Finley: Palestinian fantasy blocks Mideast peace

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Every president succumbs to the temptation to broker a Middle East peace deal.

Donald Trump is no exception. He recently unveiled his proposal for settling the ancient grievances dividing the Holy Land to unenthusiastic reviews. The plan, the product of three years of work by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, will fail, like all the others that came before.

That has nothing to do with the details — this offer is actually more honest and realistic than its predecessors. It should be the blueprint for Israel and the Palestinians to finally become peaceful, prosperous neighbors.

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner

But it will go nowhere because the Palestinians still cling to an all-or-nothing fantasy which has them ruling from the river to the sea,” with the Jews driven away.

Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., acknowledges the inevitable futility of this latest peace effort even while praising the details of Trump's proposal, which Israel has embraced.

“Peace may have to wait for a new generation, new leadership,” says Ayalon, who visited Metro Detroit over the weekend to speak to the Jewish Federation. “At this point, Palestinians continue to claim the entire land. They still teach their children that the whole land is theirs, and they’re going to get it.”

Despite being panned by a commentariat that can give Trump credit for nothing, there’s a brilliance to the proposal that should have given it legs.

For one thing, Ayalon, who represented his country in Washington from 2002-06, notes that Kushner worked from the outside in. Unlike past administrations that sought to get Palestinian buy-in first, the Trump team sold the plan to the moderate Sunni Arab states in the region before presenting it to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The hope was to replace the past strategy of pushing Israel to accede to Palestinian demands with one that applies pressure on the Palestinians to accept reality.

Another strong point of the plan is that it sets boundaries Israel can defend. Former President Barack Obama indulged the Palestinian delusion that Israel would return to its pre-1967 borders, which left it perpetually vulnerable to attack.

Also, this deal requires the Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. In return, the Palestinians get a sovereign, independent nation and $65 billion from the world community to make it work.

The requirement to recognize Israel and accept the footprint drawn for two secure states remain steps too far for Palestinians encouraged by Iran’s vow to wipe Israel off the map.

So Trump will fail in the Middle East, as did Obama, and George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

And the next president will, too, if he or she also sees a legacy in planting peace on ground that won’t nurture it.

For now, Ayalon says the best that can be hoped for is the Trump proposal will lead to smaller, interim agreements on economic and cultural cooperation.

“We should always be attempting to make peace, even if we can’t get to a final solution,” he says. “This generation may not get there, but step by step, maybe someday.”

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