In his speech to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration will be unveiling its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians shortly after Israel’s April 9 general elections.
Pompeo said, “It seems to me that we’re at a point in time where there are ways that we can resolve the primary differences and encourage those two places, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to come together to resolve their differences and get a solution there that has bedeviled the world for an awfully long time.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner intends to use the year between Israel’s elections, on the one hand, and the end of the Democratic presidential primaries and start of the general election in May 2020, on the other, to push forward with the peace plan he has crafted with Trump’s senior advisor for negotiations Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
According to a Jerusalem Post report, the Trump administration is hoping that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form a governing coalition with the political left, which supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, rather than with the political right — which, like Netanyahu’s Likud party itself, opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Post quoted an unnamed administration official saying, “The Israelis do risk more, and may not need it, but we think when they weigh the pros and cons they will want to work with this plan.”
He added, “They should not just think about the current situation but the future as well.”
The administration’s reported positions are reasonable in one sense. If President Trump and his advisors mean for their peace plan — whose contents remain unknown — to change the paradigm for thinking about the Palestinian conflict with Israel, it may make sense for them to unveil it as quickly as possible.
If they wait too long, and if Trump is defeated in his reelection bid, then their efforts will be quickly forgotten as a new Democratic administration, reflecting the growing anti-Israel bent of the party, places enormous pressure on Israel to surrender Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria in their entirety, to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) — and so place Israel’s survival at risk.
But in a larger sense, the administration’s determination to push forward with its plans to renew the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is irrational. There is no chance the Palestinians will reach a deal with Israel that involves the Palestinians accepting Israel’s right to exist, let alone compromising their strategic goal of destroying the Jewish state. The Palestinians don’t attempt to hide this fact.
Consider the Palestinians’ attitude towards U.S. financial assistance.
On February 1, all U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is likely to end. Over the 19 years since the PLO-controlled PA rejected Israel’s offer of peace and Palestinian statehood at the Camp David peace summit in July 2000, and initiated a massive terror onslaught against Israel in September 2000, the Palestinians have done everything possible to show their opponents and supporters alike that it is impossible to be both pro-Palestinian and pro-peace.
The Palestinians have rejected repeated offers of peace from Israel and from the U.S. They have sworn never to accept Israel’s right to exist or give up their struggle for its destruction. They have incited and carried out terrorist attacks. They call for the boycott of Israeli products by Palestinians and the rest of the world even as they owe their economicand military survival to Israel. They use international forums to demonize Israel. They have submitted specious war crimes complaints against Israel to the International Criminal Court.
All of these actions have been taken not only in defiance of the very notion of peace and coexistence with the Jewish state, but also in defiance of U.S. law.
Last month, the Palestinians took their expressed contempt for the U.S. and Israel and their commitment to terror and terrorists a step further when they announced they would forego all U.S. assistance because accepting U.S. aid would put a crimp in their ability to continue to sponsor terrorism.
Before considering their latest move, it is important to note that most U.S. funding to the Palestinians had already dried up.
Last March, the Congress passed the Taylor Force Act. Named for Taylor Force, the former U.S. army officer slain by a Palestinian terrorist affiliated with the PLO’s ruling Fatah faction in 2016, the law bars the U.S. from transferring any funding to the Palestinians that directly benefits the PA. The restriction owes to the PA’s practice of allocating 7 percent of its annual budget – or $330 million in 2018 – to payments to terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons, and to the families of terrorists killed during the course of carrying out terror attacks against Israelis.
The Taylor Force Act was not conceived as a means to totally shut U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Rather, it is an invitation to the Palestinians to prove their contention that they are opposed to terror. Under the act, to receive U.S. funding, the PA must end its financial support for terrorists and their families.
A self-governing authority that is committed to a peaceful settlement of its dispute with Israel – that is, a Palestinian interlocutor worth the Trump administration’s energies and efforts — would have no problem ending those payments.
But the PA responded with indignation to the Taylor Force Act.
Abbas said, “There is something that the Americans are telling us to stop – the salaries of the Martyrs [i.e. dead terrorists] and the Martyrs’ families. Of course we categorically reject this…We will continue to pay them before the living.”
This, then, brings us to the Palestinians’ latest move.
Last October, President Trump signed Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. The act determined that by accepting assistance from the U.S. government, a foreign entity sued in U.S. courts “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction in such civil action.”
Congress felt compelled to pass ATCA because last year the Supreme Court decided to let stand a decision from U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively gutted the 1992 Anti-Terror Act.
The Anti-Terror Act was passed to provide U.S. citizens with the ability to bring civil cases against terrorists who attack them overseas.
In 2014, Attorney Mark Sokolow, who survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and together with his wife and two daughters was injured in a Palestinian terror attack in Jerusalem in 2002, filed a damages lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York against the PLO under the 1992 Ant-Terrorism Act in the name of 40 U.S. victims of PLO terror in Israel. In 2015 the jury ruled in favor of Sokolow and awarded the terror victims $655 million in damages.
In 2016, the Second Circuit overturned the District Court ruling, claiming that since the Americans killed and injured in the attacks weren’t specifically targeted as Americans, the court had no jurisdiction over the PLO. This ruling flew in the face of the intention of the Anti-Terrorism Act as described by members of the Senate and House spanning the ideological spectrum, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) in amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided not to hear Sokolow’s appeal, based on an amicus curiae brief submitted by the Solicitor General. As the New York Sun noted at the time, in the interregnum last year between then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s departure and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confirmation, the Solicitor General, acting on a recommendation from the State Department, filed a brief with the Supreme Court siding with the PLO and asking the Court not to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal.
Congress responded to the Court’s decision by passing ATCA. As Grassley, one of the sponsors of the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act, said upon introducing the updated act last year, its purpose was to reiterate “Congress’s original intent, that terrorist groups and their supporters be brought to justice in U.S. courts, regardless of where the attacks occurred.”
Just as its response to the passage of the Taylor Force Act put paid to the notion that the PA is interested either in peace or in fighting terror, so the PA’s response to the passage of ATCA made clear that the PA stands with terrorists and against terror victims, and has no intention whatsoever of changing its position.
Last month, the PA’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah wrote to Pompeo to inform him that in light of ATCA, the PA will no longer accept U.S. assistance. In his words, “ATCA references various forms of U.S. assistance to the Government of Palestine [sic.]. Further, the ATCA purports to alter the rules of jurisdiction over the Government of Palestine [sic.] in U.S. legal proceedings if it continues to accept such aid after January 31, 2019.”
It is hard to think of what more the Palestinians can do to convince the Trump administration that they do not want to make peace with Israel.
That brings us to Israel, and the Trump administration’s expectation that the next Israeli government will accept his “deal of the century.”
Israel will vote on April 9. The polls indicate that the most likely coalition will be one strikingly similar to the outgoing coalition – that is, a coalition whose members oppose Palestinian statehood, much as the Israeli public opposes it.
The media reports of the administration’s plan claim that Trump and his advisors expect Israel to accept whatever they put forward, and for the Palestinians to reject it. While the White House may believe that in doing so, they will then set the course for Israel to withdraw altogether from the peace process and move unilaterally to ensure its interests are secured, it is hard to see how forcing Israel to accept another plan that will go nowhere because there is no Palestinian constituency for peace with Israel will improve things on the ground.
On the contrary, it will limit Israel’s options and keep it tied into a process that legitimizes Palestinian radicalism and rejectionism — and so facilitate a decision by a future Democratic administration to coerce Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians that endanger it.
The Trump administration would do better to shelve its dead-on-arrival plan and simply lay out the reasons that no plan can work.
The Palestinians don’t want peace. And the Israelis can no longer afford to flatter would-be American peacemakers by accepting their unrealistic plans rather than simply acting to secure their country’s strategic and national interests and requirements.