As the Six Day War in 1967 came to an end, Golda Meir famously said, “The only alternative to war is peace. The only road to peace is negotiation.” A decade later, toward the end of her life, she met Anwar Sadat, who had traveled to Jerusalem along that very road. The Egyptian president introduced himself to the former Israeli prime minister, saying, “I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
“What took you so long?” was her reply.
Golda Meir, of course, led her nation through some of its darkest hours. She harbored absolutely no illusions about Israel’s adversaries. Yet she also invested hope in the possibilities of negotiation with them. When good faith and goodwill exist on both sides of the negotiating table, history shows that a good outcome can be achieved for Israelis and their Arab neighbors alike. But a durable peace can only emerge when each side recognizes the other’s right to exist in peace and security.
For the past seven years, though, President Obama and Secretaries Clinton and Kerry have placed enormous pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions to a Palestinian leadership that neither sought peace nor recognized Israel’s right to secure borders. As president, Donald Trump will not exert such undue pressure. As a highly successful businessman, he’s made a career out of completing successful transactions others thought impossible. Mr. Trump finds ways to navigate issues others see as too complex. Mr. Trump knows that a successful negotiation requires honorable intent on both sides.
Mr. Trump well understands the role of a facilitator. A facilitator does not need to be a neutral observer, but he does need to be respected by both sides — and to reciprocate that respect. Mr. Trump believes that mutual respect begins with the ability to listen to foreign leaders rather than shout them down, as Secretary Clinton has; to seek out common purpose with foreign leaders rather than accuse them of a “lack of empathy,” as Secretary Clinton has; and to condemn terrorism in the strongest possible terms rather than makes excuses for it, as Secretary Clinton has (“Hamas puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas; part of it is that Gaza is pretty small and it’s very densely populated,” she told Jorge Ramos on July 28, 2014).
While Mr. Trump will seek to build trust on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, he is clear and unequivocal regarding which side is a trusted ally and which still has to earn that title. In the Palestinian territories, some segments of the population have grown weary of conflict and terror, yet the knife attacks, the bus bombings and the anti-Semitic indoctrination of young children continue. This culture of violence, nourished by the spoon-feeding of religious hatred to Palestinian children, must stop for the benefit of children on both sides.
It is Mr. Trump’s firm hope — and the hope of peace-loving people everywhere — that the Palestinian leaders will soon eschew violence and hatred, just as the Egyptian people did four decades ago. Though the current conditions may not be ripe for an immediate renewal of the peace process, Mr. Trump will engage the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in constructive dialogue and work to lay the foundation for a historic peace.
Unlike Secretary Clinton, Donald Trump is a proven, decades-long friend of Israel, whose views on bilateral relations remain consistent irrespective of the political season. Moreover, Mr. Trump’s pledge to stand by our allies in the Middle East stands in stark contrast to the positions of Secretary Clinton, whose decisions as Secretary of State destabilized the region and touched off a wave of bloodshed that continues to this day. As America’s strongest ally in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood, Israel figures into America’s security interests just as much as America does into Israel’s. If fortunate enough to be elected president, Donald Trump will renew the historic bond between our two countries and bring to the Oval Office a recognition that Israel is America’s great friend, a force for justice and peace and the one true democracy in the Middle East.
Jason D. Greenblatt is an Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of The Trump Organization and a Co-Founder of InspireConversation. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonDovEsq