Mideast peace won’t come easily
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.