How the Palestinian-Israeli peace process became a farce

Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP / Getty Images)
We have peace plans with no partners and movements with no peace plans.

By Thomas Friedman | The New York Times | Aug 20, 2019

Talk about reality denial, the most existential question in Israel — what to do with the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank — is not on the September ballot.

Last week’s ugly mess involving the abortive visit to Israel of two Democratic congresswomen was useful for only one reason: It exposed how much the Palestinian-Israeli peace process has become a pathetic festival of magical thinking, performance art, reality denial, political fund-raising and outright political fraud. It’s become about everything except what it needs to succeed: courageous, fair-minded, creative diplomacy and leadership.

At the official U.S. level, Jared Kushner has spent three years ginning up a peace plan that he still won’t show anyone. So far, his only achievement is an Israeli-Palestinian economic conference in Bahrain that no Israeli or Palestinian officials attended.

Kushner actually seems to believe that the problem can be solved by the Israelis and Gulf Arabs funding a leveraged buyout of Palestinian aspirations for sovereignty and statehood.

Kushner deserves some credit for fresh thinking about how to attract investment to the West Bank, but he lapsed into magical thinking when he allowed all the diplomatic features of his plan to be dictated by the political needs and desires of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

The reason his plan has not been released yet is that it does not serve Bibi’s election needs. Even though it reportedly offers the Palestinians only some diluted form of autonomy in the West Bank and Arab districts of Jerusalem, any new powers for them are a nonstarter right now for Netanyahu, who needs every right-wing settler vote he can muster to win re-election on Sept. 17.

President Trump says he will release Kushner’s plan after the Israeli election, but I would not trust that for a second. Trump’s only participation in this process has been to exploit it by being slavishly pro-Bibi to win political donations from Sheldon Adelson and votes from Jews in Florida. If Bibi doesn’t want Kushner’s plan released, it won’t be.

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