By Cliff May
October 30, 2018
Tibetans would like a state of their own, as would Uyghurs.
China’s rulers do not intend to let those peoples go. The Kurds would like a
state of their own. The governments of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria remain
determined to prevent them from establishing one. The Chechens would like a
state of their own. Russian President Vladimir Putin will allow that when pigs
Most famously, of course, the Palestinians would like a
state of their own. They could have one. They’ve been offered one — on
several occasions. But, in exchange, they’d have to agree to end their
conflict with Israel,
negotiate borders and security issues, and embrace peaceful coexistence with
their Jewish neighbors.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, has said clearly that it will
never pay that price. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who governs
the West Bank, claims to favor a two-state solution. But he has never been
willing to accept the three concessions listed above.
Nor has he ever seriously attempted to prepare Palestinians
for peace. Were he to sign a peace treaty, it is doubtful Palestinians would
accept it, or that he would be able to implement it.
Given this context, you might conclude that President Trump stands
no chance of making progress on the Palestinian-Israeli file. A visit to Israel leaves
me with a different impression. I think it’s possible for him to create new
and improved facts on the ground. Actually, he already has.
In December 2016, during his final days in office,
President Obama facilitated the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution
2334, which declared the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,
Within East Jerusalem lies
the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the holiest Jewish religious sites —
places where Jews lived and worshipped for thousands of years before being
exiled by Jordanian soldiers in 1949. Jews returned only in 1967, after Israeli
troops, fighting a defensive war, drove out the occupying Jordanian forces.
UNSCR 2334 sent Palestinians a message: That the ethnic and
religious “cleansing” of the Jews was not wrong, and that the Hamas
narrative is right. Because if Jews don’t belong even in the Jewish Quarter,
they don’t belong anywhere in the region; they have no history or homeland
here; and they are not a people.
From that, the de-legitimization of Israel and
the dehumanization of Israelis ineluctably follow. That’s not the precondition
for a two-state solution. It is the precondition for a final solution.
The resolution also said to
Palestinians: No need to negotiate or compromise. Appeal instead to the
“international community” which will demand much of Israelis and nothing of
I’m willing to believe that Mr. Obama intended none of
that. The fact, however, is that UNSCR 2334 placed an enormous obstacle in the
path of any peace process undertaken thereafter.
Repealing a U.N. Security Council resolution is virtually
impossible, but President Trump did
the next best thing: He moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,
thereby reaffirming and re-emphasizing America’s support for the legitimacy of Israel and
for Jerusalem as
That doesn’t rule out the possibility of Palestinians
also having a capital in Jerusalem or
immediately adjacent to it. But such an outcome would have to be the result of
negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
As they say in the television ads: “Wait! There’s
more!” President Trump last
month ordered the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in
Washington, the de facto Palestinian embassy. The PLO “has not taken steps to
advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,”
the U.S. State Department explained, adding that Palestinian leaders also have
“condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with
the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”
Also helpful: In late August, President Trump’s
slashed funds to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency which provides services to
Palestinian refugees — as well as their millions of descendants whom UNRWA
also designates as refugees.
Soon after, Jerusalem Mayor
Nir Barkat recently announced that he was replacing UNRWA in East Jerusalem’s
Shuafat refugee camp. Charging that the agency has “failed utterly” to
provide adequate sanitation, health care, education and welfare, and that it not
just tolerates but incites terrorism, Mr. Barkat committed the municipal
government to assuming responsibility for Shuafat’s 30,000 residents who, he
said, should be treated “like any other residents” of the capital.
If this initiative succeeds, it could constitute a kind of
peace process albeit one carried out by people in the streets rather than
diplomats in drawing rooms. Over time, it could shift the calculus of
Palestinians in the West Bank, and perhaps even those in Gaza.
Imagine what it would mean if the next generation of
Palestinian leaders did not oppose “normalizing” relations with Israelis.
Imagine if jihadist terrorists were no longer glorified as martyrs in
Palestinian mosques and media. Imagine if Palestinians willing to work with
Israelis for the benefit of both peoples were no longer condemned as apostates
I don’t expect any of that to come to pass while President Trump is in the White House. But he has fixed what his predecessor had broken. And he’s made clear that Palestinians can have a state of their own, but only if they recognize that a two-state solution implies two states for two peoples, both willing to peacefully co-exist. That may not amount to the “deal of the century,” but it’s more than any past peace process achieved.