The Clinton-Obama parameters haven’t worked – not for 25 years of peacemaking efforts since Oslo. They have lead to deadlock and much suffering. Let’s give the Trump team credit for taking a fresh look at what is safe, wise, fair and realistic in today’s Israeli-Palestinian reality.
With the US “getting close” to unveiling its long-awaited plan for regional peace diplomacy, the old guard in Washington is busy dumping all over the Trump administration’s effort – already.
According to Clinton- and Obama-era peace processors such as Ilan Goldenberg, Phil Gordon and Aaron David Miller, the peace push led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt on behalf of President Donald Trump is “dead on arrival” (DOA). They sneer at the notion that Trump can accomplish anything they couldn’t, and they mock Trump’s pretension of being an honest broker – especially after his move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Most of all, they scoff at the thought that anything other than the famous “Clinton parameters” and Obama-sanctified outline for peace can serve as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian deal. These parameters dictate establishment of a full-fledged Palestinian state – based Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines with minor land swaps, a division of Jerusalem, alongside broad-based dismantlement of Judea and Samaria settlements.
For such inveterate officials, the Clinton-Obama parameters (which I hereby moniker as the COP) are the “holy grail,” the “international consensus.” The parameters are untouchable, unimpeachable, unassailable. They are the “everybody-knows only-this-can-work” formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The COP is almost-evangelically promoted by foreign policy elites in the US and Europe; and naturally, is now adamantly insisted upon by the Palestinians too.
“There is no other way. Nothing else will work.” Or so the Oslo-era professionals would have us believe.
EXCEPT OF COURSE that the COP hasn’t worked – not for 25 years of peacemaking efforts since Oslo. It has lead to deadlock and much suffering.
The reason for this is that the Clinton-Obama parameters were never realistic; they were never wise; they were never fair to Israel. They didn’t sufficiently take into account Israel’s historic and national rights in Judea and Samaria. They certainly didn’t take into account, and cannot today adequately accommodate, the dramatically changed security environment in the Mideast since the Arab upheavals began and Iran began its march to Israel’s borders.
Worst of all, the COP never sufficiently took into account the irredentist nature of the Palestinian national movement. We now know, alas, that the Arafat- and Abbas-led Palestinian Authority isn’t anywhere near becoming the stable, moderate, democratic State of Palestine that was promised to Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Instead, half of the Palestinian-claimed area is run by an exceedingly-corrupt secular dictatorship that “pays for slay” (it funds terrorism against Israel) and seeks the criminalization of Israel in every international forum; while the other half of the Palestinian-claimed area is held by a radical Islamist dictatorship that is armed to the teeth by Iran, has fought three wars against Israel over the past ten years, and is openly committed to Israel’s destruction.
And therefore it is the COP that must now be considered DOA. The COP is a fossilized formula to be buried. It is no longer relevant. The fact that stale officials still trot-out the COP as the fundamental recipe for an Israeli-Palestinian future is a bad joke.
ENTER THE TRUMP administration. It should be given credit for taking a fresh look at what is safe, wise, fair and realistic in today’s Israeli-Palestinian reality.
Furthermore, the Trump team should be given credit for taking a regional approach to the conflict; i.e., looking at what broad Mideast security and peace infrastructure might be crafted. The opportunity for doing so clearly exists given the fact mainstream Sunni regimes in the region no longer view Israel as their main enemy, nor the Palestinian issue as their central concern, nor full-fledged Palestinian sovereignty in all the West Bank and Gaza (or on the Temple Mount) as a necessarily good outcome – for anybody!
What exactly is the Trump team going to propose? We don’t yet exactly know. But the very fact that the Trump team may “move the markers” – suggest new parameters for consideration towards a better Israeli-Palestinian-Arab future – is a welcome development.
The Trump parameters will, hopefully, do away with hackneyed prescriptions of the past, shift the debate in the direction of pragmatic solutions, and force all regional parties to shoulder real responsibility for solutions.
This may and should include the creation of creative governing structures such as Palestinian-Jordanian-Israeli shared sovereignty arrangements; three- or four-way land swaps involving Egypt and Jordan; and immediate refugee resettlement in third countries.
Nevertheless, few observers expect that real progress can be made with the current Palestinian leadership in the West Bank or Gaza, and therefore an actual peace process based on the Trump parameters may have to wait years.
But if Israel and key Arab actors in the region (such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, etc.) can be convinced to welcome the Trump parameters as a worthy basis for talks in the future, the playing field will be transformed. And useful, critical pressure will be generated on the intransigent and sclerotic Palestinian entities to climb down from their peaks of extremism and begin to bend towards reality.
Clearly, this is going to be a long progress. Standing in the way is a near-messianic loyalty to the COP, to old paradigms that have failed – with incorrigible, pro-Palestinian foreign policy wonks (in Europe especially) a central part of the problem.
These are the people that time and time again tell their governments to vote at the UN for recognition of unilaterally-declared, revanchist, triumphalist, maximalist and unfettered Palestinian statehood – without regard for Palestinian obligations towards Israel. Diluting the power on Mideast discourse of these moldy Oslo-era professionals and self-declared elites should be a central goal of the Trump initiative.
JISS Policy Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.
photo: Pete Souza [Public domain or CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons