Trump’s recognition of Middle East realities with none of the predicted adverse effects coming true puts Palestinians in a bind
Twice now, Trump has done the unthinkable. Twice, he has ignored his own advisers and decades of precedent set by his predecessors. Most importantly, he ignored the threats, coming from the Arab and Muslim worlds of course, but also from the Europeans and the Russians that if he moved the American embassy to Jerusalem recognizing it as the capital of Israel, apocalypse would surely follow. He did it anyway and nothing happened, except that slowly but surely other countries that wish to be friendly to Israel and do not suffer from endemic anti-Semitism started following suit.
Similarly, when Trump recognized the Golan Heights as part of sovereign Israeli territory no adverse reactions other than meaningless statements by the usual suspects followed suit. In both cases, what Trump has done is irreversible. No US president will take the political hit associated with reversing these actions and despite any UN resolutions, regardless of Russian and European Union hand-wringing, America’s word is simply the last word.
That being said, Trump’s actions did have a secondary effect. They proved once and for all that all the Arab, Muslim, Western European, and United Nations warnings of the world coming to an end if the arbitrary lines of the 1948 Arab-Israeli armistice were not regarded as holier and more inviolate than any international boundary that had ever existed were simply untrue. Here was America, the world’s sole superpower, acting in ways that said that these boundaries were no different from any other boundary in history; they reflected the power balance between Israel and the Arabs as it was in 1948, when they were established. Since then, not much good has happened in the Arab world. It is now as poor and as backward as it was then, only more prone to violence and more religiously radicalized. Israel, on the other hand, has become orders of magnitude more populous, more prosperous, and more powerful. The balance of power has shifted in Israel’s favor, and so must its boundaries.
Did You Know The Roman Colosseum Was Built With Treasure Stolen From The Second Temple Of Jerusalem?
All the crying wolf about making changes to the “inviolate internationally recognized borders” is especially pitiful since in two places, along its border with Gaza and its border with Lebanon, Israel has withdrawn to precisely that: its internationally recognized borders. In both cases, these borders immediately became hotbeds of vicious attacks against Israeli civilians and the areas immediately adjacent to them on the other side became vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
So what does experience teach us? It teaches us that when the necessary and long overdue changes to the 1948 borders are made, only good consequences follow. None of the horror promised by the chorus of Anti-Semites United came to pass, but the reality de-jure came closer to the reality de-facto, which is always a good thing. Not a only a good thing in the abstract, but a good thing in a very real sense; it points out to Israel’s adversaries that their expectations from any “peace deal” cannot and should not involve fantasies in which over 70 years of bloody conflict with them always being on the losing side, over seven decades of them failing to produce thriving peaceful societies, nearly three quarters of a century of engaging in one big orgy of violence and international terror can be reversed. These moves by president Trump show Israel’s enemies that the longer they wait to make a reasonable deal, the worse that deal will be for them. That is the beauty of the “Art of the Deal”.
Israel will be electing a new Knesset the day after tomorrow. In the run-up to the hotly contested election, incumbent PM Netanyahu opined that after the election he would be examining extending Israeli civilian law over major Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria, settlements that are now governed by Israel’s military occupation authorities. Netanyahu also said that not a single Israeli will be asked to leave Judea and Samaria as part of any future peace deal and that President Trump is well aware of that. There can be little doubt that Netanyahu was telling the truth about Trump’s being in on it. This announcement by Netanyahu, coinciding with Trump’s stridently pro-Israeli speech at the Jewish Republican convention in Las Vegas is designed to send the Palestinian government in Ramallah a clear message: sign up to the Deal of the Century now, or you will sign up to it later with significantly worse terms.
A lot will depend on the elections. The four Knesset seats (3.5% of total vote count) minimum threshold for Knesset representation coupled with the proliferation of small parties on the left and on the right make polling very difficult since the slightest error causes a large fluctuation in the outcome. It’s what mathematicians would call a “chaotic system”. However, the small parties vie for votes almost exclusively within their own blocs and so the bloc picture is more stable and it promises a 62 to 68 seat majority to the right-center bloc led by Netanyahu. The center-left does have a path to victory, however. It involves Blue and White becoming the largest faction in the Knesset by a margin of more than two seats and using this leverage to convince one or two smaller parties from the center-right bloc to respect the will of the voter and defect. It will be a hard sell, not because of Blue and White, which, after all, is led almost entirely by IDF generals, but because even after the defection of one or two Jewish parties it will still have to rely on the Arab parties to form a majority coalition. This could prove one bridge too far for small center-right parties and especially for their voters, but in politics nothing can be ruled out.
Should the center-left come to power and the Ehud Barak-like Benny Gantz head up the new government, Trump’s deal will be immediately consigned to the trash heap of history. The Palestinians will expect the starting position for the negotiations to be what the previous left-wing prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert had promised them and it is a whole lot more than what Trump and Netanyahu are willing to give. The only way that the Deal of the Century can be made is with both sides of the New-Old worlds at the helm; Trump and Netanyahu. Let’s hope that this is what comes to pass.