In the midst of the upheaval regarding President Trump’s travel pause, there was one Trump action that received little news coverage and what it did get was unfairly negative. When read with objective eyes, the administration’s statement on “settlements” was the most pro-Israel statement on settlement communities ever.
The immediate reaction by the liberal media was to report that Trump was getting tough with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The New York Times headlined, “Trump Embraces Pillars of Obama’s Foreign Policy.’ And from the pro-Israel community, the reaction was OMG Trump is taking a giant step backward from his campaign position. Both positions are wrong.
Let’s take a look at what each segment of the statement said:
“We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”
President Obama felt so strongly settlements were an impediment to peace that he made it a bigger issue than the Palestinians did. Obama used his belief that settlement communities were an impediment to peace as his rationale for abstaining from an anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution during the last weeks of his administration.
“The construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal [peace].”
The administration was giving Israel permission to build new housing units in existing communities as long as they did not expand their territory. The White House did say that the building of entirely “new settlements” is not great, but said it without the venom of Obama. That is an 180 degree turn from the Obama view.
“As the president has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”
No hate no venom, no public condemnation, just a “please shut it down for two weeks until we can talk.” Further, the statement did not mention two-state solution, nor did it mention Jerusalem. Some might say the two issues are implied in the first line, but probably they were left out as not to walk back from the Trump campaign’s pre-election stance as outlined in a position paper released by Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman:
“A two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians appears impossible as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. …The U.S. cannot support the creation of a new state where terrorism is financially incentivized, terrorists are celebrated by political parties and government institutions, and the corrupt diversion of foreign aid is rampant. The U.S. should not support the creation of a state that forbids the presence of Christian or Jewish citizens, or that discriminates against people on the basis of religion.”
The Trump administration’s statement on settlement communities allows for Israel to build in existing communities, does not push for a divided Jerusalem or a state for a Palestinian Authority more concerned with enriching themselves and using Israel as a scapegoat than in making peace.
With all that said, why did the Trump administration feel the need to release the one paragraph statement?
As with conversation between Trump and the Australian president, and Trump and the Mexican president, someone in the administration (perhaps in the State Department) leaked an incorrect version of the story. In this case, a private communication with Israel was leaked to the Jerusalem Post, and the administration felt they had to release a statement to clear up the untruths in the Post article.
The anti-Israel source of the Jerusalem Post article must be pretty disappointed in the statement the leak helped to generate.