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Only balanced approach can restore peace in Middle East

By Zhang Bo | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-28 07:50

Rejecting a recent US decision to recognize Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as legal settlements, foreign ministers of Arab countries on Monday warned Israel against annexing the Jordan Valley and parts of the occupied West Bank.

The United States administration's latest decision shows the incumbent US administration is bent on destroying the entire legacy of former US president Barack Obama in the Middle East. First, the White House recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Dec 6, 2017, and ordered the US embassy to be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, ostensibly to please pro-Israel voters in the US. Also, the US administration cut large amounts of aid to the Palestinians in 2018.

Second, the US administration announced the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization's mission in Washington on Sept 10, 2018, dealing a heavy blow to the already stalled Middle East peace process. And just before the recent Israeli election, the White House recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, which many saw as a move to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his re-election bid.

All this shows Israel is getting more favors and support from the present US administration than from any former administrations. But the changing US foreign policy has irked the US' European allies such as Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland, which have released a statement against Washington's recent decisions.

Only balanced approach can restore peace in Middle East

In order to maintain lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, the international community, especially the US, should adopt a more balanced approach to the Palestinian issue, which can be resolved only through negotiations among all the relevant sides. The US should listen to and talk with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, instead of imposing its unilateral decisions on Middle East countries, as the stalling of the peace process would be harmful to not only the Palestinians but also Israelis.

The US administration has dramatically changed the US policy on the Palestinian issue, which is one of the main reasons of the impasse in Middle East peace process. The US has made it clear it favors Israel, undermining the position of the Palestinians who are the weaker side in the dispute.

In fact, the US administration is using the "deal of the century", purported to be an agreement between US President Donald Trump and Netanyahu which rules out the two-state solution to settle the historical Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But the guiding principle of the "deal" is still "aid for peace", not "land for peace".

The incumbent US administration seems to be in a hurry to please Israel. Netanyahu had been against the Iran nuclear deal, which Obama and leaders of the other four permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany signed, right from the beginning. And the White House answered Netanyahu's call by withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018.

The US foreign policy is moving away from multilateralism, and its unilateral, irrational and dangerous characteristics are evident in Washington's new Middle East policy. If the US continues with this policy, it will not only violate international law and destabilize the world order, but also harm American interests.

Should countries start violating international law and Security Council resolutions, the world would be governed by the law of the jungle. The White House's blind support to Israel has undermined its mediating role in the Middle East, and could further fan anti-US passions in the region.

Therefore, all countries including the US should join hands to help improve the condition of the Palestinians and ensure the peaceful coexistence of Israel and Palestine. Israel and Palestine are neighbors, so their security and development are interlinked. True, isolation, instability and poverty are a developmental burden on the Palestinians, but they are also a heavy political, economic and military burden on Israel.

The author is a researcher at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

(China Daily Global 11/28/2019 page12)

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