Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as deputy national security advisor under George W. Bush, supervising White House policy for the Middle East. Mr. Abrams briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on May 30, 2017.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum.
Unlike past U.S. presidents’ “inside out” approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict (i.e., resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead to wider Arab-Israeli peace), Trump has subscribed to the “outside in” strategy whereby improved Israeli-Arab relations could broker an Israeli-Palestinian deal.
This approach has its merit given the strong convergence of interests between Israel and the Sunni Arab states vis-à-vis the Iranian-led Shiite threat. Yet the covert relationship between Israel and the Gulf Arab states is highly fragile and might well be derailed should the negotiations bog down over such issues as Jerusalem and the “right of return.”
Nor do the Arab states have the ability to goad the Palestinians into an agreement at all costs. The tragedy of the Palestinian people has been their leaders’ adamant rejection of compromise, and Mahmoud Abbas is no exception to this rule. With the Palestinian population in the territories brainwashed into ineradicable hatred for Israelis and Jews, Abbas would not risk being branded a traitor, especially when the legitimacy of his presidency has been largely eroded over the years.
This in turn makes the Palestinian Authority (PA) more interested in evading blame for the likely failure of the peace process than in bringing it to fruition. This, however, may not be such a negative development.
Since the prospective Palestinian state is bound to be a failed and repressive entity, and a permanent danger to its Israeli and Jordanian neighbors, a two-state solution should not necessarily be touted as the only desirable and acceptable solution.
As the administration publicly embraces the PA as a peace partner, it risks confrontation with Congress over the Taylor Force Act, now supported by the Israeli government.
It is important for Washington to openly condemn Palestinian incitement and terror glorification.
Memorializing a U.S. soldier murdered by Palestinian terrorists while touring Israel, the act would defund the PA for its relentless anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement, terror glorification, and making payments to terrorists and their families.
At a time when a growing number of Western governments (e.g., Britain, Norway, Denmark) are willing to openly criticize the PA’s incitement and terror glorification, it is important for Washington, at the very least, to take this position and squeeze the PA, whose survival depends on foreign aid, to desist from this reprehensible practice.