It appears that Oslo may finally die on January 20, 2017 with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. But the President-Elect is still looking for peace in a different form to take his turn at solving the ancient riddle of two peoples stuck together on one small sliver of desert to bring home his Nobel. Somehow I don’t believe he will be able to earn his just by showing up. Large sections of the Western world are frightened by the fallout of Brexit, the Trump victory and who knows what will follow. It is a time of transition, a time of new winners and new losers and a time for the transformation of some old traditions maybe even including Oslo.
There is something very different about Donald Trump that resists categorization because he changes the story on a moment’s notice, is not an ideologue although he is wrapped in what he knows and all he doesn’t. Yet there are instances of light that permeate the hard bitten shell of this perennial media magnet who has risen by sheer force of will to become the most powerful man in the world. He met with retired General James Mattis and let go of one of his often spoken beliefs in the value of torture at the conclusion of one conversation. DJT can and will learn when and where he wants to and General Mattis will no doubt pass muster and become Secretary of Defense. The Sec-Def nominee has a very different view on Israel than that of Trump’s pick for Ambassador to Israel; bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman who has financially supported the expansion of settlements. Since General Mattis is no shrinking violet I assume that while the vision for Israel will align closer with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it will hold out hope for a positive resolution that still creates an independent state for the Palestinians.
How to move this convoluted conflict forward that garnered the last 2 cents from outgoing President Obama with a United Nations abstention permitting literally every inch of land won in the Six Day War to be deemed illegal, (including the Old City and its Western Wall), is a challenge that too many wise men, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans and others have already tried and failed. No doubt President Trump and his new team including his Orthodox son-in-law, Jared Kushner will look and act differently than the Obama Administration that began and ended with a provision against Israeli building in Jerusalem or the West Bank.
But today the population of Israel including Arab Israelis and the Palestinians residing in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, (and Gaza), is divided by those seeking two-states, those seeking one state, those focused on non-violent resistance, those focused on violent resistance and those willing to accept another round in a seemingly endless and largely fruitless peace process. Not unlike a divided America the tribes seldom intermingle and move increasingly to extremes that attach an enormous amount of blame to whoever opposes one’s own political position. Social media has deteriorated into a battlefield that underlines this warfare.
I have come to believe that the only way forward that will open the door to the possibility of a lasting peace accord is to create an internationally sponsored National Dialogue Program that is formally endorsed by both the Israeli and Palestinian governments but remains independent and operates on its own timeline cultivating relations between thousand and then tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians as a necessary precursor to the implementation of a political process that formally brings Palestinians and Israelis back together at the negotiating table. The two governments will once again have won the support of their people in large enough numbers to permit real tangible final status negotiation not only to be undertaken, but to be concluded generating a positive resolution to the Middle East war providing peace and two secure and independent states in the Holy Land. It is up to a new President to promote such a new and viable path to peace.