September 11, 2018 14:57:55
When Donald Trump became President, like many before him, he said he wanted a settlement of the decades-long dispute between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
He even sent his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a personal envoy to attempt what no-one had succeeded in achieving before.
This was Donald Trump, master deal maker. What could be so hard? Well, everything actually.
If a deal depended on the US being seen as an honest broker, it’s as distant as ever.
Mr Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, announced the Government was ordering the closure of the Palestinian mission in Washington.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) office was overreaching its diplomatic status, he said. And the Palestinian leadership was refusing to talk to the Israeli Government. So, the mission has to go. For now.
It is remarkable a demand for peace talks should lead to the closure of the most direct channel with the country that has the greatest outside influence over the process.
Clearly, the Trump administration is frustrated with the lack of progress and is putting the diplomatic weights on Ramallah.
The Palestinians have a different take.
They see more Israeli houses being built in the occupied territories. They feel a land squeeze in Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem.
And they rail at the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, complicating, they say, the possibility of a lasting deal.
And now, with the closure of their mission in Washington, fears of a deeply one-sided approach by the Trump administration will confirm their belief that it’s two against one, that a close relationship between the US President and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, means Palestinian aspirations are being ignored.
Mr Trump’s approach to international affairs was always going to be different.
He has long said bold new ideas are needed to break old impasses.
But many Palestinians would argue what’s been broken is any semblance of US impartiality.
How that perception will contribute to the stated goal of two nations living in peace is, for now, unfathomable.
September 11, 2018 14:54:47