A More Realistic ‘Peace Process’
By Clifford D. May
December 19, 2017
“The peace process” is the name we’ve given to
decades of attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The reality:
These diplomatic efforts have never made meaningful progress. Yet those involved
— smart and well-meaning though they are — have been reluctant to entertain
the possibility that they have misunderstood something essential about the
conflict and what will be required to bring it to a conclusion.
That’s one reason it was useful for President Trump to
disrupt the status quo by recognizing another reality: The capital of the state
of Israel is
No conceivable “peace process” will induce the Israelis to pack up and
leave. That’s a reality, too.
Palestinians responded by denouncing the president. One
Palestinian official accused him of issuing “a declaration of war.” There
also were the usual violent demonstrations carried out by young men in masks
and/or keffiyehs, and staged for the benefit of foreign correspondents who can
be counted on to provide sympathetic coverage.
Among the various realities these journalists neglect to
report: During the Obama years, the “peace process” was not just
unproductive — it was comatose. Mahmoud
Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, refused (with one very brief
exception) even to sit at the same table with his Israeli counterparts.
And then there’s this reality: A “two-state solution”
implies two states for two peoples — a Palestinian state and a Jewish state,
peacefully coexisting. Mr.
Abbas, despite all these years of peace processing, hasn’t accepted that
Which is why, instead of negotiating, he has been
orchestrating a campaign on the international stage to delegitimize Israel,
to wage economic warfare against Israel (through
the insidious Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, or BDS, movement), to cast doubt on
whether the Jewish people has any historical connection or claim to Jerusalem and
the adjacent lands where Jews have lived since long before those lands were
conquered by foreign empires — Roman, Babylonian, Arab, Ottoman and British
In Turkey recently, addressing representatives of the
dozens of nation-states that identify as Islamic, Mr.
Abbascharged that “they” — meaning either Israelis or Jews — “are
really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”
He maintains that the founding of the modern state of Israel was
both an error and a unique injustice. He rejects the proposition that the Jews
who fled Europe following World War II, along with the Jews who were expelled
from the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa in the same era,
had any right to a safe haven on any portion of their ancestral homelands.
His goal has been to win recognition for a Palestinian
state that would continue to battle Israel indefinitely,
funded largely by European and American taxpayers. You might call this a
When Barack Obama first became president, he seemed to
disfavor such an approach. In 2008, he declared that Jerusalem “is
the capital of Israel and
must remain undivided.” By this time last year, however, he apparently changed
The U.S. has substantial power to prevent resolutions from
being presented to the U.N. Security Council. Failing that, the U.S. can veto
such resolutions. But Mr. Obama allowed U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 to
come up for a vote and he then abstained — ensuring its passage. UNSCR 2334
declares all of east Jerusalem — even the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and
the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jews — illegally occupied territory.
To understand how damaging this was to any possible peace
process, recall that in the aftermath of Israel’s
War of Independence in 1948 — fought against four of Israel’s
Arab neighbors — east Jerusalem was
conquered and occupied by Jordanian forces. Those forces then expelled all
Jewish residents and destroyed Jewish holy sites. In effect, UNSCR 2334 signaled
retrospective approval for such ethnic and religious cleansing.
But it’s worse than that: UNSCR 2334 confirmed the
extremist Islamist narrative that lands conquered by Muslims must never again be
ruled by non-Muslims; that jihad needs to be waged against any infidels claiming
sovereignty and a right to self-determination on such lands.
Security Council resolutions are just about impossible to
repeal. But President Trump has
done the next best thing. And, by implication, he has reimagined the peace
process. To be realistic, it must start — not end — with Palestinians
agreeing that Israel has
a right to exist; that the Jews won’t be driven from Jerusalem again;
that Israel won’t
be erased from the map.
The U.S., as Mr.
Trump has made clear, could then support and assist the birth of a
Palestinian state, and that state could even have its capital in or adjacent to
Were the goal of Palestinian leaders to have a state of
their own and live in peace, they’d leap at this opportunity and begin
negotiating hard for the best deal they can get. Hamas won’t be tempted.
Neither, I predict, will Mr.
Abbasthough I’d love to be proven wrong.
Sooner or later, there will be other Palestinian leaders.
Perhaps they will recognize the reality that only Israel can
keep at bay the forces now drowning so much of the region in blood. Perhaps they
will acknowledge that diversity and pluralism are beneficial — even in the
Middle East. Perhaps they will see that the Arab and Sunni states need Israel if
they are to defend themselves against the growing threat posed by an
expansionist and jihadist Iranian regime.
But until and unless Palestinians are led to the conclusion
that the extermination of Israel is
an impossible dream, they will not be willing to settle for less — no matter
how ardently we push what we call a “peace process.” That’s just the