Even Kushner Knows Negotiation Can’t Solve the Palestinian Conflict

4254 - Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF)

In a recently leaked off-the-record speech to a group of congressional interns, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said that the administration is committed to working “with the parties very quietly to see if there’s a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He followed this up with what seemed like a throw-away line that’s actually very significant: “There may be no solution, but it’s one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on. So we’re going to focus on it and try to come to the right conclusion in the near future.”Even for those who agree with that statement, hearing a senior White House official admit that the conflict may not have a solution is remarkable, especially since president after president has made achieving peace such a priority.

Still, the United States is not out of options, nor should we read Kushner’s words as an indication that the White House intends to abandon hope or forgo attempts to make progress towards peace.

Admitting that the conflict may not have a solution presents an opportunity to try something different.

In fact, this could present an opportunity to try something different, to fly in the face of the so-called conventional thinking that has ended in a resounding failure for the past 24 years.

In order to hasten the end of this conflict and create conditions for peace, security and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians, American policy must be changed in five key areas.

First, Palestinian terror organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad must be defeated. The Trump administration has made significant progress in isolating and targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they should use that success as a model to cut off funding and root out the structures that support terrorism in the Palestinian territories.

Second, we must use diplomacy — no small feat for this administration — to convince our allies in Turkey and Qatar to end their support for these groups. For too long, Turkey and Qatar have provided funding and, perhaps more importantly, safe haven for the leadership of Hamas. The United States must use every tool available to convince these nations that supporting terrorism, even tacitly, will be costly.

Third, the United States should use economic leverage to prop up those in the Palestinian territories who oppose terror and to punish those who support it.

The Taylor Force Act aims to force the Palestinian Authority (PA) to end salaries for the families of terrorists. While this law would help end this abhorrent practice, it would do little direct harm to terrorist groups or those who support them. Instead, all economic assistance and benefits provided by the United States — through qualified industrial zones, favorable trade agreements and direct assistance should be tailored to incentivize the Palestinian Authority to get serious about coming to the table for the kind of negotiations with Israel that they have been unwilling to enter for decades.

Fourth, security cooperation between the United States and the Palestinians must be reimagined so that Washington is no longer agnostic on the question of whether the PA forces cooperate with Israel. In fact, Palestinian-Israeli security coordination is frequently halted when it is needed most, like at the beginning of the latest furor surrounding security on the Temple Mount.

4252 - Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF)
A 2016 Palestinian textbook instructs schoolchildren:
“I will color the map of my homeland with the
colors of the Palestinian flag.” Notice anything missing?

The State Department’s Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator should make funding and training for the PA forces conditional. If they meet targets to cooperate with Israeli forces — both security and political conditions — then we provide support, if not, like PA President Abbas announced recently, then they’re on their own.

Finally, the United States should give serious consideration to the messages that reach the Palestinian people. The U.S. Board of Broadcasting Governors should adopt an anti-rejectionism platform and cease funding any media that calls for Israel’s destruction, instead offering support to the minority of voices in the region that encourage cooperation and peace.

Generations of Palestinian leaders have made entire careers out of rejecting Israel while perpetuating this conflict. If we are smart about how we engage in the region, the United States can make it very costly to continue this strategy.

The time for the U.S. to act as an ‘honest broker’ has come to an end.

The time for the U.S. to act as a neutral convener — an “honest broker” — has come to an end. In order to move forward in a way that advances our interests and supports the safety and security of our closest ally in the Middle East, we must stop allowing the Palestinians to perpetuate this conflict, which is what is driving many to assume there is no hope towards its end.

They must accept they have been defeated so they can come to the table with an eye toward building their society into one that can move past the seventy-year old war they’re still fighting.

Originally published on Middle East Forum: https://www.meforum.org/6857/even-kushner-knows-negotiation-cant-solve

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Gregg Roman is an investigative journalist and Director of the Middle East Forum.

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