Politics

Trump, the Ultimate Deal-Maker, Eyes Middle East Peace

President puts pressure on Palestinians in break with Obama, opens path for new negotiations

President Donald Trump has made some big business deals in his life.

Now he’s eyeing arguably the biggest and most elusive deal in the world: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“That kind of incentive amounts to persistent incitement of more attacks on Israelis.”

“An Israeli-Palestinian [deal] has been the Holy Grail of the American presidency,” said Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation, to LifeZette.

Such a deal has also been as elusive as the grail. It won’t be any easier for Trump to find than it was for his predecessors. On Monday, Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday he met with Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian National Authority.

Trump faces huge obstacles in cutting a peace deal in the region. Israelis and Palestinians have feuded for decades — over land, over terrorism, over Israel’s right to exist, over extremist control of the Palestinian government. But a larger sticking point is the Palestinian state’s support of terrorists’ families. To eliminate that support could be a key short-term goal for Trump, one that could lead to a larger deal later, say experts.

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Palestine pays prisoners who have committed crimes against Israelis. They also pay the families of dead terrorism suspects. Phillips says the Palestinian Authority pays about $300 million a year to prisoners and families of “martyrs” — people killed as they committed, or tried to commit, violence against Israelis.

The Israelis call it “blood money,” designed to provide incentive to Palestinians to commit acts of violence.

The Palestinians describe these payments as “social welfare benefits,” according to the Washington Post.

Israel has been unable to get the Palestinians to stop this practice, so now they turn their hopes to Trump, who they believe will champion the cause, in stark contrast to former President Barack Obama.

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Critics say Obama gave Palestinians cover to continue the practices that encourage violence against Israelis. Obama focused his efforts on pressuring Israel, and extracting agreements from the Israelis on West Bank settlements and other issues.

Trump will try new strategies. But with so many other issues also complicating a peace treaty, how can peace possibly be made?

One method might be to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. Another option may be to take the “social welfare” payments off the table as part of a larger deal.

Yet it’s been seven years since Netanyahu and Abbas took part in a trilateral meeting with Obama, in New York in September 2009, according to CNN. Obama worked on a peace deal over two rounds of negotiations, according to CNN.

Ultimately, little changed. Now, conservatives hope Trump can deliver progress.

“President Trump’s instincts vastly surpass Obama’s,” said Robert Kaufman, professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, to LifeZette.

Kaufman believes the Palestinians should enter into any serious peace negotiations by:

  • Dropping “right of return,” which would allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to settle in Israel.
  • Recognizing Israel as a primarily Jewish state with defensible borders.
  • Ending the dehumanization of Jews in Palestinian school textbooks, which Kaufman said were “virulently anti-Semitic.”

Phillips believes a big sticking point are the payments, though.

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“That kind of incentive amounts to persistent incitement of more attacks on Israelis,” said Phillips.

Phillips believes that if the Palestinian Authority drops the payments, Israeli security could be improved. That, in turn, could improve Israeli confidence in the peace process.

Trump supporters believe the president’s firmness and resolve are stronger than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama. Kaufman points to Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, where Obama traveled to essentially apologize for aggressive U.S. counterterrorism measures that affected Muslim nations.

Kaufman compares that to Trump’s speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Trump condemned terrorism.

“Obama groveled at Cairo, but Trump called out extremism,” said Kaufman.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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