Despite tumult in the Arab world, this past Monday’s announcement by the Trump administration that it was closing down the PLO office in Washington, which, since 1994, has given the group a prominent platform in the capital and also proximity to officials, was not all that surprising. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas publicly announced to his UN audience last November that he was calling for an investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the International Criminal Court, he was promptly reminded by the State Department that according to a federal law, the office could remain open only if the Secretary of State certifies that the PLO was not working to bring either the U.S. or Israel before the ICC.
And of course, the announced closing was only one of the dramatic developments signaling to the Palestinians that the forgiving years of the Obama years were over and that they would be held to a strict standard when it came to the interests of the U.S. and its allies.
President Trump’s February 2017 refusal to continue to unequivocally commit the U.S. to a “two state solution” should have been the first warning. Certainly, when that signal announcement was followed ten months later with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – after three previous presidents promised they would order the move but failed to follow through – any remaining doubts should have been erased.
And then there was the cut-off in aid because the PA would not suspend its stipends to terrorists who were either killed or jailed by Israel. Similarly, the U.S. more recently cut more than $300 million from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency because it generally underwrote the Palestinian refusal to engage in realistic negotiations with Israel, specifically resolving the refugee problem.
Plainly, Mr. Trump thinks out of the box and is fully prepared to act accordingly. Aside from his pursuit of U.S. interests in the above instances, in terms of Israel he has really done nothing more than level the negotiating playing field. He has striven to remove those issues on which Israel, as the victor in several wars of politicide directed at it by the Arab world, could never realistically be expected to concede. Perhaps equally as important, there is also the message that Mr. Trump cannot be counted on to offer a better deal down the road.
And in all of this, as strange as it might sound to some, the president could well have brought the possibility for peace ever closer.