Two Must Reads to Understand International Politics in a Trump Presidency

People spending their limited energy trying to reverse the election results or demonize Donald Trump in hopes he will fail and be impeached are missing a huge opportunity to understand what lies ahead of the U.S. on the world stage.

Two brilliant articles provide insightful analysis of the implications of Trump’s victory for those with the ability to remain dispassionate and advance their personal comprehension of where things stand internationally and what needs to be done.

Start with Ruthie Blum’s “Why Abbas does not emulate Sadat,” which can be found at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=17707&r=1.

The title doesn’t do justice to the column which reviews past peace negotiations and explains why any hope that the leader of the “Palestinians” will negotiate a peace deal with Israel is a pipe dream.

Next read the lengthy, but brilliant analysis of the current world order based on Henry Kissinger’s recent book (World Order, 2014) and his own reading of U.S. history by Niall Ferguson, entitled “Donald Trump’s New World Order,” which can be found here: http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/11/21/donald-trumps-new-world-order/.

Ferguson lays out a potential path for Donald Trump’s administration to re-balance the world order reversing the disastrous policies of Barack Obama and taking a Teddy Roosevelt-like approach, based on existing realities and actual power alignments rather than wishful interpretations.

 

You don’t have to agree with every point made by Blum or Ferguson to come away with a greater understanding of where things stand in the world and the positions a Trump administration might take to bring restore America’s role as the number one superpower on the world stage.

Instead of Solutions, the Arab-Israel Conflict Needs a Way

In light of the Republican Party’s decision to abandon the two-state solution, I’m offering something better than a solution.

 

Those who think a solution to the Palestinian Arab-Israeli conflict can be found if the right people with the right attitudes sit down at a table, are fooling themselves. It’s not a matter of the right people, or people with the right intentions, or people who have caved to pressure from the U.S. or any other external body. Solutions are for math problems. What’s needed is a way.

In case you think I’m playing with words or offering a semantic solution (pun intended), here’s the difference. A solution is something that a group of authorized parties representing the key players with a direct interest in the outcome can put in words in a document for all to sign. That solution must also be something the leaders who the signers represent will accept and implement. It must be an agreement with some hope of working––i.e., holding up for an extended length of time.

A way in this context implies a process whose outcome will lead to a satisfactory outcome or a status that approximates the goals of those seeking a solution. A way doesn’t necessarily include the signing of an agreement or any formal recognition of the outcome. A way doesn’t require formal consent nor is it a public policy. A way is merely a strategic process implemented over many years that yields a result the majority over time come to accept.

What’s wrong with solutions?

Solutions are often imposed on the signers. They give up something to get something. Solutions engender opposition––people who are dissatisfied with the outcome who believe their side gave up too much may attempt to sabotage the agreement. Solutions often ride rough-shod over key issues, using language that ignores the substance of those issues and thus creates the ground for ongoing conflict. Solutions are often the result of one side winning a hot or a propaganda war and thus forcing the other side to surrender. Solutions are often treaties signed because one side won and the other lost. Which is why a solution is wrong for the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Today, neither side in the conflict has a defensible outcome that the other side can live with. Israel requires defensive security and continued existence of some if not all Jewish communities in Samaria, Judea, and East Jerusalem. Further, security concerns militate against Israel’s giving up any of the Golan Heights.

No Palestinian Arab political leader can accept any solution under those terms. The current leaders of the Palestinian Authority and its constituent members could never enter such an agreement and return to their people without certain knowledge that their lives and the lives of their entire family would be at risk. Thus, they engage in a propaganda war on two fronts––one outside the middle east where they see how many lies they can get away with and one with their own people to see how many they can incite to kill Israelis in hopes that the Israeli left will capitulate as soon as it wins a majority in the Knesset.

Is there a way out? I believe there is. Let’s examine the conditions on the ground. An increasing percentage of the people living in the Arab communities in Judea and Samaria are dissatisfied with the old guard PLO/Fatah leadership. Promises have been made for decades, which have not been delivered. They look across the current boundary based on the 1967 war and see a prosperous country where Israeli Arabs are living good lives. In Israel nearly 2 million Arabs––both Christian and Muslim––have full citizenship rights, which means they get health care, education and other benefits while enjoying job opportunities that afford them much better living conditions than their relatives enjoy on the West Bank. Are things perfect? Of course not, but if Israel offered to pay five or even ten thousand shekels to Arab Israelis to move to the West Bank, very few if any would sign up.

Some young West Bank Palestinians have turned to violence to show their frustration with current conditions. That is evidence they don’t believe things are going to change without drastic measures such as giving up their own lives. They need an alternative they can believe in that offers them something their leaders cannot––namely, a future.

Israel can best combat terrorism on two levels––the current military and police presence and the way––a quiet propaganda campaign focusing their messages to young Arabs who live in the territories. If they don’t already do so, they need to tell the story of Israeli Arabs living a decent life in Israel who prefer living in Israel than any other place in the Arab world.

In addition, Israel needs to offer a free university education annually to 500 or 1,000 territory residents who qualify, and Israel needs to offer advanced health care for anyone living in the territories who needs special or emergency care.

Of course, the PA will threaten the families of anyone who takes up these offers, but it’s the offer that counts. It’s showing young Palestinian Arabs a way out of their currently hopeless environment.

Israel also needs to offer programs for businesses in the territories to gain assistance, including loans, to grow their businesses and to put more people to work. Again the PA will threaten any business that participates, but this is a propaganda war.

Today, the PA wants to control the entire economy in their territory. They want to control every university acceptance, every business license, everything that can be controlled. People must see these restrictions run counter to their well-being. Israel can show business owners and their families a way to a better life.

And, Israel needs to react stronger when falsely accused. For example, when Mahmoud Abbas said a (non-existent) rabbi’s council wants to poison their water, Israel must show it is already providing more clean water than is required. It needs to publicize that fact in the territories and the West so everyone sees each lie.

Israel must fight a propaganda war offering young Arabs a better way of life with real opportunities––education, health care, business assistance, housing and even jobs. At the same time it must fight a propaganda war in the west to explain why negotiated solutions will inevitably fail raising even higher the level of violence.

The only time an Israel government should ever sit down with Palestinian Arab leaders is after they say upfront they are dropping their demand that Israel leaves its 4,000-year-old homeland, dropping their “right of return” demand, and dropping territorial demands that include removal of Jews from the territories. That won’t happen with the current leadership, but perhaps an extensive propaganda campaign offering real benefits will do that job.

The day that happens will be proof a way has been found where solutions have failed.

An Open Letter to Ayelet Waldman, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon & Geraldine Brooks

Your participation in Breaking the Silence’s tour of the Palestinian West Bank reminds me of the prison visitors movement in the U.S. People who worried that prison inmates were being mistreated visited individual prisoners in an effort to curb excessive and illegal treatment by prison authorities. That movement also advocated sentencing reform to reduce sentences and provide alternative sentencing options. Their rationale was both religious based, but they also believed racial prejudice and poverty were contributing causes of criminal behavior. Some went so far as to excuse law breaking.

Your involvement in a project to publish essays about what you found in the West Bank parallels the activities of prison visitors. In this case the prison you visited is called the West Bank. You see how bad it is for some people and you want to tell the world. There’s no doubt the people living in the West Bank are victims, but they are not victims of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory––since there never was a country called Palestinian or any other Arab nation in that region. They are victims of decisions made by their leaders and in many cases by their own choices.

I would assert that the history of the former British Mandate from 1917 to the present reveals that the Arabs who call themselves Palestinians are largely responsible for the situation they are in today. They committed the crime, but most don’t want to accept the responsibility for their role or pay the price.

The crime the Arab residents of Palestine committed in the past was to side with those who would not accept the decision of the United Nations in 1947 to grant the right to establish a Jewish state to Jewish residents of the former British Mandate. Most of the Arabs living in that territory went along with the five Arab states that attempted to destroy the new nation. Later, they went along with Yasser Arafat and his successors hoping that his plan to empty the entire region of Jews would succeed. Now they blame Israel for that plan’s failure. In essence they are blaming the prison guards and ignoring their own history of active hatred and indiscriminate violence. They are scapegoating others for their bad choices. As convicts say, if you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime.

Prison reformers traditionally have a hard time dealing with crime victims. Victims are not sympathetic when they hear complaints about inadequate representation or lousy prison conditions. Victims hear reformers say someone other than the offender is responsible for that person’s being locked up. They hear reformers say racism and poverty are to blame, not their decision to commit the crime.

Prison reformers also have a hard time talking to prison guards. They fail to recognize that it is hypocritical to advocate for policies that recognize the dignity of the convict without advocating for the people who guard them. Prisons need guards, and unjustly they are the first to be blamed if something goes wrong.

That same understanding is owed to the men and women of the Israeli police and military. They would rather not be stationed at checkpoints or patrol dangerous areas, but they are needed as long as the Palestinians continue to commit random acts of violence against Jews and fail to negotiate a peace with boundaries that assure Israel’s survival.

The problem with blaming crime on racism and poverty is that not all victims of prejudice or people born into strained circumstances commit crimes. In fact, the majority who face those obstacles overcome their circumstances and are law abiding.

The problem with blaming Israel for the circumstances of those living in the West Bank is that not all Arabs fled Israel in 1948 or since. Approximately 1.7 million Arabs live in Israel today with full citizenship rights. They get free education and medical care but, unlike Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs don’t have to serve in the army. Do Israeli Arabs have legitimate complaints? They do, but they live in a society where they can elect representatives to the Israel’s legislature, where grievances can be voiced, and where change is possible. Is that true, dear writers, for residents of the West Bank?

When you write your essays about your experiences, I hope you don’t fall for the scapegoating narrative––the one that blames someone else for the situation the Arab Palestinians have created for themselves. I also hope you write about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and how it incentivizes violence by paying families of those who commit random acts of violence. I hope you interview the families of moderates who were killed because they opposed the PLO/Fatah. I hope you’ll interview Israeli Arabs who prefer to remain in Israel rather than move to the West Bank. I hope you don’t fall into the trap of loving the convict to the detriment of his victim or the people who have to guard him. I hope you’ll be clear-sighted about why things are not good for the residents of the West Bank and who is to blame.

The Israeli Solution: A Review (Part Two)

The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East by Caroline Glick (Crown Forum, 2014)

In Part One of my review of Caroline Glick’s The Israeli Solution, I describe her rationale for rejecting the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that has been a leading policy objective of presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

Glick argues that advocates of that “solution” incorrectly claim that giving the Palestinians their own state will reduce violence in the region. Events, including the escalating Sunni-Shi’a conflict, the rise of ISIS, the dissolution of Syria, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, should put that thesis to bed.

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. has increased pressure on Israel to accept a two-state solution. In his “New Beginning” speech in Cairo in June 2009, Obama described the lack of a Palestinian state as ‘intolerable,’ and equated the Palestinian’s aspirations for statehood with those of the Jewish people.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Palestinians as a distinct national group is a recent construct, the main reason the two-state solution won’t succeed Glick argues is that it has never been the goal of the PLO or its successors to live side by side a Jewish state.

Evidence that their demanding a state of their own has functioned mainly as a component of their strategy to attack Israel in the international arena is the fact that they have walked away from the table each time Israel has accepted terms that would have led to a Palestinian state. Their true objective from the beginning to today has been the destruction of the Jewish state as the so-called moderate Mahmoud Abbas made clear as recently as the 2013 anniversary of the founding of the PLO.

The One-State Alternative

Caroline Glick’s alternative solution is to incorporate Samaria, Judea, and Arab Jerusalem into the state of Israel. Israel’s legal claim to those territories stems from a 1922 resolution the League of Nations that defined the British Mandate as extending to the Jordan River. That boundary remains in force Glick argues based on United Nations Resolution 242 that stipulates all states have the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.”

Recognizing that her solution will face fierce opposition, Glick examines each of the potential opponents and finds them wanting in terms of their ability to prevent Israel from formally declaring those regions part of the state of Israel. None of the Arab League nations are likely to go to war over the issue, Europe is already engaged in supporting the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in myriad ways, but Israel could tolerate more boycotts and other likely interference. The key to the one-state solution is the United States must support it.

Glick makes a case that Israel’s staking its claim to the disputed territories would be in the best strategic interest of the United States. For one, Israel represents a counter-balance to Iranian and Russian ambitions in the region. In addition, Israel represents the only country in the region whose society is also modeled on the rule of law and democratic rights. The connection is one of people-to-people, while the U.S. relationship to other countries is largely regime-to-regime.

The Price for U.S. Backing

The price the U.S. would pay for backing a one-state solution would be more noise than substance. If U.S. stopped giving Palestinian and Arab leaders hope that it would appease them on the Palestine issue, we could deal with them more honestly on the conflicts I cited above. In terms of aid, it would eliminate the millions of U.S. tax dollars being used to prop up the Palestinian Authority.

Questions have been raised as to whether Israel would want to add the approximately 1.6 million Arabs currently living in the disputed territories to its population. Glick answers these concerns to my satisfaction, including the claim that the Arab population would eventually outnumber the Jewish population and win the war by having more babies than the Jews. She disputes Arab census and birthrate data and while she doesn’t discount the likelihood that there would be considerable problems, she argues the alternatives––continuation of the status quo, or giving Israel’s enemies a free hand to attack at will––are worse.

There is a model for what would happen were Israel to shut down the Palestinian Authority and declare the disputed territories formally part of Israel. That model is the Golan Heights where many Druze who once vowed to resist Israeli rule today apply for Israeli citizenship.

Over time the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria would see improvements in their living standards and economic well-being. They would learn to appreciate, as Arab Israelis have come to appreciate, the benefits of living in a society based on equal treatment under the rule of law––as opposed to arbitrary treatment where laws are made up on the fly––and where one can accomplish legitimate goals without resorting to arms.

Those Arabs who would not want to live in Israel would be able to move to Gaza, which would not become part of Israel, or elsewhere. Then, freed from having to focus on creating a Palestinian state in Israel, the U.S. could pressure Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab states to offer the Palestinians citizenship so they could move out of the refugee camps. The world also needs to free the Palestinian people from the autocratic rule of Hamas, the PLO, and other terrorist groups. Palestinian nationalism should not be ignored, but it needs to find a home of its own and not look to what belongs by history and by international law to Israel and the Jewish people.