Psaki: Trump Did Nothing ‘Constructive’ for Middle East Peace

POLITICS & POLICY
White House press secretary Jen Psaki gives a briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2021. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

During a press briefing Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the Trump administration did not do ‘anything constructive’ to foster peace in the Middle East between Israel and the neighboring Arab states.

“Aside from putting forward a peace proposal that was dead on arrival, we don’t think they did anything constructive, really, to bring an end to the longstanding conflict in the Middle East,” Jen Psaki said of the previous administration.

In addition to proposing a broader plan for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Trump administration helped broker a cooperative agreement, called the Abraham Accord, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, making it the first Gulf State to normalize diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. In exchange for gaining Emirati support for the deal, the Israeli government agreed to cancel its plans to “declare sovereignty” over West Bank settlements.

Members of previous administrations, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, dismissed the notion that any Gulf states would come to the negotiating table without Iran’s assent.

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The Obama administration’s legacy in the Middle East, now resumed by the Biden administration, centered around the concession-riven Iran nuclear deal and the United States abandonment of Israel at the U.N Security Council.

During the Trump tenure, Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of Israel and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights was legitimized. Trump bolstered the U.S. friendship and military partnership with Israel by scrapping and withdrawing from the Iran deal, and holding the Tehran regime accountable for aggression rather than capitulating to it.

The recent outbreak of violence between Hamas and Israel represents the most dramatic escalation since 2008.

While addressing reporters Tuesday, Psaki affirmed that President Joe Biden is not  employing the same foreign policy and diplomatic strategies in the Middle East as his predecessor.

“We are not following the same tactics of the prior administration,” she noted.

She offered that the Biden administration is helping both parties involved in the conflict, a significant departure from the former president’s exclusive commitment to the state of Israel.

“The president has reinstated humanitarian assistance and security assistance to the Palestinians. That’s something that was stopped back in 2018 and we felt was not a constructive action by the prior administration,” Psaki added.

The Biden administration believes a two-state solution is the only way to ensure a “long term outcome that’s peaceful and lasting,” the press secretary confirmed.

“People’s lives are lost, there’s ongoing violence. We’re going to work to resolve that. But our view continues to be that providing humanitarian and security assistance to the Palestinians while still maintaining our longstanding security relationship with Israel is in the interest of the United States,” she remarked.

In the last week, both Palestinian-settled Gaza and Israel have suffered civilian and military casualties amid the rocket fire and retaliatory strikes exchanged between the two territories. In response to Hamas’s attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have strategically targeted weapons stockpile locations and terrorist leadership centers, as well as bombed underground tunnels where Hamas operatives were sheltering, killing a number of military commanders.

Psaki’s comments come after a phone conversation Biden had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday during which he reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself from indiscriminate rocket assault and urged Israel to minimize innocent civilian harm in its military operations.

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