Next week, a runoff election will determine who will replace Nir Barkat as the mayor of Israel’s capital. Clifford May holds up one of Barkat’s initiatives as an example of the sort of improvements that can be made in Palestinians’ quality of life while the “peace process” remains dormant:
Barkat recently announced that he was replacing the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in eastern Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. Charging that the agency has “failed utterly” to provide adequate sanitation, health care, education, and welfare, and that it not just tolerates but incites terrorism, Barkat committed the municipal government to assuming responsibility for Shuafat’s 30,000 residents who, he said, should be treated “like any other residents” of the capital.
If this initiative succeeds, it could constitute a kind of peace process—albeit one carried out by people in the streets rather than by diplomats in drawing rooms. Over time, it could shift the calculus of Palestinians in the West Bank, and perhaps even those in Gaza. Imagine what it would mean if the next generation of Palestinian leaders did not oppose “normalizing” relations with Israelis. Imagine if jihadist terrorists were no longer glorified as martyrs in Palestinian mosques and media. Imagine if Palestinians willing to work with Israelis for the benefit of both peoples were no longer condemned as apostates and traitors.
I don’t expect any of that to come to pass while President Trump is in the White House. But, [by cutting U.S. funding for UNRWA and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem], he has . . . made clear that Palestinians can have a state of their own, but only if they recognize that a two-state solution implies two states for two peoples, both willing to co-exist peacefully. That may not amount to the “deal of the century,” but it’s more than any past peace process achieved.