Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Tower, September 25, 2016. Credit: Israel Government Press Office (GPO)

My First Piece of Advice to President Elect Trump

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Gershon Baskin’s best advice to the new American President is STAY AWAY and don’t raise hopes of a new American initiative.

In my mind the Trump victory does not change the bottom line of what I think US policy should be on the Israel-Palestine question. President Obama was the most likely US President to take a firm stand on moving the two states solution forward, and he did not. There has never really been a possibility for a Pax-Americana – Neither Israel nor Palestine would or should accept an imposed solution to the conflict.

The only real solution to the conflict, assuming that I correctly understand what the conflict is about – territory and identity (each side’s demonstrated preparedness to fight, kill and die for a territorial expression of their identity) was and remains two states for two peoples. Israel’s ability to continue to define itself as a democratic nation-state of the Jewish people is more than ever dependent on ending the occupation and seeing an independent, hopefully democratic and peaceful Palestine next to Israel. The Palestinians ability to achieve for themselves a piece of land they can call their own is dependent on reaching a peace agreement with Israel in which, in exchange for genuine recognition of Israel, Palestine receives liberation. Any agreement will be dependent on Israel and Palestine assuming full responsibility for security of both states. All of the issues have to be resolved in order for there to be a genuine agreement.

The only path towards reaching an agreement is through direct negotiations. No one will do it for Israel and Palestine except the Israelis and the Palestinians. No Security Council Resolution or another Obama speech will bring about an Israeli Palestinian agreement if the Israelis and Palestinians don’t negotiate it together. It would be beneficial for both sides to expand the circle and invite Egypt and Jordan to the table, but the core remains Israel and Palestine.

My best advice to the new American President is STAY AWAY! Don’t raise hopes of a new American initiative. Don’t offer to help to resolve the conflict. Offer support for any agreement that the two sides reach. Offer significant help – even more than was offered in the past – but the price tag is reaching an agreement. I would not propose cutting US aid to Israel (not only because it would not happen in a Trump Administration anyway) because Israel needs to feel secure in order to make real concessions. Please don’t encourage unilateral actions of either side that could make the process of reaching agreements more difficult – that means on settlement building and on Jerusalem related issues.

Let Israel and Palestine know that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not on the agenda of the new US Administration – that is the best thing that President elect Trump could do for Israel and Palestine. Focus on bringing an end to the war and suffering in Syria. Strengthen Egypt and Jordan. Continue to assist the Palestinian, mainly the private sector to build a more secure Palestinian economy. Take a strong stand on radical Islamic terrorism, against Al-Qaida and against ISIS. Help to create a more secure Middle East and a more secure world.

But let the Israelis and Palestinians know that they together must resolve their conflict.

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin

Gershon Baskin is one of the most recognizable names in the Middle East Peace process. His dedication to creating a culture of peace and environmental awareness, coupled with his impeccable integrity, has earned him the trust of the leaders of all sides of the century old conflict. Few people have such far-reaching and positive impacts on promoting peace, security, prosperity and bi-national relationships.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.
Gershon Baskin