Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Can Donald do it?

He says that he wants to settle things between Israel and Palestine. His initial venture outside the U.S., to the Middle East, may indicate the importance that he assigns to it. There was also a business deal with the Saudis, that will bring more work to American industries. Along the way to that, he got some positive words from reigning Arabs about shared interests against Iran, and their intentions to help bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

Perhaps all are on board except the Palestinians. We’re hearing about Trump’s temper against Palestinians for incitement to violence, and Abbas’ waffling in defense about what he’s been doing.

It’s not hard to find both Palestinians and Israelis, among those holding high office and the simple folk of both nations, who are intense against any deal that sacrifices what each sees as essential to their beliefs and survival.

There’s room between the two camps of extremists for the acceptable arrangements achieved to date, but that doesn’t please others who want a final solution (forgive the expression), and the many who can find detailed problems in what has been achieved. We’re back to the reality of a small country and competing claims wrapped in murky or reliable history, together with the unspoken starting point that possession is nine tenth of the law.

Understanding politics is never easy. Disinformation, distortion, fake news, bobbing and weaving, saying different things to different people are all part of the tradition. They’re justified or required by the multiplicity of interests, loyalties, and beliefs.

All countries are complex places. There’s some overlap with the norms of business, but government is different. The list of what is forbidden varies from place to place. Trump is the first American to succeed in moving from close to the peak of business to the peak of government.

The cancellation, perhaps temporary, of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, has gotten mixed reviews. They include disappointment, charges about deception, same old game, expressions that it doesn’t affect anything important, acceptance of the explanation that it’ll make negotiations easier, and a long yawn.

Why should anyone care? Some believe the established nonsense that providing for a Palestinian state will ease the problems of the Middle East.

Those still on board should consider the millions killed and turned into refugees across the Muslim world from North Africa to the Philippines, many of whose perpetrators and victims could not find Israel on a map.

There are also those who view the Palestinians with a near monopoly of justice, accepting their claims of being an ancient people, having to put up with Jewish lies of having a history in Jerusalem, and generous is wanting only what they had prior to 1967 along with a return of families to their historic homes taken from them without justice by the Jews.

Ratcheting way down from these myths are the realities of people co-existing. Not peacefully, but managing.

There are Israeli Arabs who concede that their communities live as well or better than those of any Muslim country, including opportunities for education, health, and political expression. Gaza is headlined as an intolerable place, made a prison by Israel. But its problems owe a great deal to occasional attacks against Israeli civilians, and its economic profile does not suffer in comparison with much of Africa.

Some of what bothers Israel’s right wing, e.g., the increasing Arab population of Jerusalem, may be seen by other eyes as the appeal of an Israeli residence for Arabs, and the ability of two people to live together with no greater friction that marks inter-group relations in many other places. 

Trump’s first five months have shown him a failure in getting major health and migration reforms accepted by Congress and American courts, and falling afoul of established rules pertaining to managing secrets, using communications, and staying within the norms of key allies.

Trump’s turnaround on the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem has troubled Israelis. Those in the government are saying that it will harm rather than help Trump’s peace process by encouraging Palestinians to escalate their demands beyond reason. What Israelis are not say so loudly is that Trump’s action will harm his peace process by destroying his credibility among Israelis.

It’s shaping up to be a long 4 or 8 years, producing varieties of political humor and cynicism at least equivalent to what Barack Obama produced for another cluster of those who jeered.

And just as Obama had a constituency who thought he was the most enlightened Chief Executive since Abe Lincoln, Trump has those who see an amateur who breaks the rules as what it takes to make America great again.

We can wonder if those who cheer Trump as outsider bringing new views to old politics would also choose a fresh MBA to manage their portfolio, an intern to operate on their innards, or a new lawyer to defend them against an allegation that could put them in prison.

What Trump and his predecessors--no matter what their government experience--are likely to have in common is to leave office with Israelis and Palestinians dealing with one another more or less like they’ve been doing since the beginning of their time. Hopefully, our reasonably good days will continue to outnumber the others.

Comments welcome. Irashark@gmail.com.


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