Well, it was nice while it lasted. For a while, it looked as if President Donald Trump might try a craftier approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of rewarding the Palestinians for saying no to everything, he would show them there’s a new sheriff in town. No more coddling, no more chasing, no more pleading for their presence. Trump looked like the very antidote to Secretary John Kerry, who logged more miles than an astronaut trying to coax the naysaying Palestinians to just show up and negotiate.
It was exciting to think that, finally, the leader of the free world would follow rule #1 of negotiating—don’t look overeager. A five-minute class on the 25-year failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would have shown Trump that “overeager” was the one constant sentiment among an endless string of peace processors who banged their heads against the Palestinian Wall of No.
But instead of giving us a fresh approach, the artist of the deal has succumbed to the same old Palestinian trap. The latest processor to get sucked in is Trump’s Mideast envoy and longtime attorney, Jason Greenblatt.
Look at the body language– it’s Groundhog Day. You see Greenblatt in Ramallah smiling and schmoozing with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and you can’t help think: “Man, I’ve seen this movie before, like a hundred times.”
Is there any way out of this tedious and interminable trap? Is there anything Trump can do to disrupt this agonizing pattern of repetitive failure?
Yes, there is, and it’s so simple I hope he does it.
Trump can ask Mahmoud Abbas to make an offer. That’s right—make a serious peace offer.
In years past, Israel made some serious offers, but Palestinians rejected each one without making any counteroffers. In recent years, however, they have even refused to negotiate. This gives them lots of power, because everyone chases after them. Meanwhile, Abbas can spout a few words about peace, blame Israel for the lack of progress, make zero commitments or concessions and still collect billions in international aid while continuing to live in luxury.
It’s time to realize that the last thing Abbas wants is to make a deal with the Jewish state. And why should he? Abbas is no fool. He knows that the creation of a Palestinian state would save the Zionist project by ensuring Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. Why would he want to save something he hates?
This contempt for Zionism goes long and deep. Just days before meeting Greenblatt, Abbas’s Fatah party and the PA were celebrating a Palestinian terrorist whose 1978 attack resulted in the deaths of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, who were shot and burned to death in a bus hijacking. Glorifying terrorists and promoting Jew-hatred are the two cultural staples of Palestinian society.
Abbas also knows that as soon as the IDF leaves the West Bank, Hamas and ISIS are likely to swoop in and start chopping off Palestinian heads, including his own. His vaunted security cooperation with Israel is as much for his own benefit as for anyone else’s. Why would he want to end that protection?
As things stand for Abbas, the status quo has been like a Club Med with anti-Israel missiles. As long as he can claim victimhood because of the Israeli occupation, he can continue living the high life while feeding the BDS movement and bashing Israel in friendly international circles. Why would he end that?
Have you ever looked at a map of the West Bank? With or without settlements, it looks like a pimple. Can you imagine Abbas unveiling that map as part of the logo of a new Palestinian state? It’s no wonder the map of a future Palestine that permeates Palestinian society always shows the striking diamond-like shape of the whole land of Israel. That’s the only state they want—the Jewish one.
Add it all up, and it’s easier to understand why Palestinian leaders have been saying no for so long. When you look at things from the perspective of leaders whose revulsion for Zionism and chronic corruption are already well known, why should it surprise us that they would be guided by this hatred and their own selfish interests?
Their biggest nightmare would be if someone called their bluff and asked them to make a genuine peace offer. It would smoke them out. It would expose the simple reality that there is NO deal with Israel they could ever say yes to.
I know. This sucks. For those of us who still dream of peace, this is the last thing we want to hear. We need hope, and this kind of hard-nosed realism offers none. It forces us to think of unpleasant and risky alternatives.
Trump may think he’s offering us hope by talking about a “grand deal,” but all he’s offering is a clear view of his ego. For him, what this conflict represents is a chance to show off by doing the “impossible deal.” It never occurred to him to ponder why it’s impossible in the first place. His limitless ego has turned the artist of the deal into just another peace processor.
Trump can remedy all that by doing what any savvy Manhattan dealmaker would do—ask the other party to make an offer, to see how serious they are. Of course, he’ll never get one, because Palestinian leaders are only serious about destroying Zionism and protecting their Swiss bank accounts.
But at least the world will see the truth and his envoys will save a lot of mileage.