Can Trump avoid the “peace process” trap?

How serious is President Trump about restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? I talked about that a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.

(I’ve changed my recording techniques so that you can hear me better now...)

Trump is winding up his quick trip to Israel and the Palestinian areas after talks with leaders of both sides. The local media are buzzing with speculation about renewed peace talks, saying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to start where the last talks left off in 2008.

Well, that’s ridiculous. The talks didn’t “leave off.” Abbas walked out and slammed the door, rejecting a perfectly acceptable Israeli peace offer that gave the Palestinians exactly what they’d been demanding for decades. As a result of that fiasco, Israelis elected a prime minister who doesn’t really believe in the prospects for peace and spends most of his time explaining why Israeli needs assurances that the Palestinians won’t give even before talks resume. Like Abbas, who is in the 12th year of his four-year term, that prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is still in office. The difference is that Bibi keeps winning elections.

It’s always tempting for a US president to wade into the Israel-Palestinian conflict, expecting to resolve it and score a diplomatic victory, sometimes to distract from domestic crises. It looks fairly easy–the outline of the deal has been known for years–but the Palestinians have turned down a viable state twice. So there’s no point in restarting the “peace process.”

Whether Trump understands that or not, it’s clear that his focus is elsewhere. Before flying to Israel, he signed a huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and notwithstanding all the kind words about Israel, his real interests are in the Arab world. He sees Islamist extremism as a tangible threat to the US, and he sees the relatively moderate Sunni nations, headed by Saudi Arabia, as they keys to controlling it, as he made clear in his speech in Riyadh on Sunday.

So chances are that the Trump administration won’t make a major push to get the Israelis and Palestinians off dead center, and deep down, that’s exactly what his close friend and buddy, Bibi Netanyahu, wants..

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