One of the main authors of the Trump Mideast peace plan is appealing to Palestinian Arab leaders to “count to 10” before rejecting the plan. Despite spending years observing Palestinians and negotiating with Palestinian officials, he still believes that peace is possible if Mahmoud Abbas would just take a deep breath.
Writing last week in The Jerusalem Post, former U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt pleaded with Palestinian Arab leaders to “see the advantages of counting to 10 before officially reacting to the proposed peace plan.”
Greenblatt’s article was co-authored by Bishara Bahbah, a former Palestinian negotiator. I get why Bahbah likes the plan: It would create an independent Palestinian state in three-fourths of Judea and Samaria, with a capital in part of Jerusalem and a corridor to the Hamas state in Gaza. But the leadership of the Palestinian Authority has obviously decided that they will hold out of a better deal.
My concern is with the premise that apparently lies at the heart of the Trump administration’s approach. Greenblatt’s appeal for the Palestinians to “count to 10” follows a similar statement at the United Nations the previous week by a senior U.S. representative, Cherith Norman Chalet. “When this [coronavirus] disease passes,” he said, “we will be able to point to the cooperation we’re seeing now and say that dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians is possible. We will be able to say that achieving mutually beneficial solutions is possible.”
The P.A. “cooperates” with Israel only to the extent that it is to its immediate, practical advantage. It’s like when P.A. officials quietly go to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment. They don’t mind exploiting Israel’s kindness or benefiting from Jewish-led innovations. But that has no effect whatsoever on the unending Palestinian war against Israel.
Anybody remember the Israeli greenhouses in flames in Gaza? The diplomats and pundits and peace activists all insisted that Israel should hand them over intact when it pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005.
After all, they argued, the hothouses were immensely productive and profitable. Surely, the residents of Gaza — who, we are always being told, are desperately impoverished and on the verge of starvation — would greatly appreciate this kind of Israeli gesture. So instead of dismantling the hothouses and taking the pieces back to Israel, they left them. And Arab mobs promptly burned them to the ground.
That wasn’t some aberration. That’s how it’s been in that part of the world for more than a century. The Zionist pioneers who rebuilt the Land of Israel in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought unprecedented modernization and prosperity to the Arabs, too.
For the first time, Palestinian Arabs had jobs and running water and electricity. Not to mention trains, automobiles, refrigerators and telephones. Arabs from neighboring areas poured into the country. They enjoyed better housing, foods and employment. They made war against the Jews anyhow.
Long before the Trump plan were numerous other plans. U.S. State Department officials came up with all kinds of formulas for “peace.” Freeze settlements, and the Palestinians will make peace, they said. Give back territories, and the Palestinians will make peace. Dennis Ross said Israel should let Hamas import concrete; that gesture would bring peace. David Makovsky said Israel should admit 100,000 Gazans daily; that would bring peace.
Funny, none of that ever succeeded.
Counting to 10 won’t bring peace, either. Because the Palestinian Arabs are not little children throwing a temper tantrum who just need to calm down a little. They are proud Arab nationalists and devout Muslims who see their war to destroy the State of Israel and its inhabitants as a national and religious obligation. They can’t be won over with bribes or concessions, settlement freezes or hothouses.
I suppose one should admire the tenacity of Greenblatt. No matter how many times that Abbas and other P.A. leaders have denounced the Trump plan, Greenblatt doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer. But at some point, you just have to face reality—that there is no hope for a meaningful peace without a complete transformation of Palestinian Arab society and attitudes. And that’s not happening anytime soon. Certainly not by the count of 10!
Attorney Stephen M. Flatow is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.