Breaking the Idols of Oslo Made the Abraham Accords Possible

December 20, 2022 | Jonathan Tobin
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On the American side, the three key players in one of the greatest diplomatic breakthroughs in the history of the modern Middle East seemed to have singularly insufficient qualifications: Jared Kushner was then-President Trump’s son-in-law; David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt had served as Trump’s lawyers before he entered politics. Jonathan Tobin reviews the three men’s memoirs, along with that of one of Friedman’s aides, and compares their achievements to those of their supposedly better-equipped predecessors:

The American foreign-policy establishment called the shots on Middle East issues in every White House and State Department up until January 2017. And its members believed that the conflict between Jews and Arabs over possession of the tiny strip of land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River was the key to getting Arabs and Muslims to drop their hostility to the United States.

The Middle East experts who served in each of [the previous] administrations, as well as those who filled Washington’s think tanks and mainstream and elite media, shared the belief that there was only one way to achieve that goal. They pushed a policy that would exert the right amount of pressure on Israel to cede the land it had won in a defensive war in 1967. This, they said, would result in a Palestinian state that would make everyone in the region happy.

And they all failed. In their memoirs, none of these leading lights—former secretaries of state Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, as well as numerous lesser officials tasked with fixing the Middle East, such as Aaron David Miller, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, and Daniel Kurtzer—display any doubt about their investment in the basic Oslo formula. Like almost all of the experts who produced literature about Middle East diplomacy in the past three decades, these notable figures worshipped at the altar of land-for-peace, and they never took a moment to wonder whether they might have been idolators kneeling before a false god.

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