Anger and Dismay

It’s been a difficult week for Jews. The Jews in Israel, most of them, have been facing thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately by Hamas at residential neighborhoods in the hope of overwhelming the Iron Dome system and killing as many civilians as possible. This is an action that is completely unjustifiable. It is the very definition of a war crime, the attempt to murder civilians. But this week, we’ve seen too many do exactly that, justify it. As Israelis huddle in hallways and bomb shelters with their children, many have argued that because Israel’s supreme court made a decision that they don’t like, that it’s okay for Hamas to try to murder Israel’s children. There is nothing but evil in that sentiment, but it has been shared widely by politicians and by far too many people on social media, many of whom don’t know any better, but too many for sure who do know better and just don’t care. Many of us are angry and dismayed.

For many years now, it has been the case that when there are things going on involving Israel, our teens and college students get questions about it from their friends. Essentially, “You’re Jewish! Can you explain why Israel is doing this for me?” As if every Jewish 14 year old kid is with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. This time? Not that. More like, “You’re Jewish! What the @#$% do you think you people are doing murdering innocents! You’re evil and your people is evil! Hitler was right, you @#$#@!” Crying and angry students. Crying and angry parents. And for some students, this stuff, maybe only slightly less full of Jew-hatred than what I wrote above, is coming from their “friends,” or at least close acquaintances, at school.

Every Jew’s social media right now is full of Jew-hatred. Much of it is unleashed Jew hatred based anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism, but in a large percentage of the cases, it’s just flat out Jew hatred based talk of warmongers and conspiracy laden evil plot based stuff that the KGB could have written back in the day when it wanted to promote hatred of Israel, but gave up after it decided that getting people to want to kill all Jews is not a good thing even for Russian anti-American goals. And no little of it is based on comments coming from politicians and polticial commentators popular with Jewish progressives, often feeling like daggers in the back for many right now.

Too many activists on racial issues grossly misrepresent the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in ways that dramatically advance hatred of Jews generally and no one seems willing to call them out on it. Some of them are spreading virulent hate. The Nazis would have been proud of many of the comments coming from the social activist left right now, and I wish I could add “Far” as a descriptor of left, but I can’t. Much of the misguided hatred is being promoted by people who are not far left, but who feel emboldened to promote an overly simplistic narrative of race and to apply it wrongly to a conflict of which they only have a peripheral understanding and on behalf of activists whose goal is promote hatred of Israel in ways that promote hatred of every Jew everywhere.

Those attacking synagogues around the world. Those spewing hatred toward Jewish students around the world. They’re just like the crusaders during the first crusade, who though wanting to liberate the Holy Land, decided to attack their local Jewish communities because they hated them too and were more convenient targets.

Those remaining silent as their friends and political allies spew hatred of Jews show that the way the Nazis were able to go about their work without facing opposition from enough average people to stop them is still functioning in 2021.

What all of this proves beyond any doubt at all is that a safe and secure Israel is essential to the well-being of Jews everywhere, that a place of refuge for persecuted Jews is every bit as necessary in 2021, even to American Jews, as it ever has been, and that Israel, nor Jews generally, can rely on any nation’s politicians to have our back, when thousands of rockets are being fired at us trying to murder as many as possible.

They demand we stop defending ourselves. “Ceasefire!” They demand a fair fight. One only demands a fair fight, if you want the other side to be able to win.

What is a proportional response to more than 3,000 rockets being fired intentionally at residential areas? It would seem logically that firing 3,000 rockets intentionally at residential areas of the other side would be the answer, something that no moral army would do and is far from what Israel does. Certainly targeted attacks aimed at degrading this capability are well within proportionality. Yet, Israel is condemned for weakening the other side, because the other side doesn’t have the power to win.

What most really complain about when they demand proportionality is that not enough Jews are dying to justify defending any at all. It’s truly obscene, but somehow this evades the logic of those calling for it.

I have not been happy with some of the Israeli government’s policies over the past few years, but I’m not mentioning those here because they don’t matter at all here. This isn’t about court decisions or police actions to stop rioters. It’s about much more than that. If you have a different opinion about whether or not Israel should be allowed to defend its citizens against indiscriminate attacks now and into the future, I think we differ on what is good vs evil, not what is the best policy. Only if you would be willing to have someone trying to murder your own loved ones and choose not to prevent it, does that argument have any moral or ethical standing. There are pacifists who would make it. If you’re not one, you’re simply defending or even promoting evil against good.

There is a serious illness of Jew hatred spreading in America right now. It’s time to stand up against it. May our anger and dismay turn into commitment and the courage to speak up.

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What lies behind the current Flare-up with Gaza?

Many reasons have been advanced for the cause of the current flare-up with Gaza.

Some see it as resulting from a property dispute between Jews and Arabs in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Others blame the police for erecting barriers at the Damascus Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem when Muslim worshipers were congregating there during the holy month of Ramadan.

Yet others view the current unrest in the context of the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections that were scheduled respectively for May 22 and July 31, and which Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas postponed on the grounds of a dispute between him and the Israeli government as to whether East Jerusalem residents would be able to participate in them.

Were such elections to take place, Hamas would in all likelihood have displaced the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and is using the flare up as an opportunity to demonstrate to the Palestinian public at large that they are the ones who are fighting to protect the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and Palestinian rights rather than collaborating as the Palestinian Authority does with the Israeli authorities.

Some believe that prime minister Netanyahu was interested in stirring things up in order to sabotage attempts to form a coalition that would have replaced him as prime minister. Those who hold such a view see confirmation in the fact that Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett has now withdrawn from negotiations to establish such a government.

While there may be some truth in a number of these assertions, the bottom line is that many Palestinians have yet to come to terms with the existence of a Jewish State in the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas are committed to the destruction of the Jewish State and are aided and abetted by their Iranian patrons, who have repeatedly expressed their intention to wipe Israel off the map. The call by protesters to “Free Gaza” chooses to ignore that dimension of the conflict.

In an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week Peter Beinart argued that displaced Palestinians should have the right to return home. He drew an analogy between their lot and that of Jews who yearned for two thousand years to return to their land. However, the comparison is flawed. Palestinians have not been the victims of persecution in foreign lands. Even more relevant is the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly been offered the opportunity to establish an independent state (something they have never had) alongside Israel, but have always refused seeking to play a Zero-Sum game.

Israel is not about to disappear. Half of world Jewry live there and the country has the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East. However, the present round of fighting has exacerbated relations between some of Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. That in some senses is much more worrying than the current flare up, which will come to an end, as previous ones have done, when a ceasefire is finally brokered.

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A New Gaza War

As hundreds of rockets were fired at Tel Aviv and it’s suburbs today, killing a number of Israelis, it was clear that Hamas decided to escalate the conflict, crossing Israel’s redlines. Israel will be planning a major operation against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza in the coming days. Air strikes will be immediate against any firing positions, because rocket launchers cannot be allowed to remain, wherever they are, including in populated areas, because they are firing AT populated areas in Israel. The IDF will go through a pre-planned series of strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets as well.

BUT a substantial portion of both terror organizations’ infrastructures are located below ground and in some cases, beneath vital civilian facilities that Israel cannot attack. In previous conflicts, Israel has been content to “mow the grass” so to speak, to periodically reduce the capacity of the terrorist organizations ability to strike against Israel and discourage them from doing so for a period of time.

Now, however, it is likely that reserves will be called up, incursions into Gaza are likely, and even an invasion is a possibility. This will be a protracted engagement. Barrages of rockets aimed at Tel Aviv was the precise redline that Israeli officials have indicated would necessitate a major ground incursion in prior years. The impact of shutting down Tel Aviv and the surrounding area is such that nothing but whatever level of response it takes to prevent that from happening again, including the possibility of a full scale invasion, can be the IDF’s ongoing plan.

Another awful aspect of today has been the rioting by Israeli Arabs and the torching of synagogues in Lod in particular. Many years of development of coexistence evaporated today. This will have an ongoing impact on relations between Jews and Arabs in many cities, but it also will obliterate any possibility of even moderate left leaning, much less right wing, political parties being in a coalition supported by Arab parties. This now assures either a new Netanyahu led coalition or new elections.

Many, even on the left, will be very content with the latter option, knowing that Benny Gantz is the current Defense Minister and will have the confidence of much of the left to help guide a response to the current crisis.

In the coming days, as the situation develops, I will write more. For tonight, our thoughts are with the people of Israel right now as well as with all of those innocents in Gaza, who are being exploited and endangered by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with the backing of Iran, as Israel is forced to respond.

Am Yisrael Chai!

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Sanity and Reason: A few words about Our Dear Friend and Mentor, Rabbi Michael Cook

It is with great sadness that I pass on the news of the death of Rabbi Michael Cook, a dear friend, teacher, mentor, and one of the founders of We Are For Israel.

Michael used to joke with me that when I was at Hebrew Union College that he didn’t “know how wise I was.” Not really what you want to hear from someone who graded your papers! I never was sure quite how to take that, but I think that he meant that once we started communicating frequently, generally about Israel, HUC-JIR, GUCI, and the Reform movement, that we became pretty close and he came to appreciate my thoughts.

Michael’s class was my favorite when I was at HUC. I loved how he used reason to analyze the texts. Michael’s ability to reason through a situation, to see the impact of systems and the implications of minute details in a text or in a real life situation, always piqued my interest. Over the years. I have taught Michael’s understanding of Christian Scriptures no few times, and helped to bring him in to teach to multiple groups to which I belonged.

Because I turned more to pulpit work, learning to be a better pulpit rabbi and concentrating less on my prior academic interests, I didn’t really interact with Michael for much of my time at HUC or for the first few years of my rabbinate. But then we began communicating again in 2008, when his book came out, and in in 2009 and 2010 as we defended the Cincinnati campus and as we formed We Are For Israel arguing for a “Centrist and Realistic” resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we communicated nearly every day, often multiple times a day.

Michael was one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met and also one of the limited number of truly courageous ones, speaking out about what he believed to be correct, even when it was unpopular with his friends and colleagues and when he knew there would be personal cost. He was an inspiration to me and a strong advocate for Israel.

I always enjoyed seeing him at Goldman Union Camp Institute in the summer and several times came early to camp to spend just an hour or two with him before he and Judy, another amazing Rabbi and good friend with whom I have had the pleasure of working at GUCI over the years, headed home.

Michael was a man of short physical stature, but an immense presence. He had a radio announcer’s voice and whenever I think of his teaching, I hear his words in that surprisingly deep voice, rising at the end expressing incredulity, drawing in your attention.

Rabbi Michael Cook leaves a tremendous legacy of teaching, of sanity and reason, of profound attention paid to the issues about which he was concerned, of friendship and mentorship, and of courage in the face of peer pressure.

He was an inspiration.

Michael Cook will be dearly missed.

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A Changing Middle East

The Middle East that Joe Biden will confront when he becomes the 46th president of the United States of America is not the same place that it was when he assumed the post of vice president in Barack Obama’s administration back in January 2009.

The so-called Arab Spring that Obama hoped would bring democracy to the Middle East turned out to be a disappointment. Elections in Egypt led to the Muslim Brotherhood taking power under the leadership of Mohamed Morsi in 2012, but just a year later he was ousted by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in a coup d’état.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action implemented in 2016, which was intended to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, has to all intents and purposes failed, and Iran has since rolled back its compliance with the deal’s operational limits.

Any prospect of a two-state solution bringing the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel to an end is further away than ever. Gaza and the West Bank are in effect two separate and independent political entities. The Palestinians have never been prepared to forego the right of return for the descendants of refugees of the 1948 war, and no Palestinian leader had the courage to agree to the offers made by former Israeli prime ministers Rabin, Barak and Olmert.

The political reality in Israel has also changed. The Labor party, which back in the days of Yitzhak Rabin held 44 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, would be unlikely to pass the threshold were elections to be held today.

Every opinion poll has demonstrated that Israel’s next government, just like the previous one, will be center-right in its political orientation making the prospect of a two-state solution, even were that to be on the cards, increasingly unlikely.

On a more optimistic note, a delegation from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took part in a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall this week. That would have been unthinkable even six months ago, but things are changing. And they are changing fast.

During Trump’s presidency, with all of its problems, diplomatic relations were established with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. Oman may well be next in line, and an historic meeting took place at the end of November between Israel’s prime minister and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince sending a strong signal to allies and enemies alike that the two countries remain deeply committed to containing their common enemy, Iran.

Israel is no longer an isolated Jewish State in the Middle East surrounded by enemies. It enjoys diplomatic relations with a growing number of Arab Muslim states, who have put the Palestinian conflict on the back burner as they line up to address the threat posed by a nuclear Iran.

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Peace or No-Peace That is the Question

If you said that Israel would only be able to make peace with its Arab neighbors after it agreed to a resolution with the Palestinians, it is sort of problematic to argue now that Israel was always at peace with its Arab neighbors, so that you can argue that the agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are not peace agreements.

Admittedly, it may be more accurate to describe the Israel-UAE and Bahrain agreements as Open Declarations of Peace. One could argue whether these came about because of efforts by this administration, the efforts of PM Netanyahu, the efforts of the governments of the UAE and Bahrain, or are simply the result of changing dynamics in the region, including a completely unreliable US foreign policy that may shift wildly every few years that has made it clear that Israel is a necessary stable strategic partner in the region, especially for those concerned about the influence of Iran and Turkey.

If you begin with the assumption that Arabs and Israel were in a state of hostility, best defined by the “No, No, No” of Khartoum (No peace. No recognition. No negotiations.) in response to the possibility of peace and you add in that during the Obama Administration, Sec. State Kerry said of the assumption among some Israeli leaders that Israel could make peace with the Arabs before making peace with the Palestinians, “No! No! No! No!” (he was asked this question, outlined this possibility, and gave that response), then it is clear that these agreements are radical departures from what was assumed a few years ago by the Sec. State and could be considered peace agreements. If you add in the fact that the Arab nations themselves are calling them “Peace” agreements, it would also seem reasonable to call them peace agreements.

Trying to argue that they’re simply economic or military agreements is a denial of the history of the region and the history of the Jewish and Arab peoples, and likely is more the result of concern about where credit for the achievement may be given than over the importance of the achievement.

Whether and how these agreements might help lead to a peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a separate issue. Some will argue that these agreements remove an incentive from Israel to negotiate, making those negotiations more difficult. Others will argue that the involvement of these Arab nations will help the process, long stagnated, move in a positive direction. I think the response here is that “time will tell,” but it’s fairly clear that the status quo of maintaining a state of belligerence between the Arab nations and Israel in order to promote negotiations wasn’t getting the job done, nor helping anyone. Maybe this will.

For the first time in a very long time, there is some optimism in the region that real peace is possible. To see so many people attacking all of this out of hatred of the President and Prime Minister is sad to see. Like them or not, these agreements are very positive developments for the region, for Israel specifically, and for real hopes that a lasting peace spanning the entire region may be possible.

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Normalization with the UAE

Normalization in diplomatic parlance means the process of creating normal diplomatic relations between countries. This generally means moving from a standard where the assumed relationship is one of belligerence to one in which the assumption is peaceful, often mutually beneficial, interaction.

I have spoken and written extensively over the past decade about how misguided American outreach to Turkey and attempts to work with Iran in relation to the JCPOA made it essential for the Saudis, the UAE, and Bahrain to work with Israel. In fact, you could add not only Egypt to that group, but Sudan as well. Inconsistent American foreign policy in regard to Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen has strengthened that need.

While the military-strategic side of the normalization calculus has clearly shifted in favor for these Arab nations, the technological and economic side has shifted even further in that direction with Israel assuming the role of not only regional technological powerhouse, but of being an international one. If you care about technological development in 2020, you want to be on Israel’s side.

On the other hand, the alternatives have proven not only unreliable, but dangerous. The countries in the region in which Iran or Turkey have significant influence are all aflame and/or in some state of financial disaster: Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Libya… Meanwhile, UAE and Israel can work together on a host of issues. Tourism alone will be big and, in fact, if the Palestinians can get their act together, Emirati tourism to the West Bank could bring enormous benefits.

The real problem faced by the Palestinian Authority leadership here is that the benefits of this new relationship could so positively benefit the economy of the West Bank as to nullify any possible opposition to growing the relationship, much less any real willingness to oppose it. Those who are truly opposing this agreement are fairly radical.

We now have another new barometer to judge sanity in relation to Middle East politics. People who supported the Israel-United Arab Emirates normalization agreement represent a relatively sane political center ranging across about 80-90% of the political spectrum and including the majority of supporters and opponents of the administrations in the United States and Israel.

Opponents of the deal itself include the leaders of Turkey and Iran, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and PA President Abbas, and the settler movement leadership in Israel, which is threatening to dismantle the coalition, because of an indefinite suspension in the policy of annexation.

If you’re wondering, the Meretz party in Israel, representing the far left of the political spectrum in Israel was supportive of the deal, seeing it as returning to a path toward a two state resolution and agreeing with its past argument that Israel would find willing Arab partners, if it did so.

Consider just how radical someone would be to oppose a formal peace agreement between Israel and Arab nations in favor of forcing them to maintain a state of belligerence indefinitely in order to help Palestinian negotiations by harming Israelis and most Arabs.

This agreement is not only exciting in the possibilities for the future that it brings for Israel and the UAE, but in the expectation that it is but the first such agreement of several to come.

Yesterday, Emeratis were tweeting pictures of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with excitement about visiting. Israelis are looking forward to flying Emirates Air from Tel Aviv to Dubai.

We live in a changing world.


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On Annexation

The Israeli government would like to “annex” “settlements” in which Israeli citizens reside in Judea and Samaria, terms recognizing the connection of Jews to the territories, also known as the West Bank (of the Jordan River), which seems to imply that the territories should be part of Jordan.

Some people envision these terms to imply Israel making a radical change and deciding that territory which otherwise would be a necessary part of a Palestinian state will be seized by Israel, who will then place Israeli settlements in the territory and displace Palestinians. They may be right depending on which territories would actually be annexed and what happens after they are.

Others believe that what is proposed is simply to allow residents of areas that will almost certainly remain under Israeli control going forward, regardless of any peace agreement, to access the Israeli civilian justice system instead of the military one, among other administrative changes, while not holding the well-being of tens of thousands of Israelis hostage to Palestinian decisions regarding peace agreements. They may also be right.

Still others promote annexation as a way to advance toward a time when Israel controls all of what was pledged to the Israelites by God in the Torah. Annexation of the territories by the Jewish state for them is God’s will. Annexation would indeed advance this goal as well.

Finally, some see this as naked politics that will have little to no real impact of life for Israelis or Palestinians on the ground, but which will aid the Prime Minister in appeasing members of his coalition, while potentially doing serious and completely unnecessary harm to Israel’s growing and important relations with the Arab world. Guess what? They’re probably also right.

Of course, there’s also the possibility [likelihood] that this is simply to try to take advantage of the last months of President Trump’s term with polls showing a possible landslide for his opponent, Joe Biden, one who would not support anything close to the policies that PM Netanyahu is advancing, hoping that the United States will support a unilateral Israeli decision now, that it has always opposed before and almost certainly will going forward.

The US might well even change its policy position after a new administration takes office. Further, a new administration may react harshly to actions taken now to exploit what may be the last months of a Trump administration. Any Democratic administration and other Republican administrations have and will likely continue to hold policy positions in opposition to unilateral Israeli actions in regard to items related to prospects for a future peace agreement.

Of all of these things, only the last one, that the timing for getting US support for any form of annexation is limited, is really a reason to try to move forward now and that must be taken against the number of significant reasons to reconsider. Additionally, there may be a way to address the issue of access to non-military courts without “annexation.”

One other not insignificant issue of concern, at least for those of us advocating for Israel in the United States, is that this policy decision will do unnecessary harm to bipartisan support for Israel at a time when there is great tension between critics and strong supporters for Israel among those interested in finding a reasonable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Israeli-Arab conflicts.

All  this said, advancing annexation now, especially without US support in advance of any efforts, then seems to be a very bad idea, whose negatives far outweigh its positives.

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“Deal of the Century” – Dead on Arrival

It is hardly surprising that President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is seen by the Palestinians as being dead on arrival. It is so far removed from anything they could have possibly wished for. But, then, they weren’t involved in its formulation.

Just as the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are important religious symbols for Jews, Haram esh-Sharif, or the Al Aqsa Compound as the Temple Mount is called by Muslims, is a  holy site for them.

While it is true that Jordan is entrusted with administering the Muslim holy sites through the agency of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, it is Israel that ultimately exercises sovereignty over the area. From a Palestinian perspective that is a non-starter.

The Israel/Palestinian conflict is not primarily a battle over real estate, but a religious war in which conquest and control of the Holyland have been cardinal features throughout the ages. 

One has only to walk down Sultan Suleiman Street adjacent to the Damascus Gate into the Old City to realize that, even though more than fifty years have passed since Jerusalem was “re-united” following the Six Day War, many Palestinians have yet to come to terms with that reality. The signs on all of the stores are either in Arabic or English and there is hardly a word of Hebrew to be seen.

But it is more than that. Just take a look at the territory being offered to the Palestinians. This is a deal that couldn’t possibly appeal to them.

The blue area, which only comprises approximately 75% of the West Bank and which is pockmarked with Israeli settlements and effectively divided into blocs, is hardly an attractive option.

However, the Palestinians have only themselves to blame. There were so many attempts to reach a settlement with them, but they declined every initiative and refused to respond positively to each opportunity to reach a compromise. Now they have only been left with the scraps.

As one person put it sarcastically, “We tried for so many years to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It would now appear that we can do so without them!”

The timing of the unwrapping of the “Deal of the Century” is hardly coincidental. President Trump is facing impeachment proceedings and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Elections are around the corner. Trump needs to appeal to his Christian evangelicals while Netanyahu needs the votes of the settlers.

While this may all be good in terms of their short-term political interests, it will do nothing in respect of bringing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to a conclusion on the assumption that that is even possible. The Palestinians will continue to feel that they have been robbed of their land, while Israelis will continue to live with neighbours intent upon their destruction.

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A Peace Ultimatum

The Trump Administration revealed its “Peace Plan” today. No one thinks that it will welcomed by the Palestinians who have already called it “Dead on Arrival” and refuse even to speak with the President. The plan is really more of an attempt to alter the dynamic of the discussions. At the start of the Oslo Peace Process, there were two entirely different sets of premises for negotiations.

The Israelis wanted to create a state for Palestinians that removed the vast majority of Arabs who were hostile to Israel’s existence living in territories occupied since 1967 from living under Israeli rule. The assumption was that not only would it be bad for Israel to be forced to continue to govern millions of hostile people, but that there would be a growing demographic threat and Israel could potentially cease to be a Jewish state. The goal was to create something that had not previously existed, a state for the Palestinians separate from the state created for the Jews, that would allow Israelis and Palestinians each to live in peace and prosperity with an agreed upon end to hostilities. Negotiations were seen as a process to achieve a lasting peace between the peoples.

The Palestinian side, on the other hand, operated with the understanding that Palestinians were entitled to all of the territory controlled by Jordan prior to 1967, including all of the Old City of Jerusalem, it’s center, north, east, and south, and this was often presented as a temporary compromise to the fact that they were truly entitled to all of British Mandatory Palestine. They argued for the creation of a state for the Palestinians and for the return of “refugees” to Israel proper that would have essentially turned Israel into another Palestinian state. Negotiations were seen as a way to first win the 1967 war and then 1948 war by other means. When negotiations failed, Palestinians would turn to international institutions hoping for the imposition on Israel of this result.

You need no more information than the above to  understand why negotiations have failed, but there is much more. Not only did the Palestinians reject and not even deign to counter the 2000 agreement, but they launched an intifada of which they then lost control. Once Hamas took over Gaza, the situation was largely unrecoverable. Hamas’ demonstrated use of mass rocket fire against Israel significantly increased the potential risk of harm to Israel of a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. The Arab Spring with the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt followed by the coup that brought al Sissi to power in Egypt and the entrenchment of the Israeli center and right with the total collapse of the Israeli left in Israeli politics moved the dynamic far away from what it was in the 1990s. With American regional policy changes during the Obama Administration and the Trump Administration, Arab nations came to no longer trust that America would side with them and have become strategic allies of Israel with a strong Israel as indispensable.

Palestinian intransigence in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now seen as an Arab problem and Sunni Arab support has weakened significantly. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman were represented at the reveal of the Trump plan. Saudi Arabia assuredly involved as well.

In 2019, the Palestinian Arabs are in four major territories involved in the conflict: Gaza, the Northern West Bank (Samaria), the Southern West Bank (Judah), and Israel. Gaza is ruled by Hamas which is hostile to both the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The Northern West Bank is economically prosperous and is dominated and controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The Southern West Bank is less prosperous and has more support for Hamas than the north, but is under the control of the PA. Palestinian Arabs in Israel are Israelis, increasingly content living under Israeli rule, though they may not agree with the policies of its leadership, and while still supportive of an independent Palestinian state, they are less likely to jeopardize what they have to achieve one.

It is unlikely that Gaza will be functionally reconnected with the Palestinian Authority any time soon. If Hamas is disarmed, who would replace it and how? How would Hamas be disarmed in the first place? One, perhaps likely, possible concession from the start may well be that the Palestinian Authority will deal with Israel without including Gaza and Hamas at all in negotiations. That may even have been the intent of stating that Hamas would have to be disarmed. The inclusion of Hamas or attempting to negotiate for Gaza as if Hamas doesn’t control it are both ways to undermine negotiations from the start.

Regarding Jerusalem, Israel is in complete control. While it may be possible to separate certain parts of the city, there is no driving need to do so on the part of the Israelis. At this point, the questions are of what the Palestinians could control in Jerusalem and how to make that happen rather than what they would like to control. The Old City and Holy Basin are out of the question at this point because securing them if they were not completely under Israeli control would be impossible and the consequences for failure dire.

There is simply no possibility of even joint control of the Jordanian border. Neither Israel, nor Jordan would trust anyone but Israel to control it and the consequences of any major failure there would be catastrophic and might even lead to war.

Palestinian control of the Temple Mount itself is no longer guaranteed. Not only is Jordan interested in maintaining control, but Turkey is trying to assert itself as a potential governor of the site based on its role during the Ottoman Empire. And more, problematically for all three of them, the Saudis are making a strong argument that they should oversee Al Aqsa, just as they oversee the sites in Saudi Arabia. With the Saudis as a growing ally of Israel and with all three of  the others offering Israel problems, this is far from a remote possibility, if the Palestinians do not agree to a resolution with Israel in the near term.

Finally, the Palestinians are a recognized observer state that officially controls territory. The Israelis need not recognize any dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, need not reclaim the territory granted it, nor would they be obligated to accept any of its citizens as their own. The dissolution of the Palestinian Authority would simply result in chaos and violence within those territories and harm to its citizens. It will not change that dynamic. Accepting Observer State status painted the Palestinians into a corner. One cannot unmake a state by one’s own choice. The Palestinians are and will be then stuck in an interim semi-state, if they don’t move forward.

The new framework being put forward would allow the Palestinians to negotiate for more territory and the creation of a contiguous territory in the West Bank, it would give them the opportunity for a greatly improved economy, and it would allow for the conflict to finally be settled with the Palestinians granted full state status. It is better than the status quo and is far better than what could be the status quo a decade or two down the road.

The purpose here seems to be to force negotiations and concessions. It’s clear that nothing can move forward including Gaza, if Hamas is in charge. Maybe the process moves forward without including Gaza. The Palestinians currently have a capital in Ramallah. Would Abu Dis not be better? Think improvement over the status quo rather than meeting longtime goals.

This framework recognizes that Israel has won. The war is over. Now it is time to move forward and if that opportunity is not taken, what the Palestinians currently have may well be what they are left with for the foreseeable future, the possibilities for improvement ever weakening with time. What was delivered today was not really a peace plan, but a peace ultimatum. Act now, or suffer the consequences of time and the changes that failure will bring. So far, they have been pretty bad for the Palestinians and that is likely to worsen.

For a description of what a realistic resolution might look like, please see my article on a Current Reasonable Resolution to the Conflict, which changes with the changing circumstances and was updated in 2019. The President’s peace plan aligns well with it.

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