Trump and the Art of the Middle East Peace Deal

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

President Donald Trump is a man who has literally almost everything.

Tons of money, businesses around the world, a lovely family, and a smokin’ hot wife. If he ran for the White House originally for no reason other than to add one more achievement to his long list, well… could you blame him? Not many people were ever worth a billion dollars, but far fewer have ever been president of the United States.

There’s one thing Trump doesn’t have but very much deserves: A Nobel Peace Prize.

Something like peace has been coming for a while now to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict, but the naturally occurring process had been subverted by the short-sighted actions of former President Barack Obama.

But before his first term his even over, the finishing touches of a Middle East peace plan are being provided by none other than Donald J. Trump.

The greatest obstacle to Middle East peace was never the existence of Israel or the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — no matter what the ant-Israel propagandists would have you think.

Countries with long and deeply felt hostility have found ways of living alongside one another, even if the peace — or maybe should we say, “the periods between wars” — was often tense.

And defeated powers usually find a way to accept losing lands in lost wars, especially when the lands are as small and unappealing as the Palestinian territories currently occupied by Israel. It’s not like the West Bank is sitting on huge reserves of mineral or energy wealth.

Instead, the greatest obstacle was that the Arab governments — particularly the region’s two powerhouses, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — found it convenient for domestic political reasons to demonize Israel and to keep the Palestinians angry and unsettled.

For decades, keeping the Palestinians at a simmer was a strategic plus for the broader Arab world in its effort to eliminate, or at least frustrate Israel.

As an added bonus, being able to point to the Palestinian refugee camps and the occupied territories was a way to distract Arab populations from bad governance much closer to home.

That Arab nations like Jordan and Egypt refused citizenship for Palestinian refugees in their own countries while demanding that Israel lose its essential Jewishness by allowing “right of return” and citizenship to untold millions of Palestinians was diplomatic hypocrisy of the highest order. It was also ruthlessly callous, as the Arab world played host to generations of Palestinian refugees while refusing them any kind of assimilation in Arab lands.

In recent years, however, Iran emerged as a much greater threat to the Arab Middle East than tiny Israel had ever been. Emboldened by former president Barack Obama’s largess and flush with cash, Iran’s mullahs engaged not only in a nuclear weapons race. They were also heavily engaged in Iraq and Syria in pursuit of a modern Persian Empire stretching from the ancient Persian lands across the entire Levant to the Mediterranean Sea.

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Behind the scenes, Saudi Arabia, Egpyt, and Israel spent the last decade or longer working increasingly close together to thwart Iran. Publicly, an official Arab-Israeli peace was as far away as ever.

Trump pursued a two-pronged track to peace.

The first was to tear up Obama’s “comprehensive” nuclear deal with Iran. That deal — never even presented to the Senate for ratification as a treaty — did little other than to bribe the mullahs handsomely in exchange for them trying a little harder to hide their nuclear weapons program.

Warfare is expensive, and Tehran is just about flat broke, thanks to Trump bringing back sanctions.

Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner worked quietly, putting together his “Peace to Prosperity” plan for Israel and Palestine. Revealed last January, the Kushner plan was unique in that it contained something like a poison pill: Trump would recognize Israeli annexation of the strategic Jordan River Valley if the Palestinian leadership refused.

They refused. Israel moved forward with annexation.

It’s at this point that the Trumpian “art of the deal” kicked in.

Achieving a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace is much more important to American interests than whether or not Israel annexes this or that bit of land.

Thanks to Iranian imperialism, making peace with Israel is now more important to the Arab nations than maintaining Palestinian irredentism.

But it isn’t easy, not even after years of unofficial cooperation with Israel, to reverse course after decades of anti-Israeli propaganda and the occasional war or two.

Peace to Prosperity was a “good enough” offer that the Palestinians would look bad for refusing it outright, which was almost an inevitability.

With the poison pill of West Bank annexations looming following the PA’s refusal to engage, Trump gave the Arab governments the justification they needed to reverse course. Arab governments could finally move towards Israel, but only if Israel agreed to give something back.

Like a perfectly choreographed dance, Jerusalem agreed not to annex the Jordan River Valley (which they probably weren’t going to annex, anyway) in exchange for recognition by the United Arab Emirates.

Other Arab nations will follow.

That’s not to say that peace and love and happiness will break out throughout the Middle East, or that the peace will last forever. Trump is a dealmaker, not a miracle worker.

But the theater we just witnessed — which will create genuine benefits for Arabs and Israelis alike — was a very stable genius bit of kabuki:

• Launch a peace initiative designed to induce the Palestinian leadership to indulge in their usual bad behavior

• Give Israel the backing it needed to ostensibly take dramatic action in the Jordan River Valley

• Watch as Israel and Arab governments practically fall over themselves to “give up” the land Israel never annexed in exchange for the peace the Arabs need in order to face Iran

Nobody actually gave up anything, and everybody is getting what they wanted.

Well, except for the Palestinians, but yet again, they have only themselves to blame for that.

Maybe Trump just lucked out, somehow bumbling his stupid way into peace.

Maybe the Bolshoi Ballet is just an infinite number of hyperactive spider monkeys in leotards.

Nothing this well-orchestrated happens by happenstance.

Congratulations are in order for Trump and Kushner, but also to the leaders in the Middle East who were wise enough to grab with both hands this opportunity the administration created.

Compare this to Barack Obama, who seemed to think he could frighten Israel and the Arab nations into appeasement, by making the Islamic Republic of Iran into a regional superpower.

All that got anyone was an imperial Iran, increased terrorism, and poisoned relationships between Obama’s Washington and our longtime partners in the Middle East.

On reflection, however, maybe the Nobel prize committee shouldn’t award Trump a new peace prize after all.

Maybe they should retroactively put Trump’s name on Obama’s award instead.

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