Middle East Peace Be Bought?
By Jonathan S.
adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump Jared Kushner is on a fundraising tour
this week, but it's not to raise money for his father-in-law's re-election or to
bolster his family's real estate empire. He's visiting the Middle East with a
special emphasis on wealthy Arab states, where he is soliciting investment that
he hopes will be the seed money for a new era of peace.
has spent the better part of the last two years putting together a plan that
will attempt to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Few people
give the scheme – whose details remain secret and which will probably be made
public after Israel's April elections – a chance of success.
Palestinian Authority has made it clear that it won't negotiate and has refused
to even speak with the Americans since Trump moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem
last May. There's no reason to expect that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is capable
of saying yes to any deal, let alone one proposed by this administration.
administration's assumption that Arab states have the power to either persuade
or bribe the Palestinians into giving up their century-old war on Zionism is
equally mistaken. The Palestinians continue to view peace as a zero-sum game in
which any recognition of the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its
borders may be drawn, is a defeat for their cause. If the Palestinians wanted to
settle for a two-state solution, then they would have already accepted one of
the previous Israeli offers.
by embracing the notion of investment in the territories, as well as for Jordan
and Egypt, Kushner is showing that he's not completely clueless. While it would
be foolish to expect that this by itself would lead to peace, he's right to
think that an effort to promote economic development is a prerequisite for hope
for a future solution on any terms. That's a point that Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu has also made in the past.
the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Palestinians in the West Bank have
suffered under the rule of the PA and its Fatah leadership. The same is true in
the even more poverty-stricken Gaza Strip that has been ruled by the Islamists
of Hamas since 2007. Both are deeply corrupt, operating primarily to enrich and
protect their power. Far from encouraging economic development, both governments
actively discourage any effort or enterprise that is not controlled by them. The
failure of former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an American-educated
technocrat with no ties to terror, illustrated just how difficult it is to
encourage good government in a political culture where terror is still lauded.
leaves their people trapped in an environment where anti-Israel and anti-Semitic
propaganda aimed at perpetuating the conflict dominates the media and education
systems. It also largely eliminates the process of business and wealth creation
that would normally act as a break on the impulse to sacrifice their community's
well-being for the sake of a useless war on Israel's existence.
why it makes sense for Kushner to seek to get the Gulf States and other Arab
countries to put their money where their mouths are with respect to promoting
peace. If a massive surge of investment were injected into the Palestinian
areas, it couldn't help but promote a more realistic attitude towards Israel and
create opportunities that will make them less interested in continuing the
fight. That investment would also help prop up Jordan and Egypt's tottering
economies and work to keep those two states in the peace camp.
the problem with Kushner's tour is that rather than seeking to create an
environment in which peace might be made more likely, the effort to promote
investment in the Palestinian economy is linked to the final-status
negotiations, which have no chance of success.
a rare public hint from Kushner about the goals of his plan, he told Sky News
Arabia that "the goal of resolving these borders is really to eliminate the
borders. If you can eliminate borders and have peace and less fear of terror,
you could have freer flow of goods, freer flow of people and that would create a
lot more opportunities."
the free flow of goods and people sounds like a vision of peace, there's no
reason to believe the Palestinians will give up their long war merely for the
sake of prosperity. To the contrary, as the P.A. and Hamas have both made clear,
any peace plan that is predicated on the Palestinians giving up their
existential war against Israel for a better economy is going to be dead on
Marxist theory may hold that people primarily act in their economic interests,
the Palestinians have disproved that thesis time and again. Peace has always
been in their interests, but that hasn't stopped them from continuing violence
and resistance. And as much as many Arab states want to shelve the conflict
against Israel, which they now recognize is as counter-productive for their
interests as it is futile, their rulers know that their people won't accept
formal peace with Israel on these or perhaps any terms in the foreseeable
Kushner has done is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Instead
of tying a peace deal to investment, economic development is what will make
peace theoretically possible, rather than merely a reward or a bribe to those
whom you want to sign on the dotted line. The process of transforming the
territories is not something that can be added on as a sweetener to a deal the
Palestinians are not ready to make.
we wish Kushner luck in raising money for this investment, it's also a reminder
that his efforts are doomed to failure as long as he is attempting to pretend
that the Palestinians are more interested in prosperity than they are in waging
war on Israel.