Trump's "peace through strength" for USA also applies to Israel

The next American president may decide to dictate a solution, pressure Israel as the only party that can be pressured, and an Israeli response that is responsive and defensive could lose the day.

Ted Belman,

OpEds Ted Belman
Ted Belman

A recent article titled Time for an Israeli strategy for the next American administration, galvanized me to write a response. I did not agree with the strategy set out and normally would not have made mention of the article except that it was written by Eric Mandel.

Not only is he the director of MEPIN™ which is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, and journalists, he is also the Northeast Co-Chair of StandWithUs, an international organization dedicated to educating the public about Israel, while fighting the BDS movement. His views and policy prescriptions should not be ignored.

He argues that “Israel must begin to think differently, actively show that it is trying to be the partner for peace, and demonstrate that it will manage the situation instead just playing defense.” I believe that Israel is just doing that. Netanyahu always says that he is ready for negotiations without pre-conditions and Naftali Bennett is pushing for an improvement to the economic conditions for both Arab Israelis and Arabs in Judea and Samaria. Mandel thinks they aren’t doing enough.

He fears that pressure will build on Israel to make moves toward peace. He argues that Israel should take the initiative for peace rather than to be resistant to it.

Better judgment is needed going forward, and the excuse that Bibi must manage his fragile 61-seat coalition by placating the hard right doesn’t cut it anymore. Israel, for the foreseeable future, needs America diplomatic and security support.

The next American president may decide to dictate a solution, pressure Israel as the only party that can be pressured, and an Israeli response that is responsive and defensive could lose the day.

He is too much of a defeatist for me. He obviously believes in the two-state solution, no matter what the arguments against it, are.

Time, and again, Israel makes offers subject to caveats, only to find out that the world accepts the offerings and ignores the caveats.
But to be fair to him, he has a clear-eyed view of what Israel is up against.

If the next president is a Democrat, you will hear growing calls for a balanced “even-handed” approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Bernie Sanders Democrats are on the ascendancy, and will be casting a large shadow on the party for the next generation.

In today’s progressive parlance, even-handed does not necessarily mean support for two states for two peoples.

Rather, it means to many of the “Palestinian Lives Matter” Democrats, two Palestinian states – one in what now comprises Israel within the 1949 armistice line, and one in the West Bank and Gaza. Too many well-meaning people have been hijacked by the BDS movement, being misled into believing that if Israel just left the West Bank, peace would break out. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

He recommends that Israel, “Take to the offensive, put some plans down on the table as soon as there is a new administration, work with them, and then actively manage the situation and expectations.” One can’t argue with this except that he suggests the wrong plans to be put forward.

Some ideas: Announce a readiness for an Israeli settlement freeze beyond the land swap areas (6%) in exchange for Palestinian, Arab League, UN recognition of a Jewish State as envisioned by UNGA Resolution 181, the end of the (Arab) right of return, and acceptance of a totally demilitarized Judea and Samaria. Offer conditional recognition of a Palestinian state for a signed end of conflict agreement.

Consider convening an Israeli summit of the nation’s security and military leaders, past and present, to discuss the maximum land offer to the Palestinians that won’t endanger Israeli security interests. Put Bogie Ya’alon in charge, as he is one of the very few members of the government respected by much of the opposition. Other than the Jordan River Valley and the settlement blocs, there is much to discuss that would not endanger Israel.

There is nothing new in suggesting that we offer a settlement freeze outside the settlement blocs. My opposition to doing so is that even if the quid quo pro is that the world accepts our building in the blocs, we would end up holding the rest of the land on trust for the Palestinians should they ever decide to take it. But in exchange for this offer, he wants recognition as a Jewish state by Palestinians, Arab League and the UN. He also wants them to recognize that the area will be demilitarized and that there will be no refugee return to Israel. He knows that these demands won’t be accepted but thinks there is value in making the offer.

I disagree. Time, and again, Israel makes offers subject to caveats, only to find out that the world accepts the offerings and ignores the caveats. For example, Netanyahu, under great pressure, offered a two states for two peoples, solution providing the Palestinian state be demilitarized and Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. Not only did Obama minimize the demilitarization to a few years only but he ignored R 242 and called for a solution based on ’67 lines. The upcoming French resolution will offer even less to Israel.

Far better to work to convince the next US administration, especially one led by Trump, to abandon the Two State Solution (TSS) for something more workable and equitable (in Israel’s eyes) and which will bring us closer to peace. Trump is now embracing Reagan’s policy of peace through strength. Time to apply the same policy to the Israel/Arab conflict and support and strengthen Israel to achieve peace.

As for the basket case of Hamas’ Gaza, offer a seaport in exchange for demilitarization with acceptance of all previous agreements. It won’t happen, but it may smooth the way for the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement that both nations need and want.

Nothing new here. Israel would gladly lift the blockade, not just allow a sea port, in exchange for these things. Turkey is demanding a seaport without these things. Israel should not capitulate to Turkey without them.

He is realistic enough to say:

These conciliatory steps are all conditional; nothing will be given up if the Palestinians remain intransigent or if Israeli security is seen to be compromised.

The Palestinian Authority in all likelihood would not accept any of this, but that is not the point. The goal is to change the dynamic going forward, putting Israel on the diplomatic offensive to blunt the pro-BDS movement, and create a situation for an improved relationship with the American people, who do not understand why Israel is building in communities in the West Bank. America should simultaneously pressure the Gulf Cooperation Council to move towards a more public relationship with Israel, as Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Morocco now have.

The diplomatic offensive he calls for, is basically to convince the world that we are ready to capitulate. The American people don’t need convincing of the ri9ghtness of our cause and conduct.. 70% of them support Israel, many of whom want Israel to retain Judea and Samaria.

Better still, we should mount a diplomatic offensive to convince the world that the TSS is not a prescription for peace, that Israel has the only right to Judea and Samaria, that the Arabs and the BDS movement they finance, want the destruction of Israel not the creation of a Palestinian state and for a lasting peace Israel must remain in control of J&S forever.

He wants to convince America that Israel is making “painful compromises for a lasting peace”. The problem is that the more painful the compromises, the less lasting the peace.