Does President Donald Trump not remember his Jerusalem announcement or has he now resorted to mocking Palestinians and their struggle for a statehood?
During his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations, Trump said he wanted a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The U.S. leader also said he wanted to unveil a peace plan in the next two to three months.
"I like a two-state solution. That's what I think works best ... That’s my feeling," said Trump.
Whether or not the so-called two-state solution is a viable solution to the Middle East crisis is a separate debate. It is, in essence, at least one of the very (very) limited options that could help resolve one of the most intractable conflicts in the world since it supports the idea of statehood for both Israelis and Palestinians.
However, Trump's willingness to talk about the two-state solution now is a little perplexing. Had he said the same thing in September 2017, it would have still made some sense but it doesn't anymore.
Because of what he said in December 2017 -- an announcement, which, in Trump's own words, marked "the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."
On Dec. 6, 2017, Trump delivered the following lines:
"But today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.
That is why, consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers, and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace."
That day, the Trump administration reversed nearly 70 years of U.S. foreign policy and the United States became the only country in the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It was an announcement that set off a (quite literally) scorching round of opposition in the Middle East as it prompted a number of violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers, who used firepower to quell demonstrations.
Here's a little background to explain why Trump's decision was so controversial:
Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their undivided capital. However, only the former have a military presence in the embattled city since 1967.
Israel’s armed occupation of Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law, and the international community does not recognize Israel's self-declared ownership of the city.
But it's not just Israel that vies for Jerusalem.
Palestinians hope to make the historic city the capital of their future state.
Therefore, gifting Jerusalem to either of the two parties involved in the conflict, without any negotiations, whatsoever, is, in essence, taking sides.
And President Trump did just that -- in fact, more than that.
Trump's decision dealt a blow to the United States' credibility as it had been working as a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians for quite some time.
By moving the U.S. embassy, Trump not only went against international law but also nullified any remaining chances for peace negotiations in the Middle East. He also gave a definitive thumbs up to illegal Israeli occupation, which has displaced over 14,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem and resulted in the demolition of nearly 28,000 Palestinian homes since 1967.
However, the embassy relocation isn't the only move that undermines the possibility of peace negotiations with Palestinians.
In the months following his Jerusalem announcement, Trump also stripped Palestinians of necessary aid.
In August, the Trump administration announced to slash $200 million from Palestinian aid. The cuts, especially, will make life more difficult for the people already living under a paralyzing military blockade in Gaza. A month later, Trump ordered the closure of the diplomatic mission in Washington, thereby disrupting years of engagement with them.
After all this, bringing Palestinians to the negotiation table can be a challenge -- and a two-state solution a distant reality.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Carlos Barria