Don’t fault Jared Kushner for attempting to make peace between Arabs and Israelis. To the contrary, he should be praised for the effort. But if history is a guide, his “deal of the century” is dead on arrival.
Palestinian Authority’s unelected President Mahmoud Abbas rejected out-of-hand Kushner’s proposal to use $50 billion to build a peaceful Palestinian Authority. This is not a negotiating strategy, but a conscientious decision.
The Arab/Israeli dispute is not about territory, boundaries, or finances. If the Israelis were Muslims, exercising the same policies with the same geographic divisions, there would be no dispute.
The Arab/Israeli conflict is about one thing: Jews.
When Jordan grabbed the Arab part of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, there was no outrage. Although Jordan’s land grab was illegal, Britain and Pakistan even recognized Jordan’s sovereignty.
The rest of the world demurred. Jordan was not demonized for preventing Palestinian self-determination. There were no demonstrations on college campuses for Palestinian independence.
Jordan is a Muslim country that took over another Muslim entity.
The sole issue of the dispute is that Israel is a Jewish state. Under hardline interpretations of Islamic law, land, once Islamic, is Islamic forever. Militant nationalists and fundamentalist Muslims believe that Israel’s very existence is unacceptable, non-negotiable, and forever a mark of shame in a culture of honor.
In Western culture, our temporal orientation is forward — toward a better future. The past is nostalgic, not sacred. We might respect the Founding of our republic, but we don’t want to return to the 18th century. The Founding is celebrated, not worshiped. It is an icon of politics, not of religion.
Osama bin Laden spoke of the return of Islam to Andalusia, Muslim Spain. As he noted, “All in all, we request of Allah … that the umma should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus.”
This what many Islamists believe.
In the late 1930s, the British Peel Commission conceived of a salamander of a Jewish state along the coast that easily could have been overtaken by the Arabs. The Arabs said no.
In 1948, in response to the initial U.N. partition plan, the Arabs not only said no — they also invaded the fledgling Jewish state and declared a war of genocide.
After the Six Day War, the Israelis offered to negotiate their conquest of the territories. The Arabs met in Khartoum and issued the infamous three “No’s”: No negotiations, no recognition, no peace.
At Camp David, Arafat shocked the assembled observers by spurning Ehud Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state. Only his subsequent apologists have managed to interpret this as anything less than a reversal of his own negotiating position.
In 2008, Israel’s then-prime minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas 110% of the land he requested. Abbas said no.
The Palestinians want nothing less than the elimination of the Jewish state, either by a war of attrition that evolves into a larger conflict or by Israel being overrun by four generations of refugees who claim a “right to return” and will destroy Zionism demographically.
This situation has festered for more than 71 years. If the Palestinians do not want the $50 billion (six times the 2016 GDP) that the “deal of the century” promises, then perhaps there is another use for the money.
The Palestinians have uttered the same refrain from the beginning of the conflict. They are not going to change their position.
Arabs who are Israeli citizens could choose to remain in Israel, and the others could be resettled among the lands from which 850,000 Jews were evicted in the broader Arab world. As my Jewish Iraqi grocer in the German Colony of Jerusalem once told me, “I was dispossessed of 50 hectares in Iraq. Let them settle Palestinians on my land.”
After World War II, for her security needs, Russia changed the boundaries of Central and Eastern Europe and the nationalities of tens of millions of people.
Sometimes an intractable problem calls for a difficult solution.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter.