Jewish Journal

Groundhog Day in Ramallah

Jason Greenblatt and Mahmoud Abbas

I feel bad for Prince William. According to a report in The Mirror, the British royal’s recent visit with Israelis and Palestinians has had such a profound impact on him that he now considers bringing peace to the Middle East as “his lifelong project.”

On second thought, maybe I don’t feel that bad for the prince, because his wish will probably come true — getting a peace deal signed between Israelis and Palestinians is, indeed, a lifelong project. At least.

There are many fancy explanations for the spectacular failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but rest assured, I won’t bore you with any of them. I’ll just share what I think is the essential stumbling block of the conflict: Palestinian leaders will never sign a deal that is good for the Jews.

For decades, we have been telling Palestinians that a two-state solution is not just good for the Jews — it’s indispensable. It will save Zionism. By separating Israel from millions of Palestinians, a two-state solution will ensure that Israel survives as a Jewish and democratic state. How do you get a bigger Jewish victory than that?

Conversely, what kind of “victory” can Palestinians expect if Israeli Defense Forces abandoned the West Bank? That terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad would swoop in and start murdering rival Palestinian factions — as they did in Gaza?

In other words, as crazy as this may sound to a peace activist, Palestinian leaders have an enormous incentive to maintain the status quo. As long as Palestinians can keep their status as the world’s most celebrated victims, the hated Zionist entity will keep its status as the world’s most condemned state.

As crazy as this may sound to a peace activist, Palestinian leaders have an enormous incentive to maintain the
status quo.

For corrupt, Jew-hating Palestinian leaders, maintaining global victim status that fills their personal bank accounts is more important than improving the daily lives of their people.

Sure, you can argue that building Jewish settlements in areas that would represent a future Palestinian state has been unhelpful; that the current governing coalition in Israel is anything but favorable to a two-state solution; and that the Trump administration’s decision to move its embassy to West Jerusalem has further alienated Palestinians.

But these factors have nothing to do with Palestinian incentives. You can put a left-wing party in charge in Israel, evacuate all settlements and move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. This won’t change the fact that Palestinian leaders will still not want to make a deal that is good for the Jews and puts their personal safety and wealth in jeopardy.

This law of incentive is true whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, pro-settlement or anti-settlement, liberal or conservative. It’s the inconvenient truth no one wants to talk about.

That’s how we end up with decade after decade of Groundhog Days, of peace processing that runs in circles, of false hopes that only lead to more cynicism.

The latest entry in this endless saga is the Trump administration’s peace plan that envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have been working on for over a year, and which, apparently, they’re about to reveal. I’ve met Greenblatt and I’ve found him fair and earnest. I give him credit for the immense effort he has put into the plan, and for listening to all sides of the conflict.

But just as I feel bad for Prince William, I feel bad for Greenblatt. I haven’t seen his famous plan, but it’s telling that Palestinian leaders have already rejected it. At least we can thank them for showing their true colors.

I’ll just share what I think is the essential stumbling block of the conflict: Palestinian leaders will never sign a deal that is good for the Jews.  

If Palestinian leaders wanted their own state, they would have had it a long time ago. They would have stopped promoting Jew-hatred and glorifying terrorism. They would have focused on building and creating rather than undermining and destroying. They would have elevated responsibility over permanent victimhood.

But their contempt for Jews and Zionism has gotten the better of them. They believe Zionism is a criminal enterprise that punished Palestinians for the crime of the Europeans. They believe Jews are land thieves and they expect all of their land back, including Haifa and Tel Aviv. They dream of destroying Zionism more than they dream of building their own state.

Until this dream comes true, they will continue to reject a two-state solution if it means accepting a Jewish state and saving Zionism. That would simply be too good for the Jews.

I hope Prince William has a long life and a thick skin.