Showing Palestinians That Peace Can Be Made Without Them
Last week, a chorus of American lawmakers, presidential candidates, and many others predicted that re-electing Benjamin Netanyahu would forever doom prospects of peace in the Middle East, along with the “two-state holy grail” that has eluded the West since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.
Clearly, there is widespread and deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and future peace prospects in the US. We are farther from peace — or closer to it than ever — depending on how one defines peace in the Middle East.
We are farther from peace if one defines that as peace with the Palestinian Arabs, who make up a tiny portion of the Arab world. We are farther from peace because of decades of foolish financing and support for the Palestinians by a world motivated by a variety of factors — not all of them rooted in altruism or concern for Palestinians. These funds have been misused by kleptocratic Palestinian leaders, and predominately to further radicalize Palestinian society and create future generations that cannot and will not accept peace with Israel.
This doesn’t mean that the two-state solution is dead — not when Israelis still believe in it more than anyone else on earth. But there is no peace because the Palestinians don’t want it, and nothing will change in that regard until Palestinian society changes.
At the same time, we are closer to peace than ever if one defines peace as peace with the Arab world. Ironically, Barack Obama himself helped contribute to this. Failures such as the Iran deal, the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt following the Arab Spring, and many others have moved the Arab world closer to Israel. For example, many will concede that President Obama’s foreign policy magnified fears of an unchecked, nuclear Iran, pushing it directly to the forefront of the Sunni collective mind.
The Sunni world is losing interest in using Palestinians as pawns against Israel for self-serving reasons. First, the Sunni world now sees Israel as a much needed protection against Iran. Second, some Palestinian factions and terror groups have foolishly bedded down with Iran, transforming themselves into one of many terror tentacles that Tehran cultivates across the region. And finally, since the Arab street is no longer fueled by outrage against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, Arab leaders cannot use anti-Israel hatred as a tool to re-direct internal anger.
Where does this leave the Middle East? It leaves it facing an interesting new reality. Palestinian intransigence, their alliance with Tehran, growing Sunni fears of Shia hegemony, and President Trump’s cessation of blind support for the Palestinians have all marginalized the Palestinian position.
President Trump, unlike his predecessors, has a good understanding of this, and like Netanyahu, he is interested in pursuing the larger peace if the smaller one cannot be currently attained. Sadly, they’re correct in assuming that the only way to drive the Palestinians to the negotiating table, de-radicalization, and eventual peace is to show them that peace can be made without them.