President Trump’s “peace process” envoy Jason Greenblatt hosted an odd and auspicious “ problem-solving meeting” at the White House to discuss the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Among the 19 countries at the table were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. And Israel. The Palestinians declined to attend and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was not invited.
In one way, it was a great move; in another…meh.
Kudos to Messrs. Trump, Greenblatt and Kushner for tossing out the Oslo parameters and — whether by design or just by following the logic — changing the conversation from limited and literally deadly Palestinian incitement and foot-stomping demands to a broad-based Arab State role in the process. By doing so, they have taken a step toward solving a problem they may not even have been planning to tackle.
The Palestinians are the weakest link in regional politics, which is why the “Palestinian-Israeli peace process” was doomed from the start. It is impossible for Palestinians to announce that they recognize the legitimacy of Jewish nationhood and are prepared to accept for themselves a split, rump state squeezed between their enemy Jordan and their enemy Israel while the Arab States with the money and the guns disapproved. The more the U.S. pressed for concessions that would rile the bankers, the more the Palestinians retreated. Intransigence and violence were their defense against having to defy their patrons.
The core issue was never drinking water — or a state — for the Palestinians. It is the failure of most Arab States, including most of those at the table, to recognize the legitimacy and permanence of the State of Israel in the region. “Secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force,” says UN Resolution 242, and that is the obligation of Arab States to Israel. The meeting did not fulfill the criteria, but it surely was a step in the right direction. Having met and sat and talked in the house of the world’s only superpower, Arab States can’t unmeet, unsit, or untalk. Or deny.
The further this Arab-Israeli process goes, the greater the breathing space for the Palestinians. If they weren’t at the White House, fine. They have nothing to contribute at this point.
So far, so good. In fact, great! But what were the parties doing at that table? Here, the issue of what problem needs to be solved returns. According to a press report after the meeting, “Potential electricity, water, sewage, and health projects were discussed… A senior administration insisted that many projects could be implemented without the assistance of the Palestinian Authority, but the goal was to have it ultimately engage in the multi-lateral process.”
“Projects.” “The situation.” “Multilateral process.” The United States appears to be gearing up to solve the wrong problem.
Gaza certainly is an uncomfortable place to live, what with garbage and raw sewage pouring into the Mediterranean Sea, not enough electricity and so on. No one is starving to death — thank you, Israel. Medical help is available for those Hamas permits — thank you, Israel. Only the corrupt and venal Hamas leadership, which understands the “international community” will pony up billions of dollars for them to steal for terror tunnels, weapons, gorgeous villas and high-class shopping on the Med, has enough to escape the stench.
One American official said, “Fixing Gaza is necessary to achieve a peace agreement.” No. It is not. Hamas needs, wants and engineers poverty, anger, and misery for the people of Gaza and works really hard to turn the people’s bitter and justifiable resentment against Israel. Hamas controls the media and “disappears” its enemies when it doesn’t drag them through the streets tied to motorcycles. With the people properly cowed, Hamas siphons off humanitarian resources for terror and rockets. Hamas has enablers. The decision not to invite UNRWA to the White House appears insufficiently appreciated.
Rhetorically, Mr. Greenblatt seems to understand:
(We have to ensure) that we do not inadvertently empower Hamas, which bears responsibility for Gaza’s suffering… There are no excuses for inaction.
This begs the question, what action do you propose? I suggest:
- Remove Hamas as the leadership of Gaza.
- Install a temporary protectorate for the people.
- Remove UNRWA as an operating body, but put their money into the protectorate authority.
- Side note: begin the discussion of refugee status and the role of UNRWA vs UNHCR now.
- Don’t let the Palestinian Authority near the process.
That’s the answer. That’s the only answer. When people are being crushed, you have to get rid of the oppressor before you do reconstruction for the victims. Sewer projects in 1943 would not have helped.
Hamas is an ideological, military, and terrorist movement. It can’t be worked with, nor can it be bribed, cajoled or begged into civilized behavior. Asking Gazans to work on projects without Hamas permission is asking them to die; asking them to get permission to work empowers Hamas. Working around both Hamas and Gaza civilians to create a secure economy for Gaza civilians is a fantasy. It will not be easy; it may be impossible. But the august body around the table really wants to “fix Gaza,” it has to start from the understanding that more electrical wire won’t do it.
So, one up and one (fixable) down for the White House — a pretty good week.