Will Trump’s Middle East visit bring peace?
It was the best of times. Fascinated by every nuance and facial expression during the news coverage of Trump’s visit on our television screens for three full days, the streets of Israel’s capital were devoid of cars and people. Those of us in Jerusalem who saw our parking lots turned into helicopter landing pads, our favorite restaurants become inaccessible due to road closures, and the streets lined with military and police for security par excellence, did not mind the inconvenience. Nothing was going to happen to the President of the United States and his family on Israel’s “watch.” Security from both the ground and the air ruled the day. It was worth it.
For the first time in the 20 years that I have spent in Jerusalem, an unapologetic friend arrived from the White House — a man who understood that Jerusalem is the only holy city for the Jewish world, that the Kotel is the symbol of the most sacred Temple periods in Jewish history, and that Israel has an historical right to all of this which cannot be replaced by the fabricated claims of others. A man arrived who is prepared to stand up for Israel’s right to exist in a neighborhood which has done everything in its power to bring the miracle of the creation of the State of Israel to an end.
For the first time in recorded memory a United States President stood before the Arab world in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, and had the courage to demand that it take responsibility for those in their midst who were attempting to destroy their own future as well as that of the free world. That took courage was backed by fortitude. Trump showed his prowess with two military assaults on evil in the first few months of his presidency. The Arab leaders thus knew he was not a man of mere words, but of action. This language they understood. This is a man to be taken seriously.
Historically the US has acted as though the Arab world was just like itself, but with different languages and costume. Traditionally America has believed that democracy was such a lure, and the Western way of life so tantalizing, that the Arab world must certainly want what the West had to offer. The State department has functioned on that premise, the EU has followed this path…. All to no avail. They both successfully lined the pockets of Arab leaders around the world and in the Palestinian Authority in particular, but saw not one ounce of movement in the direction of sincere efforts towards peace and security in the Middle East and no interest in creating real democracies. Trump is the first President and his administration which has seen the folly of continuing with this non-productive illusion. Business investment is very different from bribery. Bribery did not work. According to reports , the negotiating teams are intent on getting both sides to “compromise.” As the Arab leadership has never compromised on anything from Oslo to the present day, it is unlikely they will move forward. They will make promises…but promises are not action. I would like to be proven wrong.
Apparently the US media did not chose to show every moment of the Trump visit to Riyadh and Israel. They edited the events for their American viewers down to small news clips. They would not give President Trump the exposure he deserved while he was creating a bond with those who really have the ability to destroy the terrorism within their ranks – which is being exported around the world. The Trump who intends to improve the world is not an image the American media is prepared to disseminate. They were not willing to show this side of their elected leader, on whom they are focused – intent on bringing him to his knees. Fortunately International CNN (not to be confused with the U.S. version), FOX NEWS , France24 , and Al Jazeera on this side of the Atlantic Ocean had massive coverage of these fascinating firsts for their European and Middle East viewers. The Western World this time… came in a poor second. Still President Trump, his wife, family, Ambassador David Friedman and the 800 plus staff which accompanied the President of the United States did great work with dignity and pride.
The one visibly unhappy face at the Riyadh conference was that of Mahmoud Abbas. He and his interests were not even mentioned. Left out in the cold after days of imagined inroads into the Trump administration must have been overwhelmingly disappointing for him. It has been disconcerting to see Ronald Lauder insert himself into the process as a friend of Abbas and after recent testimony, not much of a friend to Netanyahu. This stalemate of decades as a result of Palestinian unwillingness to participate in any credible effort towards peaceful coexistence with Israel will never change as a result of Ron Lauder’s connections. Recent meaningless statements from Abbas about his willingness to sign a peace agreement with Israel were absurd as they neglected to mention what would be in that document he was supposedly prepared to inscribe.
No one can fault President Trump for feeling that he has a responsibility to try to create Peace in the Middle East. Each US president thus far, has made an effort in that regard. The one factor which has blocked success has remained consistent … Arab unwillingness to accept Israel’s actual existence. It is not about words, proclamations or statements. It is about real change in this fundamental belief. As long as Arab children are taught to hate and murder Jews and Israelis- as long as suicide bombers families are paid stipends in gratitude for their contribution to the “cause”, there is little to talk about. President Trump addressed this fundamental issue with great clarity.
The importance of the Riyadh conference was that the responsibility for the future of the imploding Arab world was, for the first time, placed directly on the shoulders of those sitting in that very room. President Trump’s speech was ground breaking and delivered in a firm, yet respectful manner. Reminding the Arab world leaders that more than 90% of the victims of Islamic Fundamentalist Terror have been Muslims, was a message that needed delivering. All of the Arab world needs to re-think its own future if it wishes to survive. None of their failures are related to the State of Israel. They themselves have hard decisions to make if they want a future for their children and grandchildren. It was an exquisite speech which well may change history. Ultimately that remains in Arab hands.