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January 12, 2017 8:05 am

Trump Thinks He’s Helping Israel, But He’s Actually Hurting It

avatar by Alon Ben-Meir

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Donald Trump's US envoy, David Friedman. Photo: Kasowitz website.

Donald Trump’s US envoy, David Friedman. Photo: Kasowitz website.

President-elect Trump’s appointment of David Friedman (known for his support of settlements) to be the US ambassador to Israel; his appointment of Walid Phares (a Maronite Christian known for his pro-Israel track record and distaste for the Palestinians) as his Middle East adviser; and charging his son-in-law Jared Kushner (who is a staunch supporter of Israel and was recently appointed as senior adviser to the president) to take the lead in the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, all suggest there could be a major change in US policy in the region.

These appointments, coupled with Trump’s campaign promise to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, may well translate into Trump’s unfettered support for settlements and the annexation of more Palestinian territory. Should this come to pass, it will jeopardize the prospect of a two-state solution and the future of Israel as a viable Jewish state, not to mention the outbreak of endless violence that would ensue.

We are already hearing the alarm bells from various Arab capitals. The victory of the Palestinians on the passage of UN Resolution 2334 that condemns Israeli settlements has now been overshadowed by a sense of deep trepidation.

Many members of the Israeli government feel emboldened by these developments. Education Minister Naftali Bennett has called for the annexation of the third largest settlement — Ma’ale Adumim, a few minutes’ drive from east Jerusalem — which would virtually cut the West Bank in half and prevent the rise of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. He further implored Netanyahu to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state during the prime minister’s first conversation with Trump, saying, “The next few weeks present a unique window of opportunity for Israel.”

For Netanyahu, Trump as president is simply heaven-sent. He believes that even though he won’t succeed in convincing Trump to shred the Iran deal because of the international repercussions that Trump cannot dismiss, the Trump administration will leave him to his own devices to expand the settlements and gradually render the prospect of a Palestinian state unfeasible by creating irreversible facts on the ground.

The irony here is that many of those who claim to care about Israel’s future security and well-being do not want to acknowledge that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not a fading phenomenon. Yes, Israel can build another 100 settlements and annex much of the West Bank, but what then? Will the Palestinians, the Arab world and the international community simply sit on their hands and do nothing?

Those unflinching supporters of Israel should be true to themselves and answer this: where will Israel be in 10 or 15 years? Will it be a Jewish state? A democratic state? An apartheid state? A bi-national state? What legal system will be in place to govern the West Bank? Will it be civilian or military? Will there be two different laws, one for the Palestinians and one for the settlers?

What is the vision of the detractors who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state about the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians? What does Netanyahu mean when he repeatedly invokes the Jews’ claim to the entire “land of Israel?” Does Bennett have any clue what will happen following the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim, or the annexation of Area C, which represents 61 percent of the West Bank?

What will be the reaction of the Arab states? Can Netanyahu count on their cooperation during the next Palestinian uprising, which is bound to erupt once their hope for a state is dashed completely? What will be the outcome of the next Gaza war, and what will be the extent of the collateral damage?

Yes, Israel can reoccupy Gaza and decapitate Hamas’ leaders (as Israel’s Defense Minister Lieberman recently retorted), but is Israel willing to govern over 1.8 million Palestinians? At what cost, in both blood and treasure? If not, what happens when the next round of rockets rains down daily, terrifying every Israeli?

Can Israeli technology and anti-terror capabilities that Netanyahu boasts about bring peace? How, one might ask? Will the Arab states simply forget about the Palestinians’ plight only because they are currently collaborating with Israel on matters of security and intelligence-sharing to lessen Iranian threats?

Finally, have Netanyahu, Bennett and their like considered the international outcry, condemnation and sanctions that would ensue, and how isolated Israel will be? Have they thought about what Jews around the world would be subjected to? Antisemitism will intensify and Jewish businesses and organizations will be seen as ‘fair targets’ for terrorism.

The young generation of Jews will be further alienated; their immigration to Israel is already in decline. They will no longer view Israel as a safe haven for Jews but as a major liability; they will not want to enlist in the IDF and be assigned to oppress the Palestinians and deny them the right to be free.

What many Israeli madmen and women in and out of the government (like Netanyahu, Bennett, Lieberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Culture Minister Miri Regev, and their cohorts) refuse to realize is that they can manipulate, maneuver, manage or mar the Palestinians only up to a point — but they cannot control them indefinitely. Netanyahu, in particular, skillfully uses fear tactics and takes advantage of Palestinian incitement to justify his claim that the Palestinians  are not interested in peace.

His most blatant lie is the contention that once Israel evacuates the West Bank, the territories will become just another Gaza (a “Hamastan”), a launching pad for rockets and terrorism, when in fact the withdrawal from Gaza was unilateral without any coordination with the Palestinian Authority in charge of Gaza at the time.

The economic dependency of the Palestinians in the West Bank on Israel, and security cooperation will not end once there is a peace agreement. Israel is, and will remain, the economic lifeline for the Palestinians for decades. The Palestinians seek political independence but they cannot (nor do they want to) simply divorce themselves from Israel completely because of these ties. They know about Egypt and Jordan’s extensive collaboration with Israel in these areas and how much they benefit from having peace with Israel.

I do not, however, exempt the Palestinians for one moment from responsibility. It is time they stop living in the past; violence and incitement against Israel will do nothing but deprive them of the very thing they want to achieve — a state of their own. They must be prepared to pay the price for wanting to be free.

They must learn how to shoulder their responsibility, clean up their corrupt political system and focus on building the infrastructure and institutions of a state. Above all, they must stop poisoning the next generation of Palestinians against Israel, as doing so only victimizes these young boys and girls and deprives them of a better and more promising future.

Before Friedman, Phares and Kushner advise the president on how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they must answer all of these questions, which have major bearing on Israel’s very future. I absolutely believe that they all genuinely care about Israel and want to do everything they can to ensure its security and prosperity, at peace with its neighbors. But here is where tough love is needed. As Nietzsche succinctly put it, “This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand out of love, and keep modest as a giver.”

This is precisely the point. Because of their commitment to Israel’s well-being, they must carefully think about the ramifications if they recommend to the president to fulfill his campaign promise to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem without simultaneously acknowledging the right of the Palestinians to establish their own capital in east Jerusalem once a peace agreement is achieved.

They must warily consider the implications if Israel were to annex Ma’ale Adumim without agreed-upon land swaps while ensuring a future Palestinian state maintains land contiguity. They must be extraordinarily cautious not to give Netanyahu a blank check to expand the settlements and scuttle the two-state solution, and put Israel’s future in peril.

As a deal maker, Trump knows that no unilateral action by one party can seal a deal. An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must be equitable — a non-zero sum approach that answers to the aspirations of both people, especially because they have no choice but to coexist. Their destiny, like it or not, is intertwined — either they live in peace and harmony, or in perpetual violence, death and destruction. Neither can have it their way only.

Here is where you, Mr. Trump, can play a historic role. As a deal maker, I implore you, do not give Netanyahu what he wants. If you do, you will rob the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians of everything they aspire for and set in motion an unrelenting cycle of violence that will spare neither side decades of more pain, agony, death, and destruction.

Kushner is the least zealous; he knows the Israeli scene well, and understands that anything short of evenhanded peace will be to Israel’s detriment. We can only hope that he will use his influence as a senior adviser and pave the way for President Trump to make the deal that all of his predecessors failed to achieve.

As the visionary David Ben-Gurion, who was the leading founder of the state of Israel and its first prime minister, put it, “Better a Jewish state on part of the land than all of the land without a state.”

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  • RW

    The most likely outcome for the new president’s policy regarding Israel/Palestine is that he will pay much less attention to it than his predecessors. Trump will soon discover that peace between Israel and Palestine is a far off proposition and put his efforts elsewhere.

  • Joe9090

    I suppose we can boil this down with one question to Alon Ben-Meir or whoever would care to answer. What is the legal basis for asserting that Judea and Samaria and “East Jerusalem” is “Palestinian territory” ?

  • marty greencheeks

    I hope the door hits your Butt on the way out

  • Michael Katz

    Friedman will do a Great Job! He will have his work cut out for him. There will be protestors on all sides. If he pulls off the plan, he will make the history books. Trump has appointed Great Negotiators!

  • Kivi Shaps

    declare our sovereignty and deport the terrorists.

  • It’s premature to speculate on whether President-elect Trump thinks he’s helping Israel or actually hurting it. UN Security Council resolution 2334 hurt Israel. The so-called two-state solution, and the failed Oslo Accords hurt Israel. In spite of the bombastic rhetoric in this article, Israel is exceptional and will persevere.

  • SkyCop2010

    the so-called “Palestinians” are nothing more than Arabs! They need to be exported to Jordan which was intended for them. They have repeatedly shown they are not interested in peace!!

  • Phil Lesh Fan

    The author of this piece asked many questions. All those questions had to do with what we/Israel should consider and what we should fear.

    Noticeably absent is the one question which those who cry out about a two-state solution being the only way to go. Here is the question which needs to be asked before any further “two-state solution” talks proceed: “What have the Palestinians ever done which shows they even want a peaceful coexistence with Israel?”

    Alon Ben-Meir would do well to ponder the implications of the answer to the above question, which is, of course, “The Palestinians have never shown they want peaceful coexistence with Israel because the Palestinians do not want such a thing.” Since that is the case in reality, the entire premise of this article has no standing.

    Try again, Mr. Ben-Meir.

  • Reb_Yaakov

    It’s quite true that what seems favorable to Israel at first may turn out to be to its detriment in the long run. It’s an immediate gratification ploy, like drinking alcohol: it makes one feel better at first but the long-term consequences may be quite different. One cannot let special interest groups, such as those who deep down would like to expel the Arabs, lead Israel down the path to oblivion.

    Aside from the settlements, which have constituted a misguided idea from the start, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem has to be seen as a positive action, if not an imperative. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and we should not allow anyone to deny that. The few hotheads who threaten this and that if the embassy is moved will get over it. This is one situation in which one wants to show strength and not cower in the face of those who deny the essence of Israel’s existence. One thereby gains respect.

  • DACON9

    ALON, What is a palsitinian pre arafat? whats a ‘west bank?. Israel never should have fought back in 1948 and 1967. Who really would believe that G-D would really do as “HE” promised to keep his favorite children protected.
    Israel should hide in a arab tunnel every time they ram a bus into Israel citizens or blow themselves up in Israeli faces. How dare Israel believe in G-D. How dare Israel survive 50 attacking nations one after another over the span of history. HOW DARE ISRAELI GOVERMENT REMOVE ISRAELI CITIZENS HASHEMS PEOPLE FROM THEIR HOMES TO PUT ARABS IN THEIR PLACE. Its amazing that Americans know more history and TORAH then the government and citizens of ‘my land’, Hashem gave to me. The righteous few with have a share in the world to come and that includes of Israel also.

  • Joseph Feld

    Egypt and Jordan should play a role in creating Palestine.Just to note, about 60% of Jordanians are Palestinians, and many Pals have Egyptian ancestry. There has never been an Arab capital in Jerusalem, but a government area could be agreed upon. There could be two tiers of govt. Arab Jerusalem could elect its local govt, as could Jewish Jerusalem — with a city wide govt for what they share such as security. Both Hamas and Fata have charters which call for the destruction of Israel, such parties should be banned from putting up candidates . Details must be negotiated in direct talks.