Kushner’s Dictation is Not Diplomacy
An overwhelming majority of the Israeli people, the Palestinians, and the Arabs as a whole still welcome the prospect for peace. Independent polls have shown repeatedly that these people are even willing to take risks and to make sacrifices for the sake of peace. Peace is not an impossible goal although it may be difficult and elusive. Why it has not been possible to achieve, or how it might be possible, tests the will of the leadership of people in the region and the international community.
What happened in the Oslo (1993 Accords between the Palestinians and the Israeli Government) and its immediate aftermath is worth remembering, despite its many shortcomings. The two sides sat down together to negotiate. Both recognized that a military solution was not likely. Israel, although it currently has overwhelming power cannot use its military arsenal fully and the Palestinian resistance cannot “liberate” any portion of Palestine by force. There is only a protracted and continuous conflict if either side chooses to resort to military solutions. Oslo came about without the presence of a third party. At this time, there is only one party that has sufficient influence with others to achieve any likely solution. It is very difficult to explain to Palestinians and Arabs why the U.S. has not used its overwhelming power to help the Arabs and Israelis reach an agreement. Certainly peace would be much easier to achieve had the U.S. been willing to use its unique power to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israel conflict.
But the United States has not shown, thus far, despite many attempts going back to the Eisenhower years, its ability to use its unmatched resources to bring about a solution. It is not a matter of capability but of will and leadership. As much as many may wish for the U.S. to take the lead, such U.S. resolve has been wanting and there is no sign at this time that it is forthcoming. It may be easier for the U.S. to wage wars than to make peace. The administration of President George W. Bush squandered the post September 11 opportunity on the little and frustrating peculiarities of the cycles of violence that characterize the Palestinian conflict; it deliberately avoided serious involvement in seeking solutions, despite occasional forays in “mediation” attempts usually couched in security arrangement terms. Even those limited attempts such as the Mitchell Plan (2001), the Tenet Plan (2002) and the Roadmap (2003) failed, because of the U.S.’s inability to follow up, and Israel’s reluctance to implement important provisions of these plans. Obama’s anemic efforts were equally non-effective.
Now comes Jared Kushner whose credentials for peacemaking are limited to experience in the New York real estate market, and his position as the new U.S. Crown Prince. Mr. Kushner seems blissfully unaware of previous broad outlines for a settlement, as proposed by the United States, U.N. resolutions that Israel has already accepted, and the limits that have already been negotiated between the two sides. So what is Jared proposing?
Mr. Kushner apparently starts with the assumption that there is no Palestinian side to the conflict, and the Palestinians are no longer important to Israel’s possible peace with its other Arab neighbors. He is offering the Palestinians what the Trump administration calls the “deal of the century,” but he sees no reason to even talk to the Palestinians who are in the West Bank or in Gaza, or in the diaspora including the many thousands of Palestinian Americans. He is telling them their choice is simple: accept or reject his proposal. Kushner’s approach of dictating the terms can hardly pass for diplomacy. Kushner seems content to negotiate only with what the Arab streets know as “Jared’s Arabs,” a mixture of Gulf area wealthy princes, and representatives of two Arab countries (Jordan and Egypt) that are heavily reliant on the U.S. politically, militarily, and economically. Mr. Kushner acts as if he has never heard of how the late Prime Minister Rabin negotiated with the Arab states while he acknowledged that both Israelis and the Palestinians have been “fated to live together” and both needed to build peace “slowly and cautiously.”
Mr. Kushner offers the Palestinians nothing that impacts the core of the conflict. He does not address Israeli occupation of many millions, does not believe that peace could not be achieved while Israeli military are subjugating Palestinian towns and villages, and accepts the faulty presumption affirming that the Israelis could not continue to be immune to the consequences of their presence in Palestinian areas. He does not understand that human rights cannot continue to be only for the Jewish residents of the area. All measures of subjugation, daily humiliation, treating Arabs as if they were less than human, acts of wanton destruction of property, imprisonment, checkpoints and all the other trappings of occupation must end. There are many Israelis who want to see the democratic ideals of Israel implemented in its treatment of the Palestinians. In exchange, they should expect an end to armed resistance and all acts of violence against Israelis.
Mr. Kushner seems to side squarely with Israelis who wish to indefinitely continue the occupation of the Palestinians for ideological and other reasons. Mr. Kushner avoids altogether the thorny issue of settlements. Settlements should not have been allowed or encouraged in the first place, but right or wrong they have been established. It seems logical that any solution to the conflict would need to confront this matter. Perhaps it would be too much to hope that Kushner would understand the importance of settlements since he personally contributed to fund illegal settlements, as did nearly all of his team. It does not help the cause of the United States to have a negotiating team composed entirely of extremist supporters of one party to the conflict. Kushner’s team “has no idea” of how mediation can proceed, as stated by Israel’s prominent U.S. supporter Haim Saban.
There are many myths about the Israel/Palestine conflict that need debunking. The conflict is about the fate of two peoples and how best to make sure that both peoples survive and prosper, with minimal bloodshed and suffering. The Zionist goal has been mostly achieved, but the Palestinian dream has been shattered. It has not been extinguished; it too has to be nourished and deserves equal survival. Generations of Palestinians have grown up and died with an uncertain national objective: Are we Palestinians? Are we Jordanians? Are we Israelis? Are we stateless creatures to be shuttled from one failing state to another? Why cannot we make decisions about our own lives, as others do? Why is it that some American- a real estate man or another can decides our fate? Why do Israel’s patent dehumanization efforts go on and on, as if we are excluded from the protection of the international community and norms applicable to all other victims of oppression? The Israelis and the United States cannot continue to treat millions of Palestinians as half-retarded wits, who do not understand what is best for them, and who will settle for whatever the Zionist/religious extremists offer. A perpetual state of uncertainty is not a solution. Israel and its supporters cannot continue the self-satisfying but false assumption that more and more oppression will drive Palestinians towards eventual total capitulation, or as they put it “giving more concessions.”
It is hard to imagine what else the Palestinians can compromise on without officially agreeing to their eventual decimation as a people. They are aware that other weak people facing European settlers fought and won, while others capitulated and were destroyed. They study the history of America’s own native people who kept giving more and more concessions that resulted in untold future misery for the Native Americans. The United States and Britain have supported Israel’s policy aiming to “chasten Palestinians” into making greater concessions to Israel. Mr. Kushner continues efforts to create a depoliticized “state,” hardly worthy of the name, which would be subservient to Israel. Perhaps in such a state, a new Palestinian middle class might live more comfortably if Mr. Kushner can convince the Saudis and Emirate princes to pay the cost. Israeli occupation and control over Palestinian life would be more directly concealed. Kushner is offering only economic help; the Palestinian dilemma is not only an economic problem and perhaps it never was.
Mr. Kushner ought to know that Palestinian aspirations are not to be exchanged for a few more shekels. Palestinian pride, history, decades long suffering, dislocation and dehumanization are not to be assuaged by money; this is not a New York real estate deal. Mr. Kushner’s plan to buy Palestinian support is a copy of the vision held by Netanyahu/Lieberman, not the Palestinian people.