By David Friedman, NY POST
President Donald J. Trump was joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House to unveil details of his administration’s Middle East Peace Plan last January.Office of the White House/Shealah Craighead
The Obama administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Middle East as a whole, is best remembered as “often wrong, never in doubt”: from the disastrous Iran deal, to squeezing Israel without obtaining meaningful peace concessions from the Palestinians, to allowing the UN jackals to demonize and single out the Jewish state.
Now, two of the architects of the last administration’s Mideast policy have publicly offered their advice on how to frustrate President Trump’s bold and creative Vision for Peace and Prosperity, a major step forward in the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Philip Gordon and Robert Malley, champions of the Iran deal and apologists for Palestinian intransigence, published an article last week in Foreign Policy magazine headlined: “Biden Must Speak Out Against Israeli Annexation Plans Before It’s Too Late.”
Gordon and Malley served up a barrage of falsehoods and wrongheaded ideas. Seven especially demand answering.
(1) The authors argue that the limited annexation of West Bank territory envisioned by Trump would jeopardize Israel’s future as a Jewish state. Wrong. Under the Trump vision, Israel would be claiming sovereignty over a fraction of the West Bank, comprising territories that either are sparsely populated or overwhelmingly populated by Israeli Jews. Israel wouldn’t be doing that to territories with significant Palestinian populations. Therefore, the vision wouldn’t alter the Jewish majority within the State of Israel. In fact, it would increase it.
(2) Gordon and Malley also argue that the vision would jeopardize Israel’s democracy. Wrong again. A majority of Israelis, as well as Israel’s democratically elected government, support the president’s vision. It is ironic that so many of Israel’s critics, who purport to care so much about democracy, condemn Israel when it adheres to the will of its own citizens. The vision would only enhance democracy by permitting Israelis to choose their elected leaders — and Palestinians to freely do the same. Two states for two peoples.
(3) Which brings us to their third piece of malarky, as Joe Biden would put it: that the vision would undermine the two-state solution. Wrong. On the contrary, the Trump vision provides for a two-state solution. Ours is the first and only administration to have obtained Israel’s commitment to negotiate based upon specific terms, conditions and territorial dimensions that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state with double the geographic footprint they enjoy now.
(4) The Trump vision, the critics claim, violates international law. False. Settlements of the kind allowed under the deal don’t presumptively violate international law. That’s not our view alone. It is the longstanding position going back to Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, who negotiated the 1967 UN resolution setting out peace terms between Israel and her Arab neighbors following the Six-Day War.
(5) The Trump vision relegates Palestinians to second-class status, Gordon and Malley charge. Wrong, yet again. The vision gives Palestinians a clear path to statehood and a huge influx of economic investment that would allow them to live independently with peace, prosperity and dignity.
(6) Gordon and Malley want the United States to reject any action the Israelis take in furtherance of the Trump vision unless the Palestinians agree. Wrong. That approach was taken for 53 years and led nowhere. Giving the Palestinians a veto on progress guarantees stagnation and violence.
(7) The two Obama alumni would withhold aid to Israel and deny it support at the United Nations if the Jewish state declares sovereignty in conformity with the Trump vision. Wrong. Extremely wrong. Israel has made enormous concessions in agreeing to negotiate in accordance with the Trump vision, and it shouldn’t be punished for acting in accordance with its commitment to Washington. To do that isn’t in the region’s interest — or America’s.
Publicly seeking to frustrate the foreign policy of our duly elected president is downright obnoxious. It’s even worse when the effort comes from members of a prior administration that never achieved any steps towards peace and that damaged the US-Israel relationship. And it is still worse than that when the critique is flat-out wrong in so many respects.
David Friedman is the US ambassador to Israel.