’s actions have likely already caused more casualties for the Palestinians and is likely to result in increased unrest particularly in Gaza. This is not to say that everything is hopeless; there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, long as it may be. In the Oslo accords, it was agreed between Israel and Palestine that the fate of Jerusalem would be decided further down the road once the peace process had come far enough. For the first time in 20 years, the status of Jerusalem has been shaken up; whether that is a positive or negative however, remains to be seen. The de facto recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has also lead to the recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine by Turkey. Had this not happened within the context of Trumps’ move, it would have been a monumental change in direction of the peace process.

Amidst all of Trump’s hubris and vapid tweets, there is opportunity. Now that trump has destabilized the situation enough to force significant action on behalf of Israel and Palestine, they might finally stop beating the dead horse that is the 2-state solution. The main demand of this solution was the relocation of 400,000 Israeli settlers. Given that this was never realistically an issue that would have been overcome without war, it’s just as well that this situation has been shaken up enough to try something new.

What realistically should be pursued now is a one-state solution. Given all the complexities that would be involved in the creation of two, or even three separate states for the Palestinians and Israelis, it would be virtually impossible to guarantee the security of Israel. The eventual domination of Palestine by Iran at this point would be almost pre-determined should Palestine become an independent state without any oversight. it seems much more likely that a single, unified state would be the most workable solution within some sort of federalised system.

This system would give the Palestinians unfettered access to the entire ancestral land and make them equal citizens to the Israelis. In addition, it would mean that Israel would have a real stake and control in the security of the combined nation, able to enforce the rule of law and able to prevent any further acts of terror or violence within its own borders. It would be able to do this legally, and without having to resort to war. The holy city of Jerusalem would be a free or joint capital city with the governments of both federated states having their legislative and executive branches based in the city, eliminating any sort of diplomatic bias between the two. Having a federated national government on top of this that would have jurisdiction over both would also be required to maintain balance.

In the proposal and negotiation stages, this style of federated state-based system would have significant opposition from both sides, but it seems to be the best sort of compromise that would benefit the most demands, while giving the fewest concessions from either side. Practically, this would be the most workable solution in the current era, barring some dramatic shift in the politics of either Palestine or Israel, which seems incredibly unlikely at this point.

With both Israel, Palestine and the US all promoting a 2-state solution, unfortunately this proposal seems like a longshot, even though the single state solution would have many benefits and could probably be achieved much faster and with significantly less bloodshed. On the Israeli side, their penchant for nationalistic zeal and hawkish outlook poses significant obstacles. The Gazan support of Hamas and it’s seeming unwillingness to consider true non-violent forms of protest also make it more difficult to get Israel to agree. Given Mr Trump’s unpredictability, it seems to be a coin-toss as to whether he would end up supporting the single state solution. Trump has been shown to upend the established order before, so his actions can’t be predicted based on how a normal politician would act in this situation.

Now that Trump has met with Kim, it seems much more likely that he is looking for his next foreign policy win. During the negotiations, he gave many concessions to North Korea and this bodes well for this one state proposal. From what we have seen, Trump has viewed North Korea as a ‘bad guy’ state, just like Palestine and Hamas. We can be hopeful that If he can give concessions to one ‘bad guy’, it opens the door to do the same with the others. Maybe his ‘Fire and Fury’ technique is the kind of madness needed to deal with an equally mad world.

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