for a Peace Process Paradigm Change
By Jonathan S. Tobin
November 17, 2017
What are the details of the Middle East peace plan that
President Donald Trump will use to craft what he hopes is the “ultimate
deal?” Sometime in the next few months, they will be unveiled as part of an
effort to revive the dead-in-the-water peace process between Israel and the
Palestinians. Though we’ll have to wait and see what exactly is in the
proposal being cooked up by a team led by presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner
and chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt, the only two things that seem certain are
that it is likely to be acceptable to Saudi Arabia and that it will have zero
chance of success.
That’s why instead of merely repeating the mistakes of
its predecessors, the Trump team should try a paradigm shift that will predicate
peace on a simple concept: the Palestinians have to admit they’ve lost their
war on Zionism. Avoiding this admission in order to mollify them or their
supporters or concentrating, as every US administration has done, on pressuring
Israel to make concessions, merely makes it impossible for the Palestinians to
accept the sea change in their political culture that is the only thing that
will make peace on any terms possible.
It was this idea that brought two members of the Knesset — representing
a larger group of legislators that come from six different parties that are in
and outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — to
Washington to meet with several like-minded members of Congress to promote the
concept of an Israeli victory in the long conflict rather than a self-defeating
compromise. The launch of a joint #IsraelVictory caucus at the Capitol Hill
gathering is a small step and, as of yet, hasn’t influenced the
administration’s thinking. But the gathering, which was sponsored by the
Middle East Forum think tank, is a long overdue effort to promote a concept
Kushner and company ought to be thinking about.
Trump’s team is likely to embrace an “outside-in”
strategy in which Arab states, principally the Saudis, will use their influence
and money to pressure the Palestinians into finally accepting a two-state
solution. In return, the US would get the Netanyahu government to agree to terms
that are likely to largely resemble past plans floated by the Obama, Bush and
Clinton administrations. Trump may think the missing ingredient for peace has
been the absence of a master dealmaker, but this scheme has no more chance of
working than the efforts of his predecessors.
The reason is that the essential element for peace is still
missing. The Palestinians are still stuck in a mindset that rejects Israel’s
legitimacy. The Palestinian Authority (PA) won’t accept a deal that ends the
conflict for all time no matter where Kushner, Greenblatt and Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman draw the borders between the two states, how much of
Jerusalem the Palestinians receive, how many descendants of the 1948 refugees
are allowed to “return” to Israel or even how much money is thrown at them.
That’s because the Palestinians’ national identity as a people is still
inextricably bound up in a futile century-old war on Zionism that its people
have been taught to think they will eventually win.
At various times, the PA has declared a willingness to
accept peace. Yet every such gesture has been undermined by its cradle-to-grave
incitement that promotes a culture of hatred for Israel and Jews, and makes new
rounds of bloodshed inevitable. The history of the last 24 years of negotiations
since the Oslo Accords shows that peace is impossible so long as the
Palestinians still hold onto hope of eventually winning this war. As with every
other conflict, this one will only be settled when one side admits defeat and
that is something no one, not even a Trump team that appears to be more
realistic about Palestinian behavior and intentions than past administrations,
seems willing to force them to do.
Critics of the #IsraelVictory idea mock its simplicity. But
generations of would-be peacemakers have forgotten that it really is that
simple. Once the Palestinians concede the war is lost rather than being paused
and put aside their dreams of a world without a Jewish state, compromise would
be possible. But if the compromises precede acknowledgement of an Israeli
victory, then all the Jewish state will be doing is trading land for more
terror, not peace.
The Trump team may not be listening to the #IsraelVictory
caucus as it hatches its plans. But if the White House ignores the basic truths
the caucus proclaims, it will be wasting its time and making the next round of
violence more, rather than less likely.