Monday, May 22, 2017

Trump’s Trip

President Trump at the Kotel - which is on the West Bank (Jewish Press/ABC)
I am a big fan of peace. Especially in my ancestral homeland, Israel. Which is why I support any reasonable plan that can be accepted by both sides. And why I supported Ehud Barak’s attempts to sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000. It almost happened. Except that ‘almost’ only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.

Arafat could not bring himself to sign off on that treaty. President Clinton, who tried mightily to make it happen blamed Arafat for letting that golden opportunity slip by him.  

One may ask how I could have supported a peace plan that gave up East Jerusalem? I didn’t like it. But for me a treaty that would bring acceptance by the Arab world of Israel as  Jewish State; allow unfettered access to the Kotel; allow for larger border settlements like Maale Adumim to be retained by Israel in exchange for un-populated land swaps; bring about the end to the violence and bloodshed; and that would usher in  a new era of peace and cooperation between Israel and her Arab neighbors - was worth the price.  Are these parameters unreasonable? Not at all. They have already been agreed to by Israel and Palestinian leaders at Camp David in 2000 under the President Clinton.

What about giving up Jewish sovereignty on Har HaBayis (the Temple Mount where our holy temple once stood)? I don’t think we ever really had sovereignty there accept in name only. Muslim clerics did -and still do. In my view giving up East Jerusalem is a small price to pay for the kind of peace I just described.  

I know that a lot of my friends will see me as some sort of traitor. Give up Har HaBayis? How dare I?! What kind of a Jew am I?! Well it isn’t me giving it up. It was the then Israeli Prime Minister (and current Defense Minister) Ehud Barak giving it up as head of state. Who had the right as the democratically elected head of state to do so. I merely supported it for the reasons I stated.

That was the ideal. But realty is elsewhere. Giving up Gaza has demonstrated that giving up any land for peace in a climate where terrorists like Hamas calls the shots - is a fool’s errand. And should not be done under any circumstances. So at the moment I wouldn’t even give up the West Bank even if they agreed to cede all of East Jerusalem to Israel.

Because that will not bring peace. It will only bring more bloodshed. As has proven to be the case after we gave them Gaza. Instead of showing what peaceful relations and cooperation could achieve, Hamas has doubled down on what they really have in mind: retaking by any means necessary - all of Palestine from the ‘Zionist Jews that (with the world’s complicity) stole it from them’.

I bring this all up now since we have a new President who is following in the footsteps of his predecessors in the belief that he can do what they could not: forge a real and lasting peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.

Many people are guffawing at that. Trump?! He is the least qualified of all to accomplish this task! What does he or any of ‘his men’(Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and David Friedman)  know about the Middle Eastern mindset? They are novices whose expertise lies elsewhere. Others that actually are experts and familiar with the slightest minutia of that mindset have been working on this for decades. They have all failed! Trump thinks he can just walk in knowing next to nothing about the situation and pull off the impossible?! What can he possibly do differently that will allow him to do it?

To make matters worse, Trump did his level best to alienate every Muslim in the world, disparaging  them during the campaign. And after... banning them from entering this country; treating them all like terrorists . Does he really think he’s going to have any sway with an Arabs in the Middle east, the vast majority of whom are Muslims?

With resumes like this, it is not too difficult to predict big time failure. Trump will accomplish nothing. World leaders already hate him. The Media hates him. The Democrats hate him. More than half of America hates him. How is he going to convince anyone to do anything, let alone change over 100 years of Jew hatred in the Middle East.

Well a funny thing has happened. He is currently on an overseas mission to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Rome trying to unite the 3 major faiths to fight terrorism. Muslims not only do not hate him, they have given him honor like no other President in history. He managed to convene a conference in Saudi Arabia attended by leaders of fifty Muslim countries. And he spoke truth to them, telling them that they must rid their countries (and even the world) of the people in their midst that persecute Jews, murder Christians, and commit all kinds of terror in the name of Islam.  

Not a single leader walked out on him.

He also scrapped the Obama ban on selling Saudi Arabia weapons.  Which they will now use in the fight against terror. He spoke of the two biggest enemies of the Arabs in the region: ISIS and Iran. There is no doubt that this is true. It is also true that ISIS and Iran are the biggest threat to Israel. Which makes Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and Israel natural allies.

It appears that there is already behind the scenes cooperation between them. One of Trump’s goals is to make this cooperation more open. These circumstances did not exist a few short years ago. But they exist today and Trump is going to take advantage of them. And he will use the above mentioned people he put in place to accomplish it. Jason Greenblatt, for one has has already earned the respect of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas despite his well known support of Israel.

It should not be lost on anyone that Abbas has said about Trump that if anyone can achieve peace it’s him. He said he really thinks Trump can succeed where Obama has failed. If one thinks about Trump’s negative rhetoric about Muslims during the campaign, it should be shocking that any of this is happening. And yet – it is!

What about my fears that giving up the West Bank to Palestinians is a prescription for more bloodshed than ever? I still feel  that way. But I also trust Israel’s leadership. If they are willing to accept a peace deal brokered by the Trump administration, it will not be at the expense of more violence and bloodshed. Whatever one thinks of Israel’s leadership, they are not stupid. Nor are they suicidal.

How will it all happen? I can’t answer that. I acknowledge that the chances for a peace deal are slim if history is any kind of teacher.  But then again you never know. Trump seems to have made a peace deal between Israel and the Arabs his top foreign policy objective.

No matter how one feels about the President... even if you despise him and think he should be impeached, I believe we should all hope and pray that he succeeds. Because that will save Jewish lives. And for me, that’s what it’s all about.