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Donald Trump right to restart quest for Middle East peace

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Credit: TNS / Olivier Douliery

In addressing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, the goal must be peace, along with safety, stability and civil rights for all. Not the validation of one point of view over another, or the victory of one people over another, or the pre-eminence of one religion over another, or the triumph of one politician over another.

Peace. Safety. Stability. Civil rights.

President Donald Trump, who spoke at a news conference Wednesday in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their formal meeting, is rattling the accepted framework of how to reach that goal: the two-state solution that has anchored every significant peace proposal since 1991 and has been official U.S. policy since 2001. And in this case, Trump’s willingness to shake up the process has to be welcome.

The prior approach to achieve lasting peace has accomplished nothing. The continuing strife, a primary motivator of insurgency and terrorism among Muslim extremists, destabilizes the entire region and threatens lives around the world. The constant acrimony and Israeli government control over the mostly Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem too often lead to violence and abuses toward civilians on both sides. The unwillingness of Palestinian leaders to recognize Israel’s right to exist continues to poison the process. The aggressive settling of Jews in lands that would have to be Palestinian in a two-state division does likewise.

In his comments, Trump showed a willingness to find a solution.

“I’m looking at two states and one state,” he said, pushing for a deal where others have pushed ideological tenets. “I like the one that both parties can live with. I can live with either one.”

Trump reiterated his recent statement that the settlement of Jews in Palestinian areas isn’t helping the process, telling Netanyahu to “hold back” and saying, “As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises.” Turning toward Netanyahu, Trump then said, “You know that, right?” Whether Netanyahu and Palestinian leaders can accept that is the crucial question.

Trump is putting his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has long-standing personal ties to Netanyahu, in charge of this peace process. A big shift is in the emphasis by the administration on getting other Arab nations, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia at the forefront, to push Palestinians to commit to a deal toward peace and stability while the United States pushes Israel toward the same goal.

To get there, politicians and religious leaders in all of these factions and nations, including the United States, must stop using the conflict to inflame supporters. The tables must turn so that the people demand peace for all rather than victory over their perceived enemies.

In Israel and the occupied territories and around the world, most people want to live safe and fruitful lives, and allow others to do the same. However, in their tragic willingness to deny the humanity of their opponents, deeply committed minorities on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute have made the recently attempted path to peace impassable. Trump has little choice but to try to build every possible path toward that goal. — The editorial board