Ground Truth Briefing | Pressuring the Palestinians: What is the Trump Administration's Objective?
Over the past several months, the Trump administration has carried out a number of measures against both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. In this Ground Truth Briefing, three veteran analysts addressed these developments and their consequences for peace.
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Over the past several months, the Trump administration has carried out a number of measures against both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, including reprogramming assistance to the West Bank; defunding the UNRWA; cutting assistance to people-to-people programs for Palestinians and Israelis; and most recently, closing the PLO mission in Washington.
Is the administration’s objective to pressure the PA to engage in negotiations, punishing the Palestinians for not doing so? Or is the effort a broader one – a fundamental alteration of U.S. policy? In this Ground Truth Briefing, three veteran analysts addressed these developments and their consequences for peace.
Aaron David Miller
"The degree of radio silence that surrounds this plan is extraordinary. Never, in my experience, have I ever encountered a peace process team, let alone the Israelis and the Palestinians, who could keep quiet for as long as they have."
“The message to Palestinians is really clear: don’t imagine that you can go back to the old negotiations, because they are gone; don’t imagine the old agreements mean anything, because we’ve canceled them; don't think you can do that.”
“This amounts to a political war against the Palestinians and a diplomatic war against the Oslo process and against the logic of these peace plans.”
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Peter Lerner
“We see a heavy-handed coercion diplomacy by President Trump, but unfortunately, by trying to force the Palestinians... that way to the negotiating table, [he is] eventually cutting off the legs of that very table." “The challenges that come together with the political position of the Palestinian Authority create for the defense establishment this dire sense of urgency – that [there is a] 60 to 80 percent chance of a conflict with the Palestinians in the West Bank.”
“The idea of weakening the PLO, which is unaccountable, in favor of a stronger Palestinian Authority, which is arguably more transparent and really dedicated to services for the Palestinian people, strikes me as sound policy if that was the intent – and I need to stress 'if that was the intent.'” “I’ve heard from administration officials that the Trump approach is about helping Israel feel more secure in its relationship with the United States, which is a sharp turn from the previous administration, and then would enable the Israelis to make greater concessions when called upon. But what do these concessions look like? We have no idea."
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Peter Lerner
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more