- - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Jared Kushner, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and the others who worked on the recently announced Middle East Peace Plan deserve great credit for the most thoughtful and realistic effort regarding this issue in decades. 

The geographic and security specifics offer what the majority of Israelis can support, and a path to statehood which the Palestinians have been seeking. As one who began working on this problem during the Nixon and Ford administrations, I admire both the plan and the related diplomatic efforts made to get endorsement from the regional Arab states.

Unveiling the plan, President Trump reflected his realistic skepticism that it would be accepted in any form by the Palestinians, and for good reason.  It is doomed to failure and was immediately rejected out of hand by the Palestinians. Looking at the history of the conflict and the continued misperceptions of the Palestinians, it is possible to see why.

In organizational terms, there is no group or leader that can even speak for the majority of the Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank. The concept that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) can do this is a myth. Mr. Abbas, also known as “Abu Mazen” when he was the architect of the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes, simply has no authority to make any deal that will hold. He took over the PA, which was previously the PLO, in 2004 when its founder, Yasser Arafat, a corrupt pedophile who wanted no agreement ever, died in Paris. Indeed, Israel offered some 90 percent of what Arafat claimed he wanted for the Palestinians during the Clinton administration and Arafat just walked out with no response.

Mr. Abbas and the PA have no control in Gaza, while the Iranian-supported Hamas rules in Gaza and Hezbollah in the North continue to attack Israel and have no interest in what Mr. Abbas has to say. The consistent message of their writings in Arabic, and now posted endlessly on social media, has been the destruction of Israel; death to the Jews living in the area; and a geographic solution called the “blue line” — pushing the Jews into the sea. In the current era MEMRI and others regularly translate this anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic literature and post it on the Internet. It is no secret.

One aspect of this reality, not often reported, is that if not for a level of protection Mr. Abbas receives from the Israeli security services he would most likely be dead. Here there is yet another myth that Mr. Abbas is an elected and universally beloved leader of the Palestinians. If on the off chance he were to sign onto the plan, he would be in even greater danger.

Since at least 1921 various “plans” for what was post-Ottoman Palestine have been put forth, largely by Great Britain and the United States, with varying degrees of support from the League of Nations and later the United Nations. All have failed. At the end of the British Mandate in 1948, and Israel’s War of Independence, the Arabs in the area, who now go by the term Palestinians, failed to recognize the military reality of their failure in this conflict and several that followed.

In simple terms, the Arab states fighting Israel and their Palestinian collaborators lost all of these wars. Losing a war entitles you to nothing. For the past 70 years those who lost have claimed “refugee” status, seeking international support for the “return” of land which by some analysis was never theirs, and by others were lost in battle.

Israel’s 1948 War of Independence ended with an armistice — not peace, and the armistice lines were just that — not recognized international borders.  Following the 1967 War the Arabs lost once again, and the lines moved again, now to the Jordan River and the Sinai peninsula. Once again, Israel fought the Arab states in 1973, losing again. In the aftermath of this conflict Henry Kissinger, with support from the Soviet Union, helped negotiate agreements among the parties that would forestall any future war and build a pathway to peace among the regional states — which succeeded and endured for half a century.  

Peace treaties evolved with Egypt and Jordan while a stable relationship with Syria and Lebanon became a reality. What did not happen was any resolution of the issues of Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank areas — or the final status of Jerusalem. Israeli “administration” of these areas was accepted and the vague prospect of a “two state solution” given lip service by several administrations, with no agreement by the United States or any of those involved as to what this would be.

Now the Trump administration has outlined a plan that Israel can accept and gives the Palestinians more than they could realistically hope for. At the same time, the Trump team has achieved acceptance of this plan from neighboring Arab states — a feat that no prior administration ever accomplished.  Yet, the plan is doomed to fail, and the Palestinians have only themselves to blame for it.

• Abraham Wagner has served in several national security positions, including the NSC staff under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

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