Donald Trump wants to bring to bear his enormous deal making talents to make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But he’s facing two virtually insurmountable obstacles, Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The top UN Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, told the Jerusalem Post last year that it was “daydreaming” to think Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas could make a deal. If anything prospects have deteriorated since then.
No one is more worried that Trump might succeed than the extremists on both sides.
Talk of another Gaza war is growing. Hamas has installed new harder-line leadership and rocket attacks from Gaza are picking up along with tunnel construction.
In Israel the far right is alarmed by Trump’s calls for restraint on settlements, return to the peace table and his reluctance to relocate the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
What changed at the White House? Like all presidents, Trump learned the view from inside the Oval Office is far different from the one on the outside. His supporters here and in Israel who thought that his talk about peace was just more of his meaningless campaign boastings are looking for someone to blame. They’ve apparently settled on Yael Lampert, a highly respected career diplomat who held the Israel portfolio on National Security Council for the past two years under President Barack Obama and was asked by Trump to stay on.
Lampert, whose parents are from Israel, is “responsible for Trump’s shift toward PA,” declared Arutz Sheva, the voice of Israel’s settler movement. Never mind that she was the architect of the record $38-billion aid package for Israel signed last year.
Shortly after his election, Trump told the Wall Street Journal, “As a deal maker, I’d like to do … the deal that can’t be made.”
I don’t doubt that he does. But I do have serious doubts that will be able to pull it off. That’s because the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders have yet to show any convincing effort. Both men are politically weak, unwilling and unable to make historic decisions, and they despise and distrust each other as well.
But they will humor Trump, sound and even try to appear interested lest they get on the wrong side of a president with a reputation for being petty, vindictive and grudge bearing. Their real goal is to avoid being blamed for Trump’s failure to make the deal of the century. One thing is certain, Trump will make sure the whole world knows the failure wasn’t his fault. A blizzard of tweets will follow.