Bringing American Palestinians & Israelis together is first step to peace
President Trump is serious about his commitment to help Israelis and Palestinians restart and complete peace negotiations. But there is an essential first step that must be taken to make it work. Trump can’t speak about Palestinian-Israeli peace to the dysfunctional Washington D.C. elite that is doing everything to trip up his administration without building support among those who really care about it in America
By Ray Hanania
My column this week in the Arab News focuses on what President Trump needs to do in order to make his push for peace between Israelis and Palestinians work.
It’s significant that Trump has done more than his predecessors, President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, going beyond words of peace and actually taking substantive steps.
The problem with Obama was that he did a lot of talking but he did nothing. Obama had the backing of the Democratic leadership and yet it was the Democratic Party leaders who said they loved him who stood in the way of his efforts to resume the peace talks.
In my column this week in the Arab News (click here to read it, and share your thoughts and comments, too), I urge the President to do what Obama and Bush failed to do, what President Bill Clinton did that helped launch his very successful initial efforts to address peace.President Clinton presides over White House ceremonies marking the signing of the peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, left, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, in Washington Sept. 13, 1993. (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Clinton got the closest to peace by bringing Palestinian President Yasir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin together to embrace a real peace drive in 1993. I was there and I remember what it was like. But Israelis proved to be the real fanatics in the peace equation when an Israeli disciple of now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu murdered Rabin two years later in Israel.
Rabin’s murder sparked the downward spiral in the peace process. Hamas suicide bombings fueled the anti-peace rage. Radical Arab leaders such as those in Syria and Hezbollah, did all they could to undermine the peace process. But it was and is the U.S. Congress that is the most destructive to the peace process, playing partisan politics for votes by demonizing Palestinian rights and strengthening the growing extremism in Israel that has dominated the Israeli government now for nearly three decades.
It’s the U.S. Congress and primarily the hypocrites in the Democratic Party who torpedoed the peace process doing everything possible to pander to extremist Israeli activists and extremists in the American Jewish community. They made the destruction of the peace process inevitable.
Why? Because the extremists all have selfish interests in seeing peace fail.
For Israelis, blocking peace allows them to continue their lie that they are the victims of terrorism, not the primary perpetrators of violence against civilians in Israel and Palestine. The failure of peace allows them to continue their policy of stealing civilian lands in the West Bank and redefining the narrative to erase substantive words of peace, such as “occupied territories,” “West Bank” and “East Jerusalem” and replacing them with words of hate such as “disputed territories” and “Judea and Samaria,” the equivalent of Arab extremists who refer to Israel as the “Zionist entity.”
Israel’s extremism has empowered the Arab extremists who for a while were desperate but who today rule the Middle East roost.
For the U.S. Congress, standing up and preventing peace results in votes from an American Jewish constituency that is afraid to do the right thing. It’s easier to live with Israeli Apartheid than it is to go through another painful peace process in which they have to return what they have taken. Congress, especially the Democratic leadership, has been the most anti-peace in this failed process so far. Rather than push for peace, they have reacted with fear and selfishness, pandering to extremists for votes and money. Most members of Congress are political whores but the biggest hypocrites in Congress are the Democrats who pretend to support justice but in fact only do so when it serves their personal interests.
For American Jews, the issue is selfishness and acceptance of a status quo that has a low price tag for them. Many American Jews really believe, or prefer to believe, that Israel is not killing, expelling or brutalizing innocent Palestinians civilians. They prefer to believe that a wall in Palestine — but not Mexico — is the correct way to protect themselves. Their inaction has allowed the extremists in their community not only to rise to positions of power, but also to provide a base of support for growing fanaticism in Israel’s government, one of the most anti-peace governments since its creation in 1948.
For the mainstream American news media, the catalyst of the growing violence and hatred that fuels it in America, their interests are simple. Tragedy sells. Peace does not. They can’t sell headlines and newspapers by advocating peace. They advocate conflict and conflict sells newspapers. They also fuel the racism in American against Arabs and selectively Muslims. It is their repetition of stereotypes and ignorance that pushes fanatics to act out their rage in violence against Muslims in this country. But the news media is the most thinned skinned of all and they love to dish out hate, criticism and rage at others, casting hypocritical fingers of blame while pretending to be innocent angels. The mainstream news media are the angels of death!
What must happen to rekindle genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis is that Jews in America and Palestinians in America, with the support of the Arab community, must come together and genuinely push for peace. That is, if they want peace. The burden of preventing more innocent civilian deaths caused by their failure to act falls on their shoulders. Since the collapse of the Clinton-driven peace effort, they have walked away from peace. The two communities are more divided today than they have ever been. Until the 1990s, they were the foundation upon which peace was built.
Their absence has created a void that has easily been filled by haters and extremists on both sides. Extremist Palestinians and extremist Israelis. Although they both embrace extremism, their do so in different ways. Palestinian extremists are fighting to destroy Israel because Israel has the power and they don’t. Jewish extremists are fighting to preserve the destroyed peace because it makes them feel good. They can have an acceptable status quo with minimal but acceptable violence and death as long as they can continue to control the entire landscape of all of Palestine. But controlling Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, Jewish extremists can feel confidence that Palestine will never exist.
They don’t care that the prevention of Palestine’s statehood will continue to fuel the violent extremism that is at a relative level of lull at this time but that will eventually spiral into an unstoppable rage.
President Trump, who really has nothing to lose in terms of the traditional benefits of walking away from Palestinian-Israeli peace, can create an environment that will serve as the foundation for a revived peace process. Standing up to the fanatics in the Democratic Party and leading the Republican Party from his office in the White House puts him at a critical position of influence. Trump can invite moderate Palestinians in America and moderate Jewish leaders in America to come together and take the essential first steps of peace.
Without moderates on both sides coming together and redefining the conflict, peace will never arrive.
American defines everything about Israel and is the primary reason why Israel sustains in today’s world. It has also been the reason why Palestinian rights have been subjugated. America is the lynch-pin, the power that can either push forward for peace or reinforce stagnation and status quo.
Many people believe the conflict is between Israelis and Palestinians, and American Jews and American Palestinians, but that is not the truth. The real conflict is between the extremists and the moderates. Extremists who reject peace and embrace violence. Moderates who embrace peace and oppose violence. Without them coming together, there can be no peace.
President Trump can change that.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. A former Chicago City Hall political reporter who covered American Politics from “Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley,” Hanania now works for peace and the strengthening of the moderate voices in the Middle East American community. Email Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org.)