How Donald Trump is bringing hope to the 'peace process'most Israelis felt that they weren't getting a fair hearing at the White House, and in which Israel's Prime Minister looked more uncomfortable with each trip to the United States, times have changed. In a White House meeting earlier this week, President Trump allowed Netanyahu to say what nearly all Israelis believe and what former President Hussein Obama would never allow to be heard.
Despite his international protestations, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (like Yasir Arafat before him), has consistently denied that the Jews have a historic connection to the Temple Mount. Far more than arcane arguments over historical minutiae, the Arafat-Abbas tradition of denying a longstanding Jewish link to Jerusalem is the Palestinian’s inimitable way of saying that the Jews are simply the latest wave of Crusaders, that Israel is nothing but a colonialist presence in the Middle East. Just as the crusaders and colonialists of the past ultimately departed, the argument goes, so too will the Jews.
The belief that President Abbas sees the two-state solution as a steppingstone to a one – Arab – state solution leaves many Israelis cynical about the peace process and tiring of the rhetoric about two states. Mr. Trump may have shifted that momentum.
Obama's eulogy for Shimon Peres - perhaps his first acknowledgment of mainstream 'Palestinian' hate for Israelis and Jews - came on September 30, 2016, nearly at the end of Obama's term, and at a point where it was likely designed to help Hillary Clinton's election prospects and not a sincere empathy with Israel's plight.President Trump afforded Prime Minister Netanyahu an opportunity to assert – despite American denials – that Palestinian schools’ textbooks teach Palestinian children to hate Jews. Israelis wholeheartedly believe that accusation to be true. They know of the Fatah Party’s incendiary boast on Facebook that it had killed 11,000 Israelis and that the Palestinian Authority recently named its fourth school for Salah Khalaf, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes. While President Barack Obama obliquely acknowledged in his eulogy for Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president and prime minister, that “Arab youth are taught to hate Israel from an early age,” Mr. Trump gave Mr. Netanyahu a stage from which to make the accusation explicit.
Daniel Gordis believes that Trump's openness to hear the Israeli point of view can only help the 'peace process.'
Outward appearances of confidence notwithstanding, Palestinian leaders undoubtedly understand that the jig is up – gone (for now) are the days in which they can tell the world one story and their people another. That actually gives Israelis hope that – if the Palestinians want political sovereignty – the Palestinian Authority will have to lay the groundwork by forging an entirely different narrative about Israel and Jews.
There is still no reason to assume that President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu can forge a deal. Mr. Trump’s White House is in disarray, Mr. Netanyahu is under investigation for corruption and politically weakened, Mr. Kushner has not a day of diplomatic experience, the other Arab countries that Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu hope will be part of an agreement may or may not cooperate and Palestinian hatred of Jews may be too deeply entrenched.
Gordis is right that it's highly unlikely (to say the least) that Trump and Netanyahu can forge a deal. Not now and not in the next eight years. But that has nothing to do with investigations, disarray or weak political positions. Rather, it's because the 'Palestinians' have yet to give any indication that they are ready to accept a Jewish state of any size, shape or form, and that creating a 'Palestinian' state (God Forbid) will not be the end of the conflict, but rather moving on to a new stage against a much weakened Israel.Yet there is at least cause for a glimmer of hope. On Wednesday, whatever ambivalences about Mr. Trump many Israelis have, they heard from a United States president sympathetic to their story, sensitive to their fears of Iran and committed to their safety. That may matter a great deal. For Israelis who feel safe and protected are infinitely more likely to make accommodations for peace.
Don't expect it to happen in your lifetime or mine.