Mideast peace won’t come eas­ily

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in the Los An­ge­les Times: Don­ald Trump won the pres­i­dency thanks to a se­ries of cocky, what-me-worry prom­ises to solve seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lems us­ing his sup­pos­edly su­pe­rior art-of-the-deal ne­go­ti­at­ing skills.

Last week, he made an­other such prom­ise. Af­ter meeting with Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas at the White House, he vowed flip­pantly to bring the cen­tury-old conflict be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans to an end, adding that the prob­lem is “some­thing that, I think, is frankly maybe not as dif­fi­cult as peo­ple have thought over the years.”

The mon­u­men­tal ar­ro­gance and flat-out ig­no­rance dis­played by such an ob­tuse state­ment is truly stun­ning. Vir­tu­ally all Amer­i­cans, Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans, as well as the cit­i­zens of ev­ery other coun­try on the planet, favour a just, safe, sus­tain­able, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial res­o­lu­tion to this en­dur­ing conflict.

But no one any­where be­lieves it will be easy. Just like re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare, which Trump ini­tially said would be “so easy” but fi­nally con­ceded: “No­body knew health care could be so com­pli­cated.”

By all means, Trump should try his hand at Mid­dle East peace­mak­ing. But for the record, since no one else ap­pears to have told him, here are some of the fac­tors that make this par­tic­u­lar conflict knot­tier and more trou­ble­some than the pres­i­dent seems to re­al­ize.

Any agree­ment be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis must over­come more than 100 years of ha­tred and mis­trust, built on a long his­tory of killings, ter­ror, dis­pos­ses­sion, im­pris­on­ment and bro­ken prom­ises.

Is­rael’s most gen­er­ous of­fer ever, made in the fi­nal days of the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, didn’t meet the Pales­tinian de­mand for an in­de­pen­dent state along the lines that ex­isted be­fore the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as a cap­i­tal and a res­o­lu­tion to the on­go­ing refugee prob­lem. If one side’s best of­fer doesn’t meet the other side’s min­i­mum re­quire­ments, there’s a prob­lem.

And there’s more: How to di­vide re­sources, in­clud­ing wa­ter. What to do about the mil­lions of Pales­tinian refugees. How to han­dle the 1.6 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans un­der Ha­mas rule in the Gaza Strip.

Is Trump up for it? His glib, un­in­formed pro­nounce­ments are not en­cour­ag­ing.

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