August 19, 2022

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is over and the Palestinians lost….

It is often said that the late Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and later the Palestinian Authority, never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. In 1972, Arafat foolishly tried to overthrow Jordan’s King Hussein, a disaster which saw the defeat of the PLO and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Hashemite Kingdom. In 1990, Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. After the American led coalition defeated Saddam, the Kuwaiti government expelled thousands of Palestinian guest workers. In the Autumn of 2000, the Israelis and the West gave Arafat an opportunity for a conflict resolving peace. Under intense pressure from the Clinton Administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack offered Arafat a Palestinian state, 95% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, land swaps to compensate for the other 5%, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Holy Sites, and a Palestinian capitol in eastern Jerusalem. Arafat rejected Barak’s offer and began the Second Intifada.

This was all out war against Israel.  In the early 2000’s, the press spoke of the ‘cycle of violence’, Palestinian bombings followed by Israeli retaliation followed by more bombings and more retaliation. Through war, Arafat hoped to pressure Barak into more concessions. Instead, a bellicose Israeli public elected former general and hardliner (and war-criminal according to Arab governments) Ariel Sharon in a landslide. The war went on. After a particularly bloody March 2002 in which 131 Israelis were killed in bombings, Prime Minister Sharon had had enough. He launched Operation Defensive Shield, a full blown IDF offensive against the Palestinian Authority and terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad. From there, the West, led by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, pushed Arafat aside and installed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian authority.

Two decades after the failure of the Oslo Process, the Israel/Iran rivalry is now the region’s preeminent issue. Iran’s nuclear ambitions are of great concern to the United States, Israel, and the Gulf States. The Islamic Republic fights proxy-wars against Israel in Syria and Lebanon and against the Gulf States in Yemen.  Given Middle Eastern geography, the Gulf States can be forgiving if Iran’s push west looks like jaws closing around them. Sharing a common enemy, the Gulf States have gradually and quietly grown closer to Israel.

This is a once unthinkable reversal. The Gulf States signed on to the 1968 Khartoum Statemen (The ‘three no’s resolution’: no recognition, no negotiation, no peace). After the Second Intifada, the Saudi’s proposed a poison pill peace. Introduced through globalist New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the Saudis proposed Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders and seek, in the words of Crown Prince Abdullah, ‘a just resolution’ to the Palestinian refugee problem in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel. Israel rejected these terms, of course. Today, the Gulf States support Trump’s peace plan.

As the conflict with the Palestinians has simmered down, Israel has thrived. The Israelis have built a high-tech economy. They discovered massive natural gas deposits just off the coast and have made a deal to build a pipeline to Greece from which they will supply Southern Europe. Israel fought one war against Hezbollah in Lebanon (a defeat from which the IDF learned much) and three against Hamas in Gaza. During that time, the Israelis developed high-tech wonder weapons like the Iron Dome and anti-missile system and the Trophy anti-rocket system in preparation for conflict with Iran.

Trump’s peace plan reflects the reality on the ground. Under Trump’s terms, Israel maintains control over the Jordan River Valley and annexes large towns around Jerusalem, which remains almost wholly united under Israeli control. In return, the Palestinians receive a few token neighborhoods on Jerusalem’s outskirts, a road connecting the PA with Gaza and industrial and agricultural areas set in the Negev. A small Palestinian part of Israel known as the ‘Triangle’ would be transferred to PA control. The plan promises a Palestinian state, but one dotted with Israeli enclaves and crisscrossed by roads linking those enclaves to Israel.

Trump’s peace plan acknowledges the reality of the Israel/Palestinian uneven relationship. Today, Israel is a military and economic powerhouse while the Palestinians are weak economically and divided politically. As long as Hamas controls Gaza while the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, a comprehensive peace is not possible.

The brutal truth is the Israel-Palestinian conflict is over and Israel has won.

Even worse for Palestinian aspiration, Donald Trump is the most Israel-friendly president in American history. Under President Trump, the United States has moved its embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights. Trump’s is the peace plan of an administration friendly to Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embraces the Trump peace plan of course. Neither he nor Israel will never have a better opportunity.

William Stroock, author of military fiction


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