Charades? Or Dealing a Bad Hand in the Form of So-Called Peace
By Jonathan S.
a day when many of those interested in the Middle East were mulling over new
corruption charges leveled at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather
than the latest bloviating in New York, the U.N. Security Council meeting
devoted to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians didn’t achieve a
session was nonetheless useful in one sense. If the U.S. delegation is serious
about making good on its promise to put forward a new Middle East peace plan,
then surely they recognized the gap between reality and what passes for serious
discussion at the council. It’s simply too great to be overcome, even if the
scheme being devised by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and his team is as
clever as they’d like us to think.
real question about the U.S. plan is not whether or not it will work. It’s why
are Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt even trying?
claimed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas struck a moderate
tone in his address to the council, in which he advocated for the beginning of a
multilateral negotiation where Russia, rather than the United States, would play
the key role. But coming as it did only weeks after delivering an anti-Semitic
speech to his people—when he made it clear the P.A. didn’t recognize
Israel’s legitimacy within any borders—why should anyone treat his pose as a
would-be peacemaker seriously?
chose to treat President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s
capital as the end of the peace process, despite the fact that nothing in the
American stand precluded a two-state solution or even a redivision of the holy
city. Locked in a never-ending struggle with the Islamists of Hamas for support
of the Palestinian street, Abbas has torpedoed every peace negotiation since
succeeding Yasser Arafat in 2005. His routine of vacillating between inciting
Palestinians to violence—such as his vow not to let “stinking Jewish feet”
profane Jerusalem’s holy places, which helped set off the “stabbing intifada”—echoed
in official P.A. media (and even schools) with more moderate remarks convinces
goal is to appear sufficiently hostile to Israel and the Jews in order to
compete successfully with Hamas for Palestinian public opinion, while doing
nothing to instigate fighting that might result in his fall from power.
in front of Kushner and Greenblatt, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Niki
Haley summed up the situation when she reminded Abbas that the United States was
ready negotiate peace, but had no intention of chasing after him. Moreover, she
rightly pointed out that the United Nation’s disproportionate focus on the
conflict in a way that demonstrated its consistent prejudice against Israel
encourages Palestinian intransigence, not peace.
sources say there will be parts that both sides will dislike, but that the plan
provides a path to peace. But since Abbas consistently resisted the overtures of
an Obama administration that was more sympathetic to him than that of Trump,
it’s hard to imagine him ever saying yes to anything. If he’s unwilling to
stop funding terrorism by paying salaries and pensions to terrorists and their
families, how is it possible to think that he’ll ever agree to anything that
to be fair, is Israel’s government in any position to negotiate right now.
With Netanyahu under pressure from his right-wing coalition partners and
considering calling for early elections to forestall efforts to oust him due to
corruption charges, this is not the moment for America to expect him to be
risking his political life to make potentially dangerous concessions to the
Palestinians. Moreover, despite concerns about his future, Netanyahu still
embodies a broad consensus of Israeli opinion about the Palestinians—one that
correctly sees no viable peace partner in a possible negotiation. Any attempt to
replicate the 2005 Gaza experiment, in which settlements were dismantled, is
Kushner is still trying. And he is likely to unveil a proposal at some point in
the not-too-distant future.
are two reasons for this. One involves his father-in-law’s ego. Trump may
actually still believe that his negotiating skills can bridge any gap between
the parties in pursuit of the “ultimate deal.” The idea of succeeding where
all his predecessors failed still entices him, even if the odds—and common
sense—are stacked against him.
a better answer may be that Trump, like every other president, thinks playing at
Middle East peace is a necessary part of U.S. diplomacy.
U.N. ambassador issued a familiar warning about the window of opportunity for
peace as starting to close. But that window has been firmly shut during the last
decade, ever since Abbas walked away from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert’s offer of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza, in addition to a share
Sunni Arab states have tired of Palestinian intransigence and have given up
seriously advocating for a solution that would give their brethren an
independent state—one that would likely be another unstable target for
extremists. Yet considering the importance of the issue to international Muslim
opinion, they still pay lip service to the Palestinian cause even while they
send signals—as they did after Trump’s Jerusalem statement—that they
won’t lift a finger to help. They don’t wish to be accused by radicals and
the Iranians of being de facto allies of Israel, even though they are.
why the Arab states want Trump to continue to play the peace-process game in
spite of it having no hope of success. It is nothing more than an empty gesture.
In that way, another effort at reviving negotiations that everyone knows the
Palestinians will reject in one way or another seems to suit the purposes of all
their costs to this charade?
the answer is yes. Another public failure will strengthen the most radical
Palestinian factions and could, especially if Iran thinks it serves their cause,
lead to another round of fighting in Gaza, or serve as the excuse for a war
between Israel and Hezbollah across a two-front border with Lebanon and Syria.
That’s why Trump needs to rethink starting something he can’t finish. As much as he may crave the ultimate deal, the president should also remember how much he hates losing—and tell his son-in-law to keep his peace plan on the shelf.