Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

There have been many failed attempts at forging a peace deal in the Israel-Arab Conflict. In 2017, the Trump Administration stepped into the situation with a very different approach than the Obama Administration. While there are many facets to the new methods, a clear distinction is Trump’s goal of an “Enduring Peace” versus Obama’s goal of “Peace Now.”

Team Trump’s “Enduring Peace”

Trump placed two people with seemingly little diplomatic experience – but significant deal experience – to try their hands at crafting a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians: Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. While unfamiliar with diplomatic protocol, both Kushner and Greenblatt visited the region many times over their lives. They were joined in their effort by Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American who is the US deputy national security adviser for strategy.

A White House spokesperson made its goal clear for the talks on August 11, 2017 when it stated:

“Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be difficult but he remains optimistic that peace is possible.”

Jason Greenblatt echoed those words in November after visiting the region several times stating:

“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal. We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal. Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate a lasting peace agreement.”


Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Team Trump’s stated mission is to forge a lasting peace that would endure for the future. The negotiators will take the time to work with the parties to structure an agreement that would provide lasting peace and security. This is a break from the Obama Administration.

Obama’s Progressive “Peace Now”

Obama had less international experience than Donald Trump when he assumed the office of the presidency in January 2009, and relied on his “progressive” liberal colleagues to educate him on the Israel-Arab conflict. Those left-wing parties included J Street and Americans for Peace Now. These groups advocated that the administration put “daylight” between America and Israel, as negotiations under President George W. Bush (which was viewed as very close to Israel), came up short of a deal. Obama made clear – to the delight of the far-left wing groups – that he was going to push the Israelis hard to stop building homes for Jews east of the Green Line (EGL).

The far-left groups believed that strong pressure on Israel was key to getting to a peace deal. They were ecstatic when Obama won a 10-month settlement freeze a few months after they met with Obama in July 2009 at the beginning of his term. They celebrated at the end of the Obama administration in December 2016, when Obama let United Nations Resolution 2334 pass declaring it was illegal under international law for Jews to live in EGL.

Jeremy Ben Ami, head of J Street said after the July 2009 meeting with Obama: “I left the room feeling we are at a truly historic moment of opportunity.  There may never be another American President who so clearly gets the issues strategically and has the political capital to try to pull off an agreement.”

The differences between Obama and Trump are both stark and clear.

The left-wing radicals believed that they had a moment in time, and that their anointed Messiah had a unique chance to forge peace in the Middle East. They felt both emboldened by Obama’s presidency and felt the urgency of time. They pushed the Obama Administration to get to a deal as quickly as possible by pushing a solution onto Israel.

Conversely, Team Trump has not shown such hubris. Their focus is not to get to a deal in the fastest time possible, but to establish an enduring peace. They recognize the fact that when Israel uprooted all of its settlements in Gaza and gave the land to the Palestinians it did not result in peace, but in three wars. Greenblatt and Kushner are content to take time to get to a lasting resolution, not the gratification of an immediate deal. They have stated that they are not going to let the UN impose a solution, like the Obama Administration advanced in December 2016.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry failed to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians and watched the region descend into chaos. Their creation of “daylight” between Israel and the US; the use of international fora to attack Israel; and their rush to embrace the approach of “Peace Now” neither got to a deal nor set the parties on the path to enduring peace.

Hopefully the new approach of seasoned negotiators Greenblatt and Kushner to take their time to get to an “enduring peace” will yield much better results.


Related First.One.Through articles:

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Mutual Disagreement of Mediators and Judges in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

John Kerry: The Declaration and Observations of a Failure

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

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The Only Precondition for MidEast Peace Talks

Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has long argued that he needed many preconditions satisfied before he would sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for peace talks. Those requirements included settlement freezes and releasing Palestinian Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. Netanyahu begrudgingly did both of those things, and Abbas slowly showed up to talks, but didn’t actively engage to negotiate a solution.

Instead, during the last talks in 2014, Abbas shuttered the talks by forming a unity government with the terrorist group Hamas. Within a week, Hamas loyalists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, leading to the 2014 Gaza War.

More recently, Abbas argued for a new set of preconditions, including that peace talks must continue for at least one year, and that Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would be concluded by 2017. His preconditions seemingly now include demanding that his end goals (a new Palestinian State without Jews) be met before he even sits at the table.

Abbas sounds like a very serious man seeking peace.

For his part, Netanyahu continues to state that he is willing to sit down with Abbas without any preconditions and that he is open to discuss any matter. In doing so, he hoped to start bilateral talks and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.

Netanyahu is wrong too.

benjamin-netanyahu-valls-france-israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) holds a joint press conference with Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls, May 23, 2016. (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

GOALS and PRECONDITIONS

There is nothing wrong with the parties stating the goals they hope to achieve in the talks, whether they be the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with every Jew evicted from the land (PA position), or that such Palestinian state needs to officially recognize Israel as a Jewish State (Israeli position). The desires may be non-starters for the counter-parties, and whether those goals are ultimately achieved will be a matter of negotiations and compromise. However, they are not, nor should they be treated as, preconditions.

Preconditions had historically been viewed as items which the parties required to initiate and sustain the peace talks. In the past, Abbas argued that he needed those tangible results to gain popular support for the talks, and Netanyahu gave in (due to pressure from the USA) with a settlement freeze and releasing prisoners. More recently, Netanyahu banned any member of the Israeli parliament from going to the Temple Mount, to calm the killing spree launched by Palestinian Arabs against Jews in the Holy Land.

Asking for and satisfying these preconditions is flawed and counter-productive.

If peace talks will ultimately put both parties on a path to a better course, why beg the parties to show up?  The Palestinians demand preconditions and use the complaint “show me that you’re serious” to obtain slices of their ultimate goal, while never publicly making a single concession.  They continue to extract items from the Israelis while conceding nothing, as they wait to see what the French proposal will produce for them, before taking any steps towards the Israelis.

The French, while likely well-meaning, have destroyed the basic parameters for peace talks: they have pushed aside bilateral negotiations.  In doing so, there is no chance of bringing the Palestinians to the table.

For the Israelis, satisfying slices of Palestinian goals without any mutual action by the Palestinians before talks commence has two negative consequences: it continues to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they can forever delay publicly stating any compromise position, undermining the Israeli public’s confidence in the talks; and it obfuscates the vital parameter of the peace process, which is not whether the parties can sustain the talks, but whether they have the ability to deliver on the outcome.

THE ONLY PRECONDITION

If the parties negotiating the peace talks have no legitimacy, and no ability to deliver on whatever is negotiated, the talks are a complete waste of time and effort.

Which leads to the only real practical precondition to peace talks: the Palestinians must hold elections.

The Palestinians last voted for president in 2005, and for parliament in 2006. They have held no elections for either president or parliament since that time.

Acting President of the PA Abbas’s term expired in January 2009. He has continued in that post for many years, but has neither mandate nor support of the Palestinian people. The March 2016 Palestinian poll concluded “If new presidential elections are held today in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ candidate Ismail Haniyeh would win against Mahmud Abbas with a margin of 11 percentage points.”  Further, “a majority in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continues to demand his [Abbas’s] resignation.”

Abbas plo council
Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas at the
Central Council of the PLO in Ramallah

(photo: Reuters)

Hamas won 58% of the seats of parliament in the 2006 elections and subsequently routed the rival Fatah party out of Gaza. Abbas and his Fatah party have almost zero influence in the coastal strip.  That coastal strip has launched three wars against Israel since Abbas took power, in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

So Abbas has no legitimate authority, no popular support, and no ability to deliver peace.

Yet the world wants the Israelis to negotiate with a straw man.  Why should they?  For photo ops?

The only precondition for peace talks are for the Palestinian to hold new elections and for that winner to control both Palestinian Authority territories in Gaza and Area A in Judea and Samaria.

PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS AND RAMIFICATIONS

One of the fears in the global community about holding Palestinian elections is that Hamas would win the presidential contest. Almost every poll of Palestinian Arabs over the past ten years shows Hamas winning, particularly against Abbas. As such, world leaders have been reluctant to force an election as a Hamas victory would destroy any peace process, as Hamas states clearly in its charter (Article 13), “so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement…There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

As such, the world must be clear about the elections: Hamas, in its current configuration, with its current charter cannot participate in the elections. Should the Palestinians allow Hamas to run, the world will view such action as a rejection of any peace with the Jewish State.  The ramifications would be severe:

  • Nations would begin to cut off all Palestinian aid
  • From the United Nations perspective, the UNRWA relief agency which was initially designed as a short-term agency almost 70 years ago, will cut its staff and funding in half (and move those resources to help actual refugees at the UNHCR)
  • The global community would not put forward any international peace process, nor consider permitting a Palestinian admission into any UN agency for a decade

However, should the Palestinians have elections which exclude the Hamas terrorist group, the Palestinians would be represented by a leadership with a mandate, authority and capability of delivering on peace.  Such a leadership would be an actual counterparty that could deliver on the necessary compromises with Israel.

 

It is well past time to stop calling international conferences that exclude the Palestinians and Israelis, and forcing Israelis to negotiate with a straw man.  Begin the process of holding genuine Palestinian elections now.


Related First.One.Through articles:

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The United Nations Applauds Abbas’ Narrative

The Undemocratic Nature of Fire and Water in the Middle East

The Israeli Peace Process versus the Palestinian Divorce Proceedings

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Thomas Friedman Thinks Palestinians are Crazy in the Margins, While Israel is Crazy in the Mainstream

He should learn some math.

 

Thomas Friedman is an acclaimed columnist for the New York Times. He won three Pulitzer Prizes for his writing on the Hama, Syria massacre in 1982, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel, and for his writings about terrorism after 9/11.

One would think he had a pretty good command of the facts about the players in the Middle East. However, a review of Friedman’s op-ed pieces since the Gaza War against Israel in 2014 would reveal disturbing lies.

Thomas Friedman
Author and journalist Thomas Friedman

On May 25, 2016, Friedman wrote an article called “Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel-Palestine.” The article denounced the addition of Yisrael Beytenu into the ruling coalition government headed by Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Friedman wrote that Israel had become “controlled by Jewish extremists.”

Lie 1, “controlled by Jewish extremists. Israel is a thriving democracy with liberal values in the heart of the volatile, illiberal Middle East ruled by monarchs, military strongmen and dictators.  In the 2015 Israeli election, the Likud Party won the most seats in the Israeli parliament (30) and formed a coalition government. That coalition had a slim majority with only 61 of the 120 total seats, making it vulnerable to any single party’s whims to take down the government. To relieve such pressure and instability, Netanyahu sought to add to the coalition, first negotiating with the opposition party, Zionist Union (24 seats), before settling on the nationalist party, Yisrael Beytenu (6 seats).

Yisrael Beytenu, the most right-wing of the parties in the coalition, does not “control” the government. It was added to an existing ruling coalition to provide a broader base of stability.

Lie 2, “controlled by Jewish extremists. The term “Jewish extremists” is used often by Friedman (as it is at the United Nations). The latter uses the term freely, even as it denounces using the term “extremism” for any other religion.

As detailed in “Palestinian Authority Perfects Hypocrisy,” the political party Yisrael Beytenu, is indeed a nationalistic party, but it is a far cry from Hamas (which Friedman labeled as a group with “an apocalyptic jihadist agenda” in his August 6, 2014 op-ed). It is also much less radical that the Palestinian Authority which Freidman called “moderate” in the same piece. That “moderate” Palestinian Authority calls for all Jews to be banned from the West Bank. It prohibits Jews from stepping foot on college campuses. It calls for the death penalty for any Arab that sells land to Jews.

That’s moderate according to Friedman?

Maybe the PA is moderate relative to Hamas, but Yisrael Beytenu is certainly more moderate than the PA.

Lie 3, “Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.” Friedman never mentions that it was Netanyahu that pulled Israel out of half of the Holy Basin of Jerusalem-Bethlehem in 1996 during his first premiership. Friedman also never mentions the various peace talks Netanyahu has engaged in and his freeze on settlements.

Friedman prefers to state that Israel wants to forever “occupy” Palestinian Arabs, as he wrote in February 10, 2016 “Israel [is] determined to permanently occupy all of the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, including where 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians live.” Why deliberately not mention Israel’s unilateral move out of Gaza in 2005? Because in exchange for that action, Israel was rewarded with over 10,000 rockets from Gaza in to Israel?

Why not mention the Separation Barrier, built by Israel during the Second “Intifada.” If Israel was intent on keeping all of Judea and Samaria, why did it build a separation wall?

Lie 4, Israel as a country is nationalistic and racist, while the Palestinians are moderate and seeking peace.  Friedman does not state this outright, but his various articles repeatedly describe a rightward shift in Israel and refers to any Palestinian Arab that is not Hamas, as a moderate.

At the end of Hamas’s 2014 War from Gaza, Friedman wroteEither Arab and Israeli moderates collaborate and fight together, or the zealots really are going to take over this neighborhood.”  Where are these moderates on each side?

Israelis voted in 2015, and gave its most right-wing party 5% of the seats in parliament.  It gave the extreme anti-nationalist Arab Joint List 13 seats, or over 11% of the parliament. That’s twice as many people that wanted to see the country lose its Jewish character, rather than strengthen it.  It also meant that 84% of the country did NOT vote on extreme nationalistic lines.  Compare that to the millions in the United States voting in 2016 for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Americans have voted on the polar extremes much more than Israel, even while Israel faces existential threats from Iran, and has ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas at its borders.

On the Palestinians side, the Arabs last voted in 2006, and gave the virulent anti-Semitic jihadist terrorist group Hamas 58% of the seats in parliament. The Palestinians have not been able to hold any elections since that time.

Yet Thomas Friedman continues to write that it is Israel that is controlled by extremists, while the Palestinians are governed by a moderate government.

The leader of that moderate government, acting-President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, is simply inept, not extreme, as Friedman wrote The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, sacked the only effective Palestinian prime minister ever, Salam Fayyad, who was dedicated to fighting corruption and proving that Palestinians deserved a state by focusing on building institutions, not U.N. resolutions.”

For Friedman, Abbas doesn’t do anything extreme. He is a moderate, but simply a poor administrator.

As to the Palestinian people, a poll published by the Anti Defamation League in April 2014 found that almost every single Palestinian Arab- 93% – harbor anti-Semitic views.  Friedman never wrote about that poll’s findings.


When people are led to believe that the Palestinians are moderate and are led by a moderate leader, and the only Arab extremists are a few lunatics on the fringe (Hamas), it becomes easy to blame Israel for the stalemate in peace negotiations.

So Friedman leaves his readers with the following summations in his editorials:

“Israel is a really powerful country. It’s not a disarmed Costa Rica. No one expects it to give up everything. But fewer and fewer can understand why it puts so much energy into explaining why it can’t do anything, why the Palestinians are irredeemably awful and why nothing Israel could do would affect their behavior. I truly worry that Israel is slowly committing suicide, with all the best arguments.”

October 28, 2015

This is not your grandfather’s Israel anymore”

February 10, 2016

“For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a dark hour.”

May 25, 2016

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize continues to paint Israel as the extremists “slowly committing suicide.” Perhaps those that care about the country should react strongly and force it to take corrective actions (sound like a J Street call out to US President Obama to side against Israel at the United Nations Security Council?)  This is the clarion call for liberals: we condemn Israel because we care, not because we hate it.

There is certainly no call to moderate the “moderate” Palestinians, as pretending they are moderate is core to the belief system of pinning the responsibilities on Israel.  It also allows the progressives to align themselves with these moderate, peace-seeking people.

Such is the liberal war against Israel.


Related First.One.Through articles:

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

Palestinians are “Desperate” for…

Abbas Knows Racism

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

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European Narrative over Facts

Sweden and the United Kingdom took steps to recognize a Palestinian State in October 2014. The assumed reason stated by pundits was to pressure Israel to move forward with peace talks. The only issue is that facts and reason do not support pressuring Israel.

Palestinians were last polled at the end of September 2014 and Israelis in June.  Regarding a two state solution:

  • 53% of Palestinians support a two-state solution, 46% oppose it
  • 60% of Israelis support a two-state solution with only 32% opposed

That means that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis (who favor it by almost a 2-to-1 margin).

What about using negotiations versus force?

  • For the Palestinians, 63% believe Hamas’ armed approach should be used in West Bank
  • 55% of Palestinians would vote for the anti-Semitic Hamas party which wants to destroy Israel, if presidential elections were held now
  • (The use force is not about attacking the Israeli army but all Israelis: the same percentage – 54% – were in favor of the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers who were hitchhiking home from school)
  • Among Israelis, 60% would return to the negotiating table today

So the Palestinians clearly prefer the use of force while the Israelis prefer negotiations.

So who actually needs pressure to advance in peace talks, Israelis or Palestinians?


Sources:

Palestinian poll: http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/496

Israeli poll: http://en.idi.org.il/tools-and-data/guttman-center-for-surveys/the-peace-index/

Israeli poll: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-peace-conference/1.601996

FirstOneThrough on UK’s blind spot: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/no-disappearing-in-the-land-of-blind/