The confluence of the Israeli snap elections, the Arab, Muslim and Gulf Co-operation Council summits in Mecca and the upcoming “Bahrain Workshop”, underscores the amateur nature of President Trump’s Middle East policy. The conundrum in which Washington finds itself illustrates the absence of any comprehensive thinking on the part of the administration towards Iran, the Arab world, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In light of the recent Arab, Muslim and GCC statements on the future of Palestinian-Israeli rapprochement and the need to have such a settlement grounded in the “two-state” and “land for peace” paradigm, whatever “Deal of the Century”, or parts of it, that Jared Kushner plans to reveal at the so-called Bahrain Workshop at the end of June will be dead on arrival. Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian leaders have already signalled their disapproval of the American approach, stating that economic support is welcome but statehood rights cannot be overlooked.
Even on Iran, although the Saudis were able to engineer a strong Arab, Gulf and Muslim statement at the three summits against Iran, regional leaders are no longer sure or clear of the Trump Administration’s real stand. The Saudi and Emirati leaders, together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been clamouring for a war, presumably lead by the Americans. According to recent statements, however, the administration is backtracking on the rush to war. “Regime change,” according to Trump, is off the table, and the draconian and untenable conditions that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had established earlier as a requirement for talks with Iran have been jettisoned. ‘We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no pre-conditions,’ Pompeo said in a recent press interview. ‘We are ready to sit down.’
Netanyahu’s political future is the other wobbly pillar of Trump’s Middle East political edifice. Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special envoys dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had banked on the Israeli prime minister’s solid standing in Israel and the Gulf region to help sell the plan through economic largesse. Netanyahu’s failure to form a government, resulting in snap elections to be held in the (northern) autumn, and his legal troubles, with a looming indictment on corruption, have weakened his position, throwing the whole process in doubt.