President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there stunned many observers. Who would’ve thought we’d see such a dramatic break from U.S. policy on the city’s status? What about the implications for the two-state solution, the hallmark of the decades-long peace process between Israel and the Palestinians? How could this happen?
A better question is: How could this not happen? For the last 25 years, the peace process has been hurtling toward this very moment. Decades of playing the lopsided negotiations game has brought us face-to-face with the simple truth that the Palestinians pay a serious price for not negotiating—indeed, their lands are taken by Israeli settlements, some people are jailed and killed, and many are forced to eke out an existence on the margins of the Israeli economy—while the Israelis do not. Israel has had comparatively little motivation to negotiate when, with U.S. cover, it has been allowed to continue the status quo of occupying the West Bank and blockading the Gaza Strip.
For many ordinary Palestinians, the move simply reinforced what they already believed: The U.S. was never an honest broker between the two parties, and the pipe dream of pursuing statehood under a historic peace deal is over. The peace process was always just a fig leaf foisted upon the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was left with very few other options but to participate as Arab countries expelled it from their capitals throughout the 1970s and 1980s.