The announced end of American assistance to UNRWA and the subsequent closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Washington office should end whatever restless speculation remained about Trump’s strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the decisions to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and seek a narrower definition of a Palestinian refugee didn’t make its intentions clear enough, the administration’s most recent moves surely confirm two extremely troubling observations.

First, the administration does not understand the importance of appearing impartial. While it’s true the U.S. and Israel have a longstanding alliance, it was also understood these interests did not traverse into the minutia of the conflict with the Palestinians. In other words, the U.S. was committed to Israel’s security against external threats but did not view Israeli control of this or that settlement to be critical. Likewise, America’s role was to assist in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement, one that would resolve the refugee issue, not stack the cards entirely in Israel’s favor.

Since the Madrid Conference in 1991, the Palestinians have not been a shared adversary of the alliance. This has largely held, with some variation, under both Republican and Democratic administrations since. When this equilibrium has been disturbed, it’s been in response to specific events such as a rise in terrorist attacks, not the longstanding facts of the conflict.

In recent years, leftists seeking to apply pressure on Israel to cease its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the blockade of Gaza, have been featured prominently in the press, academia, and in activist circles. What Trump’s Middle East team has done, perhaps unwittingly, is elevate the rightist pro-Israel case for strong American intervention in the conflict. It is this disruptive perspective, and not the one on the far-left, which presents the most potent challenge to proponents of the two-state solution.

In 2016, the controversial historian and writer Daniel Pipes began promoting his “Israel Victory” project, which has since spawned small caucuses in both Congress and the Knesset. In their peculiar reading of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall philosophy, Israel must beat the Palestinians into submission, including through settlement construction, until they accept Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state as well as an arrangement overwhelmingly tilted in Israel’s favor (the risks of continued occupation and settlement construction are, of course, blithely dismissed).

The Trump administration’s policies toward the Palestinians, especially last Friday’s revelation that it ordered a stop to all future funding for peacemaking programs that are inclusive of Palestinians in the occupied territories, can reasonably be viewed as an attempt to implement such an “Israel Victory” strategy.

While Jason Greenblatt, the main architect of the administration’s still-unreleased plan, continues to insist that Israel will find things it objects to in the Trump plan, all of the administration’s coercive measures have so far been aimed at the Palestinians. It is true, as the administration said upon closing the P.L.O. office, that the Palestinians are not engaging with American efforts. Left unsaid was why: the administration antagonized the Palestinians by upending the sensible policy of leaving the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv until a final status agreement resolved the dispute over Jerusalem. It was the abdication of neutrality that compelled the Palestinians to walk away in December. Also left unsaid was that Israel has been no more helpful than the Palestinians in recent months.

Second, the administration has a weak grasp of the domestic politics of Israel and Palestine, possibly a result of its staggering reliance on non-experts, Trump family members, and ideologues in shaping its regional approach.

By publicly embracing Israel and stiffing the Palestinians, the United States is encouraging irredentist forces in Israel to push Netanyahu even further right; after all, if the United States is firm in its belief that the Palestinians are solely responsible for the lack of a solution, then it shouldn’t mind Israel unilaterally annexing Ma’ale Adumim. It would be just another matter to be “taken off the table,” like Jerusalem and refugees. With an election required by law within the next 13 months, Netanyahu will already be focused on burnishing his nationalist credentials.

There was once a centrist tendency in Israeli politics, one that emphasized the importance of relations with the United States and that competed with the annexationist right even in Likud governments that lacked a considerable moderate bloc. In recent years, it was embodied by Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who often travelled the world as a sort of shadow foreign minister promoting an alternative and pragmatic approach to Netanyahu’s diplomatic policies. By being overly deferential to Israeli interests and outwardly hostile to Palestinian ones, Trump has decimated this balancing force. As a result, writes Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth, “the feeling on the right is that the sky’s the limit.”

The incentives offered to the Palestinians are similarly perverse. While Israel remains actively engaged in negotiations with Hamas, a process that will likely conclude in a superior arrangement for the terrorist organization, the United States (with Israel cheering on the sidelines) is pummeling the Palestinian faction that has recognized Israel and continues to cooperate with it on security matters. The message: violence gets you a seat at the table, and peaceful agitation––and that is, if we are being honest, what the P.L.O.’s campaign in international institutions amounts to––is the real threat that will not be tolerated.

Earlier I suggested the Trump administration may not be conscious of what it’s doing. The Obama administration, after all, made its fair share of avoidable blunders. Not one of them, however, created the impression the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in reaching a two-state solution. The Trump administration arguably crossed the Rubicon in December, when the Jerusalem announcement was made. Now, there should be no argument. The deed is done. Unless the next U.S. administration is willing to invest tremendous political and diplomatic capital in rehabilitating America’s reputation with the Palestinians, which could then come at a steep cost with relations to Israel, supporters of the two-state solution should look elsewhere for leadership.

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