The US administration has lowered its expectations regarding the of meetings between President Donald Trump and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. As to Netanyahu, White House officials told Ha’aretz the Israeli leader is much more concerned with altering or suspending the Iran nuclear deal to waste his scheduled one-hour meeting with Trump on anything else.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu in New York on Monday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings, PA Chairmen Abbas will meet with the President on Wednesday.
But while it could be argued that both sides have not contributed much to renewing the peace talks, Israel has created a number of avenues to bypass the PA, and certainly Hamas, and conducts it foreign policy in the region and beyond with a peace deal no longer being a prerequisite to relations – the PA and certainly Hamas have been choking as a result on their inability to serve up the inevitable concessions such a deal requires.
Hence the obvious absence of urgency in this White House’s approach to the peace process and its low expectations of the outcome.
A senior White House official performed a familiar juggling act in conversation with Ha’aretz Sunday, saying the administration was optimistic about the peace process in general, but no one expects a breakthrough or even tangible progress to happen on the sidelines of or inside the UN General Assembly this week.
“This is not the week of the peace process. Achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians remains a very high priority for the president, but the meetings during the General Assembly meeting will be devoted to other issues and will be an opportunity to examine the situation,” the senior official said.
The same senior official said that in light of the visit of the president’s son-in-law/envoy Jared Kushner to the region last month, the administration is not interested in changing its slow pace and caution on the peace thing.
“Every year there is a connection between the United Nations General Assembly and the peace process, and we simply intend to continue the steps we have begun,” the official said, adding that the White House was not interested in making speeches and statements on Israeli-PA peace during the plenary meeting.
However, the administration continues to stress that the peace process is of great importance to the president, as Trump told leaders of Jewish organizations on the occasion of the Jewish New Year. Speaking to Jewish leaders from denominations other than the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist, who either boycotted or were boycotted from the conference call, Trump said he hoped to see tangible progress in the coming new year.
There was some comic relief in a Friday op-ed in The Hill by Alon Ben Meir, a professor and senior fellow in global affairs at New York University and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute (his Ph.D. is from Oxford), who argued that since “the present Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not, and will not, support a two-state solution,” what’s needed on the Israeli side is a “shift to a center-left government committed to a peace agreement becomes a central prerequisite. To that end, the Israeli opposition parties will have to coalesce and establish a framework for a sustainable peace, which will require painful concessions on both sides.”
That line, “Israeli opposition parties will have to coalesce,” made us roll on the floor laughing, for which we are grateful to the good professor.