Trump Can Break the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse

In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, President Trump declared unswerving American commitment to help Riyadh in “confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist and Islamic terror of all kinds.” A new coalition of American lawmakers believes he should make an equally important commitment to Israel when he lands there today.

Official U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has long been centered on a “grievance-based approach” to conflict resolution and counterterrorism. Addressing the stated grievances of Palestinian extremists, the reasoning goes, reduces their motivations for fighting and enables their leaders and those of Arab states to make peace. Thus the perennial goal of American diplomacy has been to pressure or coax the democratic State of Israel into making concessions to the authoritarian PLO-turned-Palestinian Authority (PA) in hopes that they will placate the Palestinian masses (most of whom, including 1.6 million in Hamas-ruled Gaza, do not live in disputed territory).

While the “land for peace” formula — pressuring Israel to hand over land to those it has defeated for the promise of peace to come — pleased Arab governments and career diplomats at the State Department, it was a disaster on the ground. Each new concession was seen by Palestinian leaders as signaling an Israeli weakness ripe for exploitation, stoking their fantasies of ultimate victory and thus prolonging the misery of the Palestinian people and everyone involved.

History shows that wars end definitively only when one side has no more hope at all of success, as happened in Germany and Japan after World War II.

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