President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The articles and reports about US President Donald Trump’s “lack of commitment” to peace in the Middle East continue to pile up in all media outlets. From the obvious Al-Jazeera to the unexpected Washington Post, increasing numbers of people continue to express concern regarding the administration’s ability to mediate between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
A misconception suffered by many is that suspicion toward Trump began with his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Since then, it is claimed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has used every opportunity to refute the legitimacy of the US as a mediator. However, it was not the Jerusalem announcement that caused doubts among the Palestinian leadership, it was Trump’s decision to drop the decadeslong foreign policy insisting on a two-state solution.
To peace activists this will probably not sound appealing; it was certainly disturbing to reflect on myself. Having served as a combat soldier in the IDF and lost friends to terrorism, I understand the need to preserve life and give a better future to Israelis and Palestinians alike. This conflict has, historically, called upon some of the most creative, resolute and brilliant minds to mediate and reach an agreement, yet there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The best example, often cited by peace activists, is the Oslo Accords. The historical image of Yasser Arafat shaking prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand filled the hearts of many, but strategically the accords proved to be a massive failure. Recognizing a terrorist organization and giving it legitimacy to negotiate without reaching any agreement on concessions only served as a catalyst for the current state of affairs.
The real issue with the Oslo process was that it sought to side-step the ideological and historical component of the conflict, and in doing so chose to ignore the true obstacle to peace: anti-Zionism as a foundation of Palestinian identity.
Even when very generous offers were made by prime ministers Ehud Barak in 2001 and Ehud Olmert in 2008, the Palestinian leadership was unable to envision a two-state solution with a Jewish nation. The international community has turned a blind eye to this obstacle. Organizations such as UNRWA and UNESCO directly contribute to the indoctrination used by the Palestinian leadership to promote violence against Jews and a false historical narrative which involves erasing Jewish history. It is this indoctrination that denies the Palestinian people the ability to move toward reconciliation and a genuine understanding of Israel’s legitimate claims.
Palestinians are suffering. They are denied the most basic human right: the opportunity to pursue a happy and dignifying life. For far too long the United Nations, European Union, and non-government organizations blamed Israel. The only tangible outcome of this strategy has been an increase in Palestinian terrorism and lack of commitment to make necessary concessions.
Since 1937, when the English Peel Commission decided to blame Arab violence in Palestine on an increase in Jewish immigration, the international community has time and time again appeased terrorism and rewarded anti-Zionism. Is it not time for change? Have the Palestinians themselves not suffered enough at the hands of their own leadership?
President Donald Trump, through his change in US policy to ease the pressure to reach a two-state solution, has shown significant leadership in this process of holding the Palestinian leadership accountable. His determination to accept historical truths (as demonstrated by his recognition of Jerusalem as capital) and reducing funding for UNRWA have demonstrated the administration’s understanding of the real obstacles surrounding the conflict.
Passivity is the road that has been taken for almost a century. Waiting, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, means the opposite. It means an understanding that durable peace must be based on true mutual recognition, historical parameters, and respect. Halting the funding of organizations that participate in harboring terrorism, preaching historical revision, and refusal to accept a Jewish nation as a neighbor are critical goals that must be achieved before a final peace agreement can even be considered. To coerce a party to a dispute to reach a solution before they acknowledge the need to make concessions is the ultimate recipe for diplomatic failure.
It is disappointing, but realistic. Israel and the international community have already made the mistake of giving the PA legitimacy, while it continues to commit itself to terrorism and the hope that Palestine will one day be “liberated.” This ideology remains most significant in shaping Palestinian identity, and as such, remains the most substantial obstacle to peace. As President Trump rightfully acknowledged recently: “If Palestinians do not want peace, then the United States has nothing to do with them.”The author is a former IDF paratrooper and holds a BA in political science and MA in diplomacy and international security from IDC Herzliya. He is an Israel advocate and Middle East analyst.