The Israel-Arab peace effort is suddenly awake again. Whether this movement will redeem the Trump administration’s promise “of a peace of the century” is another matter. But we’ll soon see.
After a year’s discussion, led by Jared Kushner, the president’s Jewish son-in-law and the administration’s special Mideast representative, the president’s design is said to be at last ready for roll-out.
Untangling this century-old web of ethnic, linguistic and diplomatic considerations will be anything but easy.
One speculation is that it will be called “a final settlement” — a particularly inept name for it, given history — rather than the step-by-step U.S.-led negotiations over almost two decades, husbanded for the most part by Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of State.
Mr. Trump’s December 2017 implementation of long-standing congressional demands that the United States recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, put the game afoot. But the Jerusalem daily Haaretz reports that Saudi Arabia has told President Trump’s administration that it won’t support the peace plan if it does not say that East Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian state.
The European allies oppose the deal, too, since they see it as American support of the unilateralist agenda of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu has a long-standing friendship with Charles Kushner, father of Jared Kushner. Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, indicates strongly that he wants to scuttle Mr. Trump’s peace scheme.
“The relationship with the United States,” he observed, “can only be sustained by the cancellation of the decision to consider Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to cancel the decision to consider the PLO as an organization of terror.
“President Trump’s administration will not do either of these two things, so [the PLO] must stick to the suspension of all contacts with President Trump’s administration refusing to regard it as mediator or sponsor of the peace process in any way.”
The fact is that “the two-state solution,” which foresees the creation of a viable Palestinian Arab state to match the mature and thriving state of Israel, is becoming a solution for consideration by three “states.”
Two Palestinian groups are lining up as the opposition to Israel. The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is firmly established in Ramallah on the West Bank. Israeli military and civilian occupation forces dominate the area west of the Jordan River — excluding both West and traditionally Arab East Jerusalem. Since the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis have permitted self-government, and it’s expanding. Mr. Abbas has not been in Gaza in more than a decade, and his chances of returning there are slender because he claims to represent all Palestinians, and he obviously doesn’t.
However, over the past few years, a fierce battle has taken place over the number of Palestinians living in the so-called Occupied Territories. The conservative-leaning American-Israel Demographic Research Group has argued for years that the Palestinians, with great sophistication, have inflated their true population by one million people, and that the real figure currently stands at about 1.5 million people.
After victory in the Six-Day War, Ariel Sharon, then the prime minister, pulled Israeli arms out of Gaza, forcing Jews there to leave. Israeli hawks argue that the attacks by Hamas, with its growing military strength and ability to inflict attacks on the southern Israeli border, is proof that a Palestinian state would be a threat to Israel. In fact, Israel continues to maintain direct external air and maritime control, control six of Gaza’s seven land crossings, a no-go internal buffer zone, and a population registry. Gaza remains dependent on Israel for water, electricity, telecommunications and other utilities.
Hamas and Fatah have not been able to implement repeated “reconciliation” agreements. Fatah claims that the agreements are supposed to allow it full Gaza responsibility. Hamas vehemently refuses to relinquish its own security.
Last week Hamas began paying thousands of its employees after the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar sent a $15 million cash grant, part of $90 million pledged by the Emirate. The cash was taken to Gaza by senior Qatari envoy Mohammed El-Amadi through the Israeli Erez border crossing. Now if everyone can stay awake, the beat goes on.