Trump’s Deal On Mideast May ‘Trump’ Politics
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
As Israel gears up to a surprise election, the American-led peace plan touted as the “Deal of the Century” seemed to suffer a major blow. But don’t write off the deal yet.
Wait, election? Didn’t we just do this, like, five minutes ago? Yes, Israel had an election back in April. But 50 days later, Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose right-wing bloc won, failed to assemble a ruling coalition — so he opted for a redo instead.
Quibbling with would-be partners over compulsory national service for the traditionally-exempt ultra-Orthodox, Mr. Netanyahu needed to contend with religious zealotry, political egos, and his own vulnerability after being charged with corruption.
On Wednesday, just before his 50-day deadline to announce a coalition expired at midnight, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, voted itself out, and a new election was set for Sept. 17.
It’ll cost the state far beyond $100 million and, if instant public opinion polls are correct, the outcome will change little. Yet, movement of even one Knesset seat could resolve some issues and Israel will, at last, get a new government.
Also Wednesday, two American guests, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, arrived in Israel, still trying to push President Trump’s long-advertised blueprint for Israeli-Arab peace. Their arrival just as the political drama ensued seemed oh-so-ill-timed.
The peace plan, kept under wraps for two years, was widely expected to be unveiled at the end of Ramadan next week. But Israel’s unprecedented and all-consuming political turmoil is likely to postpone it yet again, for the fall at the earliest.
Messrs. Kushner and Greenblatt, in fact, came to Israel at the end of a quick Mideast swing, trying to talk Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, and Jordan’s king, Abdullah II, into coming to Bahrain next month.
The June 26 workshop in the tiny Gulf state is an opportunity for Arab statesmen to attempt to alleviate Palestinian economic hardships. The Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, Qataris, and others will be there — but not the Palestinian Authority, which has been fighting the Greenblatt-Kushner plan tooth and nail — even before seeing one paragraph of it.
The Palestinians, widely dependent on donations, prove that, yes, beggars can and will be choosers; The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Mr. Abbas only, will decide who gets the privilege to hand cash over to him.
Despite the American visit, Jordan’s Abdullah has yet to decide on representation in Bahrain. The king is sensitive to political whims of his Palestinian constituents, which is a majority in the country. Jordan’s absence may put a dent in the Bahrain proceedings, which is why the two American envoys flew to Amman, where they applied extra pressure on the king.
Meanwhile, traditional Washington peace processors, who have long predicted failure for Messrs. Kushner and Greenblatt, are already portraying the Bahrain summit as a disaster. Even if the powwow is successful, they say, it’d be worthless without the Palestinians.
Maybe. But, regardless of whether it would improve the Palestinian economy, the gathering points to a new, sensible approach to Israeli-Arab peace making. In the past, Washington diplomacy was premised on the notion that Arab states won’t cut deals with Israel, at least publicly, until the Palestinian issue is resolved.
Yet the interests of Israel and Arab rulers increasingly coincide (this week Arab leaders gathered in Saudi Arabia to forge a coherent Iran policy); Israel hatred is waning; and many in the region have wearied of endless Palestinian quibbling.
A successful peacemaking approach, then, could well turn the old paradigm on its head: Get Arab states and Israel to improve relations first, and then they will pressure the Palestinians to come along. This outside-in approach is new, and Mr. Trump’s team has long indicated a preference for it.
Another signal is emerging from Washington official statements and acts such as recognizing Jerusalem as capital: Past administrations, especially President Obama’s, saw Israeli policies — the occupation, the settlements, etc. — as the main, if not only, stumbling block to peace. Mr. Trump and his envoys put the onus on the Arab side.
The only people railing against this approach are those who have long tried to make peace and failed. Meanwhile, if Trump & Co. continue to work on the Arab side of the equation, a little political meshuggahs in Jerusalem may not be such a huge problem after all.
Twitter: @BennyAvni. From the New York Post.