Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)
January 30, 2018
In the past two months, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and President Trump exchanged letters regarding the President’s December 6th announcement to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In anticipation of the President’s announcement, in his letter of December 5th, King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), expressed his “deep personal concern” and that felt by “Arab and Muslim states and peoples” over the future of a city that is “not only important for the parties of the conflict, but also for believers in the three Abrahamic religions”.
Since the earliest days of his reign, King Mohammed has worked tirelessly to promote a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, thus following in a tradition set by his father King Hassan II’s unique ability to intervene with both Israeli, as well as Palestinian officials in the search for peace and common ground.
In fact, as far back as December 12th, 2000, early in his reign, King Mohammed was asked by the U.S. to take a leadership position on this issue. That is when he hosted a US-Palestinian delegation at the end of the Clinton Administration, in Rabat, in an effort to convince the Palestinians and Israelis to accept an initiative proposed by President Clinton, which became known as the Clinton Parameters. Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross presented to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and his team the plan that would address all outstanding issues among the parties and hopefully lead to a full and comprehensive peace.
The Clinton Parameters encompassed not only the principle of land for peace and security, but – reflecting Israel’s interests – proposed the principle of no right of return (except in case of extreme hardship), offered Palestinians compensation for the loss of their land, as well as assistance in any voluntary moves to the new Palestinian state or third countries. Most importantly, the initiative –reflecting Palestinian interests as well – proposed that Jerusalem be the capital of two states, separating sovereignty in the city under the principle that whatever is Arab will be under Palestine’s rule, and whatever is Jewish under Israel’s. This trade off was key in bringing the two parties together, as it dealt with the existential needs of both: ensuring that Israel would not be burdened by returning refugees and former residents inside Israel, while setting forth the principle of Jerusalem being the capital for two states.
Many Arab leaders in the Middle East supported the two state solution, went on to recognize Israel’s existence, and put their full support behind President Clinton’s proposal. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was briefed on the status of the Clinton parameters on Christmas Day in 2000 and immediately called President Arafat to encourage him to accept. Later that week, he would invite Israeli leader Shimon Peres to Rabat to encourage Israel to accept the deal, an unusual and very special capability for an Arab leader. And although the Clinton Parameters expired when President Clinton stepped down in January of 2001, they are still considered the outline for an ultimate solution to any peace deal. Unfortunately, President Trump’s recent decision threatens to put the final nail in the coffin of the Clinton Parameters, and any chance for a two-state solution in the near future.
In his letter to President Trump, King Mohammed VI expressed his concern stating, “Jerusalem is at the heart of final status issues. For this reason, its legal status needs to be preserved and nothing should be undertaken that might affect its current political status.” In his January 22nd response to King Mohammed, President Trump may have indicated that he is “determined to reach a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” but he should have added that Jerusalem would also be the capital of Palestine, with the final borders to be decided by the parties. It is only by doing this that he could have avoided the now clear perception that the U.S. is no longer an honest broker in the Middle East peace process.
I am confident that King Mohammed, a consummate diplomat who tirelessly works towards peace in the Middle East, will maintain an active role in these new and difficult circumstances, and will work closely with the U.S., as he is ideally suited to continue to offer a trusted facilitating role between the Israelis and Palestinians.