By Andrea M. Berlin, J. Andrew Overman, The National Interest—
Against the backdrop of normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and more recently Bahrain, are continued condemnations by Palestinian leaders. Palestinian president Abbas called the moves a “stab in the back,” “despicable,” and a “betrayal.” Even so, rumors regarding Saudi normalization continue to circulate.
Momentum is palpable. How then to move forward with an “outside in” strategy for Palestinian-Israeli peace? Keeping pressure on Palestinian leaders while finding new means to address Palestinian needs is key.
First should be new emphasis on high-level U.S. diplomacy in Europe and the Middle East aimed at convincing donors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the internationally funded welfare agency for Palestinians, to rechannel funds away from the organization and towards targeted education, social service, health, and development programs aimed at the Palestinians. UNRWA remains a mainstay of Palestinian rejectionism, characterized by advocacy for the “right of return.” Perhaps as important, UNRWA is a European fetish.
For better and for worse, the only person capable of doing this is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Only Kushner has the president’s full trust and understands his uniquely transactional mindset. And in contrast to the post-war decades of seeing the Palestinian issue as an isolated issue with unique importance, the Trump Administration sees it as merely one of many, tied to broader questions of peace, economic development, and a reduced American security footprint.
Tying changes in governmental funding for UNRWA (and for politicized NGOs that Europeans fund) to other issues of concern to European and Middle Eastern states is simple politics. This approach will be more successful than inertia-bound funding for UNRWA and the search for a perfect solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A second area for the administration combines foreign and domestic policy: the continued draining of the Washington “swamp,” which among other things has impeded Israeli-Palestinian peace. For example, for decades the U.S. Consul in East Jerusalem acted as the de facto ambassador to the Palestinians, undercutting broader U.S. policy. This politicized position has been eliminated. The longer term “Arabist” mindset within the State Department also contributed to mixed messages being spread regarding U.S. policy throughout the Arab world. Parallel attitudes immersed in intellectual and bureaucratic inertia have prevented long-overdue rethinking about NATO and other issues.
As was seen from the outside, the “Deep State”—the permanent foreign policy, intelligence and security apparatuses—resisted Trump’s policy changes. This was done mostly covertly, as State Department representatives refused to implement changes in policy, sometimes criminally, as the “Russiagate” scandal has shown. Continue Reading….