Trump Echoes Talleyrand in Middle East Diplomacy
Trump must put the Palestinians on notice - there will be no more weakness, no more concessions.
by EJ Kimball
February 4, 2018
Talleyrand looking over the shoulder of President Trump.
President Trump's public diplomacy, from his first days in office to his State of the Union speech earlier this week, often appears inspired by the immortal words of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna in 1814: "If it goes without saying, it would go better by saying it."
It goes without saying that Arab governments should unite against Iran, whose armed proxies are wreaking havoc on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. So President Trump went to Saudi Arabia last May and said it. Led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Arab governments are today beginning to do just that (notably turning against Qatar because of its Iran ties) and stepping up covert cooperation with Israel.
It goes without saying that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so President Trump said it on December 6, announcing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last week, Vice President Pence announced that the relocation will take place before the end of next year, while a permanent embassy is being built. Dashing Palestinian dreams of a united Jerusalem under Arab rule has removed a key hurdle to serious negotiations.
It goes without saying that the United States shouldn't give aid to an entity seeking the destruction of the Jewish state. So, on January 25 in Davos, President Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless its leaders "sit down and negotiate peace." This is the fourth attempt in the last eight weeks to pressure PA President Mahmoud Abbas merely to sit down at the table with Israel.
It goes without saying that a United Nations agency should not foment Palestinian rejectionism. So the Trump administration said it, by withholding two aid packages to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) worth $45m and $60m until it "agrees to undertake reforms."
UNRWA's reforms might start with ditching the anti-Semitic curricula its schools teach to Palestinian children, or the incitements to violence splashed across the walls of its camps. But real reform will not be complete until UNRWA ditches its highly politicized definition of "refugee," which extends the status from Palestinian Arabs displaced during the 1948-49 war (of whom there are perhaps 25,000 surviving today) to all of their descendants in perpetuity. This brings the grand total to 5.3 million "Palestine refugees," most of whom have settled and become citizens of other countries, already live in their purported homeland (the West Bank or Gaza), or don't exist at all (early last year, the results of a first-ever census of Palestinians in Lebanon found the number to be just 174,422, a fraction of UNRWA's count of 469,331).
Finally, it goes without saying that "weakness is the surest path to conflict," and that "complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation." These words from President Trump's speech Tuesday night are fundamental truths that have become politically incorrect to acknowledge. There is perhaps no conflict more illustrative of this than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The "peace process" has failed due to decades of complacency and concessions by Israel, the United States, and the broader international community.
The root cause of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has not been an Israeli refusal to concede, or an American unwillingness to bend: it has been the ongoing Palestinian rejection of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
It should go without saying: If President Trump is serious about brokering an "ultimate deal" to end the conflict, the Palestinians and their supporters must be put on notice. There will be no more weakness. There will be no more concessions.
EJ Kimball is the director of the Israel Victory Project at the Middle East Forum.