My mother taught me you’re not supposed to call people dumb, but if I were going to produce a documentary on the State Department’s Middle East policy, I would title it “Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest.” Whenever you think the secretary of state can’t be any more clueless, he proves you wrong.
The latest example is Antony Blinken’s remarks on a podcast, where he made the usual robotic statements about the necessity of achieving a two-state solution. In his nearly three years in office, he has not outlined a plan for accomplishing his phantasmagorical goal.
Blinken’s most recent remarks came after the man he considers the Palestinians’ peace negotiator, Mahmoud Abbas, went on one of his many anti-Semitic rants. In case you missed it, he said: “They say that Hitler killed the Jews for being Jews and that Europe hated the Jews because they were Jews. No. It was clearly explained that they fought them because of their social role and not their religion.” One of those roles was as a moneylender.
He also resurrected a Palestinian propaganda canard: “The truth that we should spread to the world is that European Jews are not Semites. They have nothing to do with Semitism,” and are descendants of the Khazars.
His remarks should not have surprised anyone since he was first identified as an antisemite when his doctoral thesis denying the Holocaust was published in 1984.
Other members of the peacemaker’s party defended Abbas and called an open letter signed by more than 100 Palestinian academics, activists and artists denouncing his remarks a “statement of shame.”
Deborah Lipstadt, the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned Abbas, but Blinken was silent. The day before the remarks were circulated, Blinken spoke with Abbas and reiterated U.S. support for a two-state solution. And, of course, the administration resumed aid to the Palestinians, making American taxpayers underwriters for Abbas’s “pay-for-slay” policy. The funding also helps the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) continue to create refugees.
Blinken’s myopia no doubt made him miss the interview reported by Palestinian Media Watch in which Palestinian Authority Parliament member Munib al-Masri, said Arafat told him after signing the Oslo agreement, “Our thought in all this was the two-state solution as a first stage … a temporary solution, until [the Palestinians] will live comfortably and are satisfied, and there will be the Right of Return and the like, and we will live in one democratic state.”
Blinken ignores that the Palestinians believe a state is the first stage in the liberation of “Palestine.” And today, they prefer to skip the state and go directly to fighting to destroy Israel. A March poll found that only 27% of Palestinians support the two-state solution, and 58% believe that they should return to an armed intifada.
His old boss, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, famously insisted Arab states would not make peace with Israel unless the Palestinian issue was resolved. This was after former President Jimmy Carter had said, “I have never met an Arab leader that in private professed the desire for an independent Palestinian state,” and years after Egypt and Jordan had signed treaties. The Abraham Accords proved he was out of touch with Middle East reality.
Taking a page out of his former boss’s playbook, Blinken now insists that the Saudis won’t normalize relations unless there is a two-state solution. “It’s also clear from what we hear from the Saudis that if this process is to move forward, the Palestinian piece is going to be very important,” he said.
He is deluded if he believes that the Saudis care about the Palestinians. Does he seriously think Mohammad bin Salman cares if the United States meets their demand for reopening the Jerusalem consulate?
The Saudis care about one thing and one thing only: keeping their royal heads connected to their royal shoulders.
In my book, The Arab Lobby, you can find a history of the Saudis’ concerns. In 1945, while King Saud, a rabid anti-Semite, made his disdain for Jews and Zionists known, he said his disagreement with U.S. policy towards Palestine would have “no influence on his friendship with President [Harry] Truman.”
Two years later, Saud sent his son, Crown Prince Saud (who succeeded his father in 1953), to Washington to “liberate U.S. policy from the influence of local Jewish elements and Zionist propaganda.” His principal concern, however, besides a request for a $50 million loan for development, was to get reassurance that the United States would protect Saudi Arabia from not the Zionists, but the Hashemites, whom his family had driven from Saudi Arabia and he feared might seek retribution.
At that time, the United States had significant leverage over the Saudis, who had neither wealth nor influence. They needed us more than we needed them, and rather than pursuing the sycophantic line of the Arabists, Washington could have taken a tough stand that conditioned recognition and aid on support for the U.S. position on Palestine. Had it done so, the Arabs might have been forced to accept the reality of a Jewish state and learned that they could not coerce America. U.S.-Arab relations and the entire Middle East might look very different today.
The Saudis have routinely ranted about Israel to American diplomats before addressing their genuine concerns, which today are delineated in their demands from the United States as the price for normalization with Israel: a defense treaty, including a commitment by the Americans to defend Saudi Arabia in case of an Iranian attack; the sale of F-35 fighter jets and advanced missile-defense systems; and help in establishing a civil nuclear program.
The Saudis already gave their sop to the Palestinians by agreeing to resume financial support for the Palestinian Authority. This is a reminder that the Saudis care so much for the Palestinians that they had reduced aid for them and cut it off entirely in 2021.
Blinken’s Kerry-like efforts to interject the Palestinians into negotiations with the Saudis could prevent the accomplishment of what he admits could positively change the region. “If you have the leading Muslim country in the world, Islamic country in the world, making peace with Israel, that’s going to have benefits that travel well beyond the region,” he said.
Rather than try to use the Saudis as leverage to force concessions on Israel to satisfy his dream of a Palestinian state, he should be doing the exact opposite and encouraging the Saudis to follow the example of the Arab states that have made peace with Israel, and focus on their national interests and ignore the Palestinians.
The Arab states, as Carter said decades ago, don’t have an interest in a Palestinian state. Maybe when the Saudis join the Abraham Accords, the Palestinians will finally understand that they have no support for their delusions, and their only hope for improving their welfare is to accept the reality of Israel’s existence and negotiate a path for coexistence. The State Department, however, is simply too dumb to understand this.