Opinion |

Waiting Around for Trump's 'Ultimate Deal' Will Kill the Israeli Left

Relying on an American panacea creates an idle left, a silent one drowning in inaction and paralyzed by fatalism

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palace Hotel during the UN General Assembly, New York, September 20, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palace Hotel during the UN General Assembly, New York, September 20, 2017.Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The renewed conversation about a two-state solution, the talk about peace and a determined war on terror — these are the hooks the left must use in pinning its hopes on Donald Trump, says my colleague Tzvia Greenfield in her op-ed this week. These aren’t plastic hooks she puts her faith in but a veritable miracle. What hold does this Pied Piper of Washington possess that seduces even intelligent people?

After all, Trump hasn’t suggested anything that hasn’t been suggested before. He didn’t invent the two-state solution, and the war on terror was waged by previous U.S. presidents, Republicans and Democrats, a war that wreaked immense human tragedy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The flourishing of the conversation about peace, attributed to Trump, would be better judged by the fruit it yields, rather than by the wonderful smell of blossoms now emanating from the White House.

If there is one justified argument against the Israeli left and its approach to Trump, it’s based on the demand, which repeats with each new American president, that “he should do something.” It’s also based on the unfeasible hope of people who have despaired of changing the government in their own country, hoping that the con artist in Washington can pull out the rabbit that will achieve the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

This hope may have been justified early in Trump’s term, when he was still perceived as a dark enigma who even managed to scare the right, to the point where it agreed to stop the building boom in the West Bank. Ten months later there’s no dispute that the United States is being managed by a kaleidoscope changing colors every moment.

Ostensibly, there’s nothing to lose by demanding that Trump take action to promote the peace process. If it doesn’t help, it won’t hurt. But this is actually the point that threatens the very existence of a left wing in Israel. Relying on an American panacea creates an idle left, a silent one drowning in inaction, paralyzed by fatalism.

The left’s hanging on every tweet supporting peace from the keyboard of the “best-ever president for Israel” plays into the right wing’s strategy. More than promoting negotiations and the peace process, U.S. presidents have created a dialogue in Israel that skips over the occupation. Instead of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a process of negotiations between Israel and the United States has developed in which the Israeli left has no standing. This was true for the Obama administration as well, not just the Trump one.

Instead of discussing borders, settlements and other core issues, negotiations have been replaced by tests of American support for Israel, with meticulous measurement of any sign of preferential treatment of the Palestinians by the Americans. And don’t forget the analysis of the personal relations between Israeli prime ministers and U.S. presidents. This test of love is now shaping up regarding Trump as well.

The essential questions now include not whether the U.S. president supports a two-state solution or whether he promotes the peace process, but whether he likes Benjamin Netanyahu today more than yesterday. Or is the postponed moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem a sign of anger at Netanyahu? Or is the silence that struck Trump amid the construction plans in the settlements is a sign of burning love for Netanyahu?

It’s not only the right that concentrates on the personal – the left is captivated by the same criteria. It believes it can slacken in its mission to lead a campaign against Netanyahu and simply rely on Trump to move the diplomatic process forward, blaming him if he doesn’t.

The hollow suggestion that the left should embrace Trump or at least give him credit leads it to abandon its mission, to concede its political struggle and submissively resign itself to a reality dictated by the right wing: There is a partner only in Washington, not in Ramallah.

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