columnMiddle East

A Hail Mary in the Holy Land?

Two world leaders gasping for their political lives are ready to gamble.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Israel.
Thane Rosenbaum. Credit: Courtesy.
Thane Rosenbaum
Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. His most recent book is “Saving Free Speech ... From Itself.”

If the impeachment of an American president and the prosecution of an Israeli prime minister are in the air, then it’s probably a good time to unveil a peace plan in the Middle East to suck in some of the oxygen otherwise dedicated to removing President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from their respective offices.

No doubt the meeting scheduled for Tuesday in the White House between Trump and Netanyahu has such diversionary objectives in mind. Will a Rose Garden photo op that culminates in the very first sighting of the so-called “deal of the century” be enough to draw attention away from the Senate impeachment trial, as well as the debate in the Knesset over the proposed immunity legislation that would shield Netanyahu from criminal prosecution while in office?

Never before have two beleaguered world leaders come together with such a shared common, if not altogether cynical purpose. In addition to their possible removal from office, each also faces re-election should they survive these efforts to oust them. For this reason, now is the time to demonstrate bold statesmanship on the global stage. It just so happens to be the very same venue where the prior occupant once made Netanyahu sit like a pizza boy waiting for a tip.

Here are two world leaders gasping for their political lives and ready to gamble. After all, given what’s purportedly in the plan—the creation of a Palestinian state, impotent and demilitarized though it may be, but a state nonetheless—it won’t please Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners. And the amount of annexing of the West Bank that Israel is apparently permitted under the plan will only further call into question America’s status as an honest broker—enraging Palestinians and arming progressive Democrats with new talking points—once they finally decide to speak. (More about that later.)

Under such fraught politicized circumstances and frenzied threats to upend their administrations, the time has come to finally reveal the contents of the Trump administration’s Hail Mary in the Holy Land. No sense waiting any longer. And in either case, the outcome is unlikely to change. It’s all an act of desperation, a medicinal Middle East remedy that won’t work even as a placebo.

But who can blame them?

After all, in 2000, more than a year after being acquitted in his own Senate impeachment trial, President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and terrorist-turned-Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat to Camp David in the hopes of sealing the deal on the Oslo Accords negotiated seven years earlier.

We know how that turned out. Clinton was looking for a career capstone—a diplomatic coup of such magnitude that Monica Lewinsky would have been forever eclipsed by a Nobel Peace Prize. (He surely deserved it anyway over the one awarded in 1994 to Arafat, shared with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.) Instead, true to Palestinian rejectionist form, Arafat walked away from what was, in fact, at the time an actual deal of the century, and instigated the second and far deadlier intifada against Israel.

Oh, and Barak lost in his bid for a second term as prime minister to Ariel Sharon.

Adding to the skepticism is that no Palestinian leader will be joining Netanyahu in the White House. That has much to do with the complete absence of leadership among the Palestinians—whether in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip—a rudderless people piloted by thugs and thieves. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has, throughout the entirety of the four-year term he has magically extended to 15 years, enriched himself and disadvantaged his people.

He, too, nevertheless, might have benefited from a boost to his public image by attending the White House meeting. But, of course, he had already forsaken any deal offered by an American president who deigned to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The economic incentives apparently embodied in the plan, which could bring prosperity to the Palestinian people, was irrelevant to Abbas if it meant accepting the existence of a Jewish state and conceding that Palestinians will never reclaim the land that now belongs to Israel.

He wasn’t even mildly curious what the economics of the plan consisted of.

Meanwhile, back on the presidential campaign trail, in precincts from Iowa to New Hampshire, stump speeches by Democratic candidates have been silent on Israel. Indeed, Israel has become the proverbial elephant in the room, which is appropriate given that only Republicans seem to be comfortable extolling their unqualified support for the Jewish state.

For Democrats, with a progressive wing infested with so much BDS BS, even pro-Israel candidates will muffle their support in fear that “the Squad” might soon enlarge itself into a squadron. If that happens, future negotiations seeking an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have radically different deal terms.

For now, however, the unsolvable problem with a Mideast peace plan is that if it doesn’t include an end to Israel, the Palestinians will want no part of it—no matter what else is being offered. They will always answer “no deal” to anything less, tragically prepared to wait centuries for a deal that will never come.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. He can be reached via his website.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates