January 30, 2018
In order to bring the Palestinians to peace, we need to insist on a hard dose of truth and reason
Dear Friend of FLAME:
If you heard about Mahmoud Abbas’s recent confabulation of historical lies and his desperate condemnations of President Trump, other Arab nations and even centuries-dead Oliver Cromwell—which FLAME covered here—you may almost have been tempted to derisive laughter.
Yet I was struck by the advice of Israeli podcaster, Yishai Fleisher, who remarked last week that we must never underestimate our enemies . . . and we should never risk being less determined than they are.
These, indeed, are the greatest dangers we pro-Israel advocates face as the situation looks ever grimmer for the Palestinians and as Muslim culture continues to deteriorate.
While Mr. Trump’s presidency has been refreshing for Israel—from Nikki Haley’s condemnation of the U.N. to the White House’s decision to cut Palestinian funding and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital—we must recognize that President Trump alone cannot resolve Israel’s conflict with the Arabs and Persians.
We Zionists have to do it for ourselves. We can’t indulge in Schadenfreude because of 82-year-old Abbas’s declining political prowess or the Palestinians’ shrinking stature on the world stage, nor can we gloat that Mr. Trump is finally cutting their allowance and speaking truth to them.
The Palestinian Arabs specifically—and our age-old nemesis, the Muslims in general—can still do Israel irreparable, even deadly existential harm.
We have to take these enemies seriously, and we have to be more determined than they are to win the struggle they have been waging with us for hundreds of years.
Part of taking our enemies seriously, I’m convinced, is holding them to truth and reason—insisting on treating them as adults whom we expect to behave in a civilized and rational fashion, even as we remember that they usually do not.
Which brings us to this week’s FLAME Hotline featured article—on what the Palestinians should do if they want break out of their worsening slump. This dose of sincere reason and truth is by Ambassador Gary Grappo, a career diplomat who served as envoy and head of mission of Tony Blair’s Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem and as U.S. ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman.
Grappo lays out a rational—at the same time radical—game plan for the Palestinians. His plan would be their smartest, best chance for gaining the independent state they claim they want and for improving the pathetic political and economic malaise under which they suffer.
While it’s useful to entertain this kind of thoughtful realism, it’s at the same time, frankly, almost impossible to imagine the Palestinians evolving so far quickly enough to solve their mounting problem.
Because ultimately, the Palestinians’ problem is not that they don’t know what to do to make peace or get a state—methodology is not their sticking point. It’s simply that they don’t accept the right of Jews to have a homeland in Palestine.
Resolving this cognitive dissonance will take many years in a psychiatrist’s chair—or the hard slap of realization that they’ve definitively lost the battle against Israel, and it’s time to give up and get what they can. Then Mr. Grappo’s recommendation will come in handy.
I hope you’ll forward this concise, provocative email to friends, family and fellow congregants to help them understand why the Palestinians need to get real about their prospects—and why the President and Congress should continue to tell the Palestinians the truth of this reality.
I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s latest hasbarah campaign to urge the President and U.S. Congress to back up their rhetoric on Iran with definitive action. I hope you agree with and will support this message.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
|P.S.||As you know, Iran has become the largest state sponsor of global terrorism and the most dangerous enemy of the U.S. What’s worse, the Islamic Republic continues to spread its jihadist tentacles throughout the Middle East, and now has armed forces on Israel’s borders in Syria and Lebanon. No wonder FLAME has created a new editorial message—”We Must Stop Iran Now“—which is about to start running in mainstream magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel’s behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME’s powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. support of Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you’ll consider giving a donation now, as you’re able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now, more than ever, we need your support to ensure that the American people, the U.S. Congress and President Trump stay focused on —and take actions against—Iran’s threat to our country, Israel and the entire world.
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Palestinians Must Ditch Old Leaders, Chart New Course
By Ambassador Gary Grappo, The Cipher Brief, January 18, 2018
Two recent events illustrate the futility of the Palestinian leadership’s current course in its decades-long quest for a genuinely independent Palestinian state, and highlight the urgent need for dramatic action if they are ever to achieve it.
The first is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current six-day visit to India with a 130-member delegation. The Prime Minister was greeted on his arrival by his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, despite the Modi government’s recent support for the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The visit is expected to go a long way toward expanding trade and diplomatic ties between the two countries, including in the military sector.
This growing relationship is symbolic of the Jewish state’s growing ties across the board with more countries, further integration into the global political and economic communities and emergent economic clout and prosperity. The message could not be more clear: Despite the political storms and security threats of the Middle East, Israel is confidently zeroed-in on its future.
Meanwhile, back in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas almost simultaneously delivered a two-hour denunciation of the reported Trump proposal for settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Addressing members of the Central Council of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, he condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, rejected the reported proposal for the Jerusalem Arab suburb of Abu Dis as the capital of a Palestinian state, threatened to withdraw Palestinian recognition of Israel and to charge Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, and revived efforts to push for international recognition of a Palestinian state.
The remarks seemed more reminiscent of the stem-winders of the Yasser Arafat era. They sounded like a desperate and pathetic attempt to breathe new life into tired, shopworn words of a bygone period when the world actually listened. It’s questionable whether even Palestinians bothered to listen. Tragically, neither the tone nor the substance of Mr. Abbas’ remarks is relevant or useful. His cause and that of the Palestinian people is slowly slipping away.
With U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, more countries are likely to follow suit, though more quietly and diplomatically. Thus, one of the core demands of the Palestinians since the dawn of the peace process, a capital in Jerusalem, may be evaporating.
If more proof were needed, one need only look at the apathetic response in the Arab world to the U.S. action-few demonstrations and only anodyne words of condemnation from Arab and Muslim governments. All of them are far more consumed with problems of stability, economics and security at home. Though rarely expressed publicly, they also are losing interest in the cause and even more in a Palestinian leadership that seems stuck in a time warp, has failed to construct sustainable institutions for a state and has been unable to animate its own public.
The Palestinians need a major overhaul in their leadership, and then a new approach to negotiations. That’s all the more the case because their counterpart, Israel, is not the same as that of Ehud Barak’s rejected 2000 Camp David II peace proposal, nor even the period of Barack Obama’s two stillborn efforts to forge a peace during his presidency.
First, there must be elections for a new PA leadership, including president and legislative council. The current leadership around the president should not run, turning over responsibility to a new generation of Palestinian leaders. Mr. Abbas should invite the U.N. or some other recognized international body to help administer and supervise the elections, and the U.S., the European Union and other states and organizations to help fund the elections.
For such elections, all candidates should be required to subscribe to the principles of the Quartet, the grouping of the U.S., Russia, the U.N. and the EU that is charged with pursuing Middle East peace: recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of all previous agreements and renunciation of violence. Hamas would not be eligible to participate as a political party unless it formally accepted the same principles. However, Hamas members who accept them, promise to abide by them and have no record of terrorism should be considered for candidacy, perhaps under a third-party banner. All candidates would have unimpeded access to the media.
Second, a new Palestinian leadership should commit itself to building genuine institutions of democracy and to raising the economic wellbeing of the Palestinian people, regardless of the progress of negotiations with Israel. Critical to both of those tasks is stamping out the rampant corruption that has come to symbolize the current leadership, which has effectively capitalized on the institutionalization of Israel’s occupation.
The new leadership could then seek new aid and support from the U.S., the EU and its Arab Gulf brethren. Important to this effort is securing the commitment of Israel to also work for the benefit of the Palestinian economy. Finally, the new leadership would re-commit to unfettered security cooperation with Israel.
Lastly, the new leaders must adopt a fresh approach to negotiating with Israel. It should look at any proposal, e.g., the claimed Abu Dis plan, as an opening position subject to further negotiation. For example, are there other Arab suburbs closer to Jerusalem that might also be included in a Palestinian capital? In today’s regional climate, this isn’t seen as the issue it once was as long as Muslims are able to preserve access to the Haram al-Sharif, aka, the Temple Mount. Even the Barak proposal of 2000 of “symbolic sovereignty,” which Arafat rejected, is a thing of the past that cannot be revived.
The new Palestinian leadership also should drop the all-but-unworkable demand for right of return, which is accepted by few nations around the world and hardly believed by many Palestinian refugees. It would be replaced with a proposal for just compensation. As part of its commitment to security cooperation with Israel, the new Palestinian leadership should be willing to negotiate a plan to ensure both Israel’s security as well its own sovereignty.
Critical to this new and more credible approach is full and unconditional acceptance of Israel as a “Jewish state” or national homeland for the Jewish people. Anything less would fail to budge Israelis nor convince the rest of the world of the new leadership’s commitment to finally negotiating in transparency.
Lest this all sound as capitulation, Palestinians must reflect on where 70-plus years of failure have brought them. Meanwhile, its neighbor has prospered in spite of it all.
The new approach holds not only the promise of a state but also the prospect of prosperity living next door to the region’s most dynamic economy. The new state, with security and economic support from nations around the world and in the region, also could work to isolate and marginalize Hamas, unless it changes its rejectionism and violence.
There can be a Palestinian state. But the current course has led Palestinians to a dismal dead-end. New leadership, new institutions and new approaches to negotiating and cooperating with Israel can put Palestinians on a far more promising path.
Ambassador Gary Grappo is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Middle East Studies at the Korbel School for International Studies, University of Denver.