Attempting to Restart the Peace Process Will Do More Harm Than Good

April 12 2019

For some time, reports have circulated that the White House plans to unveil its proposal for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) not long after the Israeli elections, meaning that its release might be imminent. Robert Satloff argues that the plan, developed under the direction of the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, should never see the light of day:

[The current] situation, in which Israel and the PA have strained political ties but effective security cooperation, has proved surprisingly resilient. Few love the status quo, but it is not so objectionable that either Netanyahu or Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has walked away from it. It may not have brought a final peace deal, but it has sustained the PA as a reasonably well-functioning governing entity—by regional standards—and protected the West Bank from becoming a platform for rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. . . .

That surprisingly sustainable house of cards may finally come crumbling down if Abbas rejects the Kushner plan, which he has already given every indication of doing. . . .

[Furthermore, Kushner] likely assumes that key Arab states—led by Saudi Arabia—are poised to bless his plan, giving it vital backing that will compel Abbas not to reject it out of hand. But there are two problems with this assumption. First, the Saudis are unlikely to offer even a tepid endorsement of the peace plan without similar backing from Israel’s Arab peace partners, Egypt and Jordan, . . . both [of which] have shown spine in recent years in resisting Saudi pressure to take steps they view as contrary to their national interests, and endorsing a plan that earns a Palestinian rejection would almost certainly be a bridge too far. . . .

Finally, in addition to triggering a negative spiral in U.S.-Israel, Israel-Palestinian, and U.S.-Saudi ties, moving forward with the Kushner plan would distract from the president’s signature achievement in the Middle East: the unexpectedly effective impact of the so-called maximum-pressure campaign on Iran. . . . The Trump administration should not give Iran and its local Islamist allies a political victory by issuing a Middle East peace plan that is likely to earn swift rejection by the Palestinians and strong criticism even from longtime U.S. allies.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Jared Kushner, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat