Donald Trump

Trump: Uniquely Qualified for an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal?

Trump isn't very engaged with the issue. Maybe that's a good thing.

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Matty Stern/ZUMA Press/Newscom

For decades American presidents have tried, with varying degrees of effort and to varying degrees of success, to negotiate a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Donald Trump, with his apparent lack of interest both in policy detail and in pretending the U.S. is a neutral party, could be uniquely qualified to accomplish what has eluded his predecessors.

Since the Camp David talks of the mid-1970s, the term "peace process" has mostly meant American-led negotiations. That in itself is a problem: When the U.S. takes too large a role in the talks, it removes the pressure from Palestinian and Israeli diplomats to arrive at a deal on their own. But Trump has shown little capacity for the kind of long-term, sustained attention that allows Israelis and Palestinians to abdicate their leadership.

That attention, full of "shuttle diplomacy" and frenetic attempts at legacy-building, rarely moves the peace process forward in a meaningful way. U.S. disengagement, by any avenue, could create the space for real progress.

Trump has also shown little interest in upholding some of the fictions of American diplomacy. When he declares that his administration will "always stand with Israel," he adds none of the nuance of the Obama era, when such language of friendship was constantly coupled with promises to hold Israel accountable. Trump's rhetoric matches the reality on the ground: Since Israel is one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid, negotiators won't see Washington as a neutral party even if the U.S. would like to assume that role.

Trump has, in fact, said he wanted to remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Let me sort of be a neutral guy," he said at one campaign stop last year. "I don't want to say whose fault is it. I don't think it helps." This desire did not stop Trump from making unabashedly pro-Israel statements during the campaign or since taking the presidency. With any other politician, a desire for neutrality would be incompatible with statements of unqualified friendship. But Trump is not a typical politician, and his propensity to make contradictory statements without even attempting to reconcile them has arguably destroyed the credibility of his presidency.

Whatever else that might do, it could have the salutory effect of giving Israeli and Palestinian negotiators the impression that they're on their own. A long series of active and respected American presidents have been unable to move the peace process forward. Maybe an inactive president with little credibility is just the jumpstart the negotiations need.

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  1. I would hope that the Middle East, being a contrarian place, might broker a peace deal just to fuck with the West.

  2. Maybe the first thing we should do is stop pretending that one big magic moment, everyone wins a Noble Prize peace deal is possible. The conflict has been going on since 1947. We didn’t get here overnight and you are not settling it overnight. So maybe they should make a few smaller deals that make things marginally better and start worrying about making some improvement rather than settling everything at once?

    As far as Trump goes, he is uniquely situated to broker a peace deal for the simple reason that unlike every other Western Leader and member of the foreign policy establishment, Trump doesn’t believe in the magical power of “negotiations” and words and at least understands that you don’t get two sides to make a deal until both sides have a reason to do so. For that alone, he is miles ahead of any US President since Reagan. The rest of them seem to think that if you just have enough “negotiations” the magic power of words will somehow cause people to make a deal where there was no motivation to do so in the first place.

    1. Yes, no magical words. Negotiations succeed when both parties feel they are getting more than they are giving up. Hindsight may show different, of course. Can even a small deal be made if one side’s position is “we are going to wipe you off the face of the earth?” But is that really the position of the Arab side or just propaganda they have to feed their people and financial backers?

    2. Nice to see you again, John.

      Personally, I wonder why Israel has any obligation to ‘peace’ talks when they essentially mean ‘we’re going to be taking land away from you, and probably all of Jerusalem.’

      When the Media says ‘peace talks’ this is more or less what they mean. It should be noted that, judging from the last several thousand years and even the last few decades and centuries, that most of the surrounding region is basically looking to expunge the Jews from the region entirely. With that thought in mind, what ‘peace talks’ are anyone honestly talking about?

      It assumes a lot of facts not in evidence.

      1. “It should be noted that, judging from the last several thousand years and even the last few decades and centuries”

        Better not note that. Jews lived for thousands of years in Jerusalem and other cities. Expunging Jews was a Christian thing up until the founding of the Jewish state.

  3. There is no such thing as credibility in politics. There is a political game where politicians argue about words instead of actions. Trump refuses to play that game. He doesn’t let one word constrain another. Hell he doesn’t necessary let one action constrain another.

    I kinda like it. I can see why it can be a bad thing, but it also means he can’t paint himself into a corner. He doesn’t mind stomping on wet paint or punching a hole in the wall.

  4. You know what would help? People ceasing to pretend there’s a “the Palestinians”. There are the Gazans and the West Bankers, with about equal populations in their geographically-distinct territories, and with completely separate leaderships. It’s been ten years, it’s time to acknowledge reality.

    1. You want people to elect their own leadership? What could go wrong?

      1. Well, last time, they elected Hamas to control their parliament.

        But that wasn’t really my point. Hamas seized Gaza in combat. And Abbas is firmly in charge of the West Bank even though his elected term ran out a long time ago. Regardless of that lack of democratic legitimacy, there is a reality here that Abbas speaks for the government of only half of “the Palestinians”. Kim Jong-un may lack democratic legitimacy, and the government in Seoul might claim to be the sole legitimate government of Korea, but it’s patently ridiculous to try to negotiate an issue like the North Korean nuclear program without including Kim’s representatives at the table.

        1. Elections for Palestine seem appropriate and necessary as you point out. Problem is you will probably not approve of the outcome. It’s happened before as you know.

  5. his propensity to make contradictory statements without even attempting to reconcile them has arguably destroyed the credibility of his presidency.

    No POTUS has ever had any credibility. Why give a shit now?

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