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Published on February 18th, 2017 | by Guest

25

Israel-Palestine: The Deal-Maker Deals Himself Out

by Paul R. Pillar

Donald Trump had already moved a long way backward since uttering a few remarks last year raising hopes that he would break out of the straitjacket that binds American politicians on all things involving Israel and the Palestinians and that he would try to be an impartial peace-maker.  He later made his peace with Sheldon Adelson, adopted AIPAC’s talking points as his own, and appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Israel a bankruptcy lawyer who is directly involved with West Bank settlements, is politically somewhere to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu, and likens American Jews who do not agree with him to Nazi collaborators.  Then this week, in a joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump appeared to abandon what had been U.S. policy through several administrations, Republican and Democratic, of support for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as the only feasible and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The president’s exact words were, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.  I can live with either one.”

As has become typical with so much of the policy of this month-old administration, confusion reigns.  The next day, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.”  Probably the best interpretation of what was going on at that White House press conference is consistent with insights offered by former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and Daniel Shapiro, both of whom describe the joint appearance in terms of two leaders dealing with domestic pressures and wanting to look chummy with each other, rather than as an occasion for announcing new diplomatic departures.  Specifically, Trump’s comments were a favor to Netanyahu in dealing with the extreme right-wing of his own governing coalition, by pouring some cold water on the two-state concept without Netanyahu having to utter the words “two-state solution” himself.

As random and disorganized as Trump’s tweets, blurts to reporters, or other verbal expressions may be, when the president of the United States says something it either is policy, at least declaratory policy, or affects policy.  And so it must be noted how utterly unreal, and divorced from the concept of a true peace agreement, was Trump’s responding to a question about backing off from commitment to a two-state solution by talking about what “both parties like,” as if there were anything that both parties like right now that would not be a two-state solution.  The only thing that the vast majority of Palestinians would “like” is getting their own state or, failing that, full and equal rights for Jews and Arabs alike in a single state.  But that latter alternative would be disliked by most Israelis (not just the extreme right) insofar as it would imply, for demographic reasons, destruction of the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.

Trump tosses these words around amid apparent thinking within his own administration and Netanyahu’s about an “outside-in” approach in which development of relations between Israel and some Arab states would lead to Arab pressures on the Palestinians to settle their own conflict with Israel.  This notion is far removed from any realistic peace, and not only because the key to ending an occupation is not to pressure the occupied party, who does not control the situation on the ground, rather than the occupier, who does control it.  The notion also is merely a derivative of right-wing hopes in Israel, based on finding some common cause with some Gulf Arabs in disliking Iran, that the international opprobrium and isolation of Israel that results from its occupation and apartheid policies can be kept indefinitely at tolerable levels.  That is a strategy for indefinitely continuing the occupation and apartheid, not for ending that arrangement and achieving peace.

The Arab states have had their position on the table for fifteen years in the form of the Arab peace initiative, which lays out in simple form the basic trade of full recognition of, and peace with, Israel in return for an end to the occupation and just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem.  The Arab peace plan was modified later to make clear that it includes the possibility of land swaps that would not require all of the West Bank to be returned to Arab sovereignty.  There is no reason to expect Saudi Arabia or any of the other Arab governments involved to abandon the concept enshrined in this initiative.  And however much one talks about the Arabs’ distractions with their own intramural problems, the sentiments among Arab populations as well as regimes regarding the plight of their co-ethnic brethren in Palestine is not about to be flushed down the toilet by pressuring Palestinian leaders to accept some bantustan-like arrangement and calling it a peace settlement.

As with other early moves of President Trump, his posture on this set of issues illustrates a more general tendency of his regarding governing.  Trump billed himself as a master deal-maker, but supporters who liked him for that reason should have looked more carefully at the sorts of deals he was accustomed to making.  Most of his business deals were more like one-night stands than like lasting relationships.  Sell naming rights, pocket the cash, and let someone else worry about running the enterprise that bears the Trump name.  Even when Trump’s own organization was more directly involved in a property, there was a tendency toward cutting and running.  His business record featured repeated stiffing of suppliers and sub-contractors and, when necessary, repeated bankruptcies—help on which evidently is part of what earned the settlement-loving David Friedman that ambassadorial appointment.

Note how often Trump’s foreign policy is referred to, by himself and now by others, in terms of whether “a deal” will be made with some other country, whether it is Russia, China, or some other state.  Foreign relations should not be thought of in such a one-shot, pointillist way.  Foreign relations, and how they affect U.S. interests, are instead a matter of continuing relationships in which interests are always intermingling, colliding, and evolving.  “One and done” may work for aspiring pro basketball players, but not for U.S. foreign policy.

This is as true of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as of other sticky foreign policy problems.  Pressuring Palestinians into something that can be labeled a “deal” but does not respond to ordinary human aspirations for a better life and national self-determination does not make a problem go away.  It can make it even worse.  It can come back in the form of intifadas, terrorism, or something else that damages the interests of Israelis and Americans as well as Palestinians.  Trump may not have to worry about such things any more after either impeachment or re-election defeat, but the rest of us will.

This article was first published by the National Interest and was reprinted here with permission. Copyright The National Interest.

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25 Responses to Israel-Palestine: The Deal-Maker Deals Himself Out

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  1. avatar ?? ??? says:

    Thanks for the post , The respectable author of the post , insist on the idea , the dealing in business , is not similar to foreign policy , this is because , I quote :

    ” Foreign relations, and how they affect U.S. interests, are instead a matter of continuing relationships in which interests are always intermingling, colliding, and evolving.”

    End of quotation :

    Later , he does suggest or describe so , I quote :

    ” The Arab peace plan was modified later to make clear that it includes the possibility of land swaps that would not require all of the West Bank to be returned to Arab sovereignty. There is no reason to expect Saudi Arabia or any of the other Arab governments involved to abandon the concept enshrined in this initiative. ”

    End of quotation :

    So, the author the post, is clearly suggesting that: There is a room for creativity, constructive creativity, for, from the idea of granting Palestinians all territories occupied in 1967, now, or later , it has evolved to: territorial swapping deal.

    Yet ,later has evolved !! So , there is no need for rigid attitude !! It may harm or narrow margins for maneuvering and creating later while negotiating as has happened with the swapping deal . So, that attitude of Trump ( what both parties want) without being fixed on the traditional perception of: Both states for both peoples , has the best chance to evolved later indeed , to more creative solutions .

    And in fact, there are some possible solutions, creative ones , not necessarily based upon that notion of two states as a whole at least .

    Thanks

  2. Leftists will have a difficult time moving on but it is time. The Arabs have blown it and forfeited any hope for a Muslim Arab state west of the Jordan….other than whatever you want to call Gaza. The two state solution where you cram one Arab state (Gaza), a second Arab state (West Bank Palestine) and Israel all into the limited land west of the Jordan will not work. It does not solve the problem of Palestinian refugees either.

    However, the author is correct in one sense. “The only thing that the vast majority of Palestinians would ‘like’ is getting their own state or, failing that, full and equal rights for Jews and Arabs alike in a single state.”

    They can have their own state in Jordan. It does not have to be the West Bank. They would like it to be in the West Bank but since they never had such a state there in history, they can adjust.

    As for “full and equal rights” there are no states where Jews and Arabs have full and equal rights, except for Israel itself. No Arab state. However only a certain percentage of Arabs can be assimilated into Israel without the stability of the state collapsing. The exact percentage can be studied carefully. We do know that the Arabs have not proven to be able to run a Western style democracy when they have control over the country.

    It does no good to attack people who point out these simple facts and realities as being racist, etc. Burying your head in the sand does not change reality. No one in the United States would want Arab Muslims to have control of our country. Nor do the people in England, France, etc. It is time to stop being a hypocrite. Therefore, the most probable solution is to give some West Bank Arabs citizenship in Israel and the rest will have their choice of citizenship in Jordan or some form of autonomy. Jordan is an artificial entity created for political reasons by the British out of the original Palestine Mandate, which was all promised to the Jewish people in 1920. Jews adjusted their goals and so can the Arabs.

  3. avatar Virgile says:

    “Jordan is an artificial entity created for political reasons by the British out of the original Palestine Mandate”

    The artificial entity is Israel as it came to existence by kicking out the natives to replace them by immigrants.

    “Therefore, the most probable solution is to give some West Bank Arabs citizenship in Israel and the rest will have their choice of citizenship in Jordan or some form of autonomy”

    What form of autonomy? under the weapons and the rules of Israel?
    That suggestion is so absurd, I wonder what kind of distorted brain can imagine it.
    The one state solution should include ALL the Palestinians in the occupied land and the gradual annulment of the single religion state. That is the only fair solution as Israel is covertly rejecting a two states solution by occupying lands that are supposed to be part of the Palestinian state.
    Israel continues to fool the world by playing the eternal victim under threat when it is humiliating the native inhabitants of this land on a daily basis.
    I hope that Trump will not allow Israel to continue getting away with its hypocritical and criminal game.

  4. Virgile, like I said, move on. Israel existed 3,000 years ago and since then only one distinct people have had sovereignty over Israel and that is the Jews. Under Byzantine, Ottoman and Arab rule, it was just a backwater province occupied by a multitude of different groups. Jordan never existed as a country prior to 1948 and Palestine never existed as a country…ever. So as a factual matter you are wrong…Israel is perhaps the least artificial country in world history, except maybe China, Greece and some other ancient countries, whose current dominant population is similar to its ancient population.

    Virgile, simple question. What is your country? Is it an Arab Muslim one? Then why don’t you take in your brethren. If it is not, how would you fancy your country if it was Arab Muslim ruled?

  5. @ “But that latter alternative [the single state solution] would be disliked by most Israelis (not just the extreme right) insofar as it would imply, for demographic reasons, destruction of the concept of Israel as a Jewish state.”

    The threshold legal question that seems never to be asked is, whether the United States may lawfully support and promote a “Jewish State?” That question raises very substantial issues under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition against a government backed Establishment of religion.

    “[T]o satisfy the Establishment Clause a governmental practice must (1) reflect a clearly secular purpose; (2) have a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and (3) avoid excessive government entanglement with religion.” Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577, 585 (1992). Answering that test two years later, in Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687(1994), the Court held that creation of a school district that was *in effect* a Jewish school district, violated the Establishment Clause, notwithstanding that the . See also id. at 688 (“government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion”); Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 16 (1947) (“Neither … a state nor the Federal Government … can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another”).

    In other words, there is no exception to the Establishment Clause making establishment and support of a Jewish government a lawful purpose of U.S. government.

    I have found no case reports holding that the Establishment Clause’s reach is limited to the geographical boundaries of the United States proper; by the Clause’s plain language, it has no geographical limitations: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion[.]”

    Therefore, U.S. government efforts to maintain and support a nonsecular Jewish State in the former Mandate Territory of Palestine seem legally questionable at best.

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