While the meeting signals the administration's commitment to dialogue and engagement with the Palestinians, it could also present a valuable opportunity to explore meaningful and effective ways to establish a just peace by ending the occupation and ensuring the establishment of a viable sovereign Palestinian state.
If Trump is truly committed to "striking a deal," then it is imperative he distance himself from the repeated failures of the past. "Business as usual" will produce only the same results that have led us to the current untenable status quo.
To produce a just and workable vision of peace requires Trump to bypass the Israel lobby, reject the rhetoric of hate and the Israeli pre-emptive campaign to slander and malign Abbas. Adopting dehumanizing language and extremist positions would only embolden the most hard-line, bigoted and anti-peace elements in Israel that have been instrumental in creating the current crisis.
We recognize the administration's call to suspend settlement activity as well as its decision to reconsider the US Embassy move to Jerusalem
. These moves signal the new administration may be starting to understand regional realities and the requirements of making peace in a turbulent time.
Nevertheless, the "outside in approach"
-- making use of regional Arab allies to help reach a peace deal -- would seek to normalize regional ties with Israel at the expense of the Palestinian right to freedom and statehood. This approach has been unworkable in the past and still has no takers. The Arab Peace Initiative still stands and offers Israel normalized ties across the region after it withdraws from all Arab territory it occupied in 1967.
A just vison of peace must be grounded in international law and recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination on the 1967 borders. The two-state solution, the internationally accepted framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, is hanging by the thinnest of threads. We are now approaching a critical crossroads. Trump faces the choice of either championing a two-state solution and working to salvage it, or being left with the alternatives. If the two-state solution is allowed to die, we are left with two options: a one state that perpetuates the occupation, extremism and oppression, exacerbating a reality of apartheid, or a one state that ensures equal rights and citizenship for all, which requires adopting a whole new paradigm.
As Trump and his administration gear up to pursue the "ultimate deal," they should be wary of previous pitfalls of the "peace process." The evergreen US approach of allowing Israel to act as an entity above the law not only undermines the peace process but destroys the very foundations of peace. This extends to past practices of acting as Israel's lawyer inside the negotiating room.
Too many times before has the United States coordinated with Israel on strategy, substance and approach, leaving the Palestinians in the dark, or offered Israel inducements and incentives, while the Palestinians were met with threats and coercion. Such an approach has repeatedly been proven to be counterproductive and unjust.
In this stark asymmetry of power between occupier and occupied, balance is needed. Israel must be held accountable for its actions, whether it's reneging on agreements, neglecting its moral and legal obligations or altering the landscape of a future Palestinian state through land theft and settlement construction.
This one-sidedness toward Israel has implications that have manifested themselves in diminished US standing in the region. As US Defense Secretary of James Mattis once said
, "I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel and ... moderate Arabs who want to be with us ... can't come out publicly in support of people who don't show respect for the Arab Palestinians."
His words also held a warning that such bias is detrimental to US standing, interests and security concerns throughout the region.
At this juncture, after 50 years of occupation, the United States and the world must end the oppression of a people that have been held captive for too long. Without accountability and the willingness to stand up to Israel, any pursuit of peace will be hollow and doomed to fail.
During Abbas' visit to Washington, this US administration can decide whether it wants to join us to create peace, stability and prosperity in a turbulent region and an unsettled world, or it can take the road well-traveled of allowing Israel to perpetuate the occupation and violate the most basic norms of legal, civil and moral behavior.