By Alex Bregman
It’s a familiar photo op: the president of the United States meeting with the leader of Israel or the Palestinians.
Ever since Israel declared independence in 1948, every president has tried to help it get along with its Arab neighbors.
At times there’s been progress, but peace with the Palestinians has been an impossible nut to crack.
Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn. In his first trip to Israel, Trump said there is a “rare opportunity” to accomplish peace in the Middle East. He says his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the man who can get a deal done. But Kushner, a family friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, has his work cut out for him.
Here are just some of the roadblocks as Trump travels the perilous path to peace.
First and foremost: the settlements. These are Israeli developments that are beyond the borders established after Israel was founded. Over 400,000 settlers live in disputed territory, including the West Bank. Trump’s support for Israel was unwavering on the campaign trail. But since taking office, he told an Israeli newspaper that he’s “not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace.”
Netanyahu has expanded settlements in recent years. Some have said that taking territory makes the creation of a Palestinian state geographically challenging.
And that’s the next sticking point: the so-called Two State Solution. The idea is to establish two countries for two peoples — the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s been the basis of American policy for more than a decade now.
So what’s been the holdup?
Some Israelis have lost confidence that the Palestinians can be peaceful neighbors. And some Palestinians don’t trust Netanyahu because of internal Israeli politics, including objections from the settlers he would have to displace.
Meanwhile, those still hoping for a deal are concerned about President Trump’s ambassador to Israel as well as a Muslim population that’s growing faster than the Jewish one — threatening Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Another holdup to peace: Iran. Under President Obama, the U.S. struck a deal that included the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China to put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu went to Washington to oppose that deal and, on the campaign trail, President Trump wasn’t a supporter of it either.
If the deal is undone, and Iran resumes its race toward a nuclear weapon, Israel might not feel secure enough to give up territory.
All those obstacles, following years of failure and fighting, stand in the way of a deal in the Middle East … a place that’s sacred to three religions.
Whether this president can make any progress is still unknown, but as far as the roadblocks on the path to peace, at least you can say, “Now I get it.”
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