Testing the water for an eventual Mideast peace, President Donald Trump sent his peace envoy Jason Greenblatt to meet with 67-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 81-year-old PLO Leader Mahmoud Abbas. Meeting with Netanyahu at the White House Feb. 15, Trump’s remarks were grossly distorted in the mainstream press, suggesting he was abandoning the so-called two-state solution. All Trump said was that it was up to Israel and Palestinians to decide what they wanted, either a two-state or one-state solution. Trump never said he favored one versus the other, only that it was up to Israel and Palestinians to decide. “President Abbas and I discussed how to make progress toward peace, building capacity of Palestinian security forces and stopping incitement,” wrote Greenblatt. Greenblatt’s mission was “fact-finding,” trying to figure out a way forward.
Approaching the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, the international community doesn’t recognize Israeli spoils, including Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, Jordan’s East Jerusalem and West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights. Palestinians collectively refer to Israeli spoils of the Six Day War as “occupied territories.” Before the Six Day War, Palestinians held not one square inch of sovereign land, all territory seized by Israel from Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Palestinians complain about Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as the biggest obstacle to peace. But the real obstacle involves the June 7, 2007 split between the PLO and Hamas, when Hamas seized the Gaza Strip by force. Controlling Gaza, Hamas doesn’t accept any PLO overtures toward peace. Since Hamas seized Gaza, the U.S.—and European Union—hasn’t accepted this reality.
With PLO’s Abbas no longer able to negotiate for peace without Hamas approval, Israel has no viable peace partner with whom to negotiate a two-state solution. Gaza’s current ruler Yahya Sinwar, a former Israeli prisoner, has no intent of making peace with Israel. Greenblatt knows that Abbas can’t speak for Siwar, who’s made it clear he seeks to destroy Israel, nothing less. Trump invited Abbas to come to the White House to show balance with Netanyahu’s Feb. 15 visit. Greenblatt “continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with advancing peace and security,” knows that all bets are off if Sinwar’s Hamas and PLO’s Abbas can’t reconcile differences. Trump would like nothing more to silence his critics—including Obama—to be the first U.S. president to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestinians.
Former President Barack Obama and his peace envoy Secretary of State John Kerry spent nearly two years banging their heads against a wall making peace. Whatever went wrong with Obama’s peace talks, he blamed Netanyahu, driving U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point in recent memory. Obama and Kerry couldn’t get over the fact that Hamas called the shots, knowing they had no peace partner to negotiate a two-state solution. With the media fixated on Trump’s collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, the president would like nothing more than to change the narrative. Greenblatt “reaffirmed President Trump’s commitment to Israel’s security and to the effort to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiation.” Obama abstained from vetoing Dec. 23, 2016 a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Obama’s decision to go along with the Security Council condemnation of Israel marked a new low in U.S.-Israeli relations. Backing the Security Council resolution did nothing to advance the peace process. Obama revealed why he was no friend of Israel, showing ineptness in U.S. foreign policy. Recent polling in Gaza showed that most residents not only don’t want peace with Israel, they believe Hamas will eventually conquer the Jewish State. When you consider Hamas’s ongoing state of war with Israel, Obama plowed ahead blindly seeking a peace when none was possible. Sending Greenblatt to size up things was a good thing for Trump before leaping, like Obama and Kerry, into a quagmire. Only nine percent of West Bank residents believe President Trump will continue Mideast peacemaking. That same poll indicated that 60% of Palestinians no longer believe in a two-state solution.
When you consider that half the Palestinian people actively seek war with Israel, it’s no wonder that peace negotiations aren’t possible. Telling Netanyahu to “go easy” on settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Trump hopes to show some kind of gesture to Palestinians. Netanyahu knows that the biggest obstacle to peace talks is not settlement construction but Hamas’s ongoing war with Israel. As long as Hamas continues to build tunnels and stockpile more rockets, there’s little Abbas can do in the West Bank to change things. Greenblatt spoke to Abbas about reducing incitement, or the recent spate of Palestinian car-ramming and knife attacks, but Abbas considers it his right of resistance to Israeli occupation. Former President George W. Bush decided after Sept. 11 the U.S. could no longer accept Palestinian terrorism for whatever reason. Trump looks like he’s heading in that direction.